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Tips & Tricks

A Guide On How To Photograph Fire | Behind The Scenes With Von Wong

By Chris Nachtwey on June 16th 2014

There is nothing better than creating portraits that excite and mesmerize! Von Wong is no stranger to out of this world portraiture, and it should be no surprise that he doesn’t run when he sees a little fire!


In the video below, Von Wong takes us behind the scenes of his latest creative project: portraits of the fire theater group, Starlight Alchemy.

Working With Fire

Disclaimer: All of Von Wong’s images were done in a safe setting with trained professionals. By no means should you try to recreate these images without the help of trained professionals and safety precautions in place. 

Working with fire is dangerous, but when done correctly, can yield beautiful images. Von Wong says the only real way to know how to work with fire is experience.

  • Experience with flames: Knowing how they will look, knowing how to capture them, and knowing when to position yourself when capturing them.
  • Experience with your camera: You need to be able to adapt your camera settings as the fire grows and subsides.
  • Experience with post production: You have to know how to work with your images in post to change the issues that can occur that are out of your control, but can be changed later.


Camera and Strobe Settings

Von Wong uses a mix of fast shutter speeds and bulb mode to capture images like the one below. In this image, he uses a fast shutter speed and a wide angle lens to get close, capture the flames and exposed for the highlights.


For the next  image, Von Wong uses a slow shutter speed (bulb mode), rear curtain sync, and studio strobes.

Using the slow shutter speed allows you to see the flow and texture of the flames. Using a studio strobe to light the subject not only lights the subject separately from the flames, but helps to add some dimension to the image.



Nikon D800E

Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 G

Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 G

Nikon 70-200 f//2.8 G

Elinchrom Ranger Quadra


I’m always blown away by Von Wong’s work and again, this is no exception. The images are beautiful and really capture the essence of what Starlight Alchemy does. While I don’t think I will be using fire in my portraits anytime soon, I now have an idea of how to create awesome portraits with it!

For more tips go check out Von Wong’s article on his blog.


CREDITS: Photographs by Von Wong have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

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Chris Nachtwey is a full-time wedding and portrait photographer based in Connecticut. He is the founder and creator of 35to220 a website dedicated to showcasing the best film photography in the world. Chris loves to hear from readers, feel free to drop him a line via the contact page on his website! You can see his work here: Chris Nachtwey Photography

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Josiah Dewey

    Great images! I too love shooting fire.

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  2. Anthony McFarlane

    I am definitely a new fan of Von Wong!

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  3. Kurk Rouse

    Great images as usual form Von Wong, I would love to try something like this but I’m afraid of someone getting hurt. Maybe I should try water first ^_^ .

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  4. Jacob Jexmark

    Great images.

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  5. André Hostombe

    Great article and great pictures.

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  6. Mark Evers

    Just started recently following Von Wong. His methods are inspirational.

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