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Simple Guide To Steel Wool Photography

Steel Wool Photography

Steel Wool photography is an exciting and interesting way to create awesome photographs. This kind of photography brings various elements in together in such a way they create beautiful, dramatic and unusual images. This is indeed a great way to add amazing spark to your photography.

If you are looking for next crazy idea to experiment with as a photographer, then you will enjoy this simple guide to steel wool photography.

Steel wool photography can seem a little bit overwhelming if you have not done it before. But don't worry; it is pretty simple and straight forward. As an amateur photographer, learning this technique will boast your confidence in your photography skills and help you become a better photographer. Great thing with this process is that it does not require an expensive setup or pricey gear, which is great news for many amateur photographers.

Steel Wool Photography

Tools For the Job

Alright, to get started, you'll need a few basic items which include:

  • A camera with a manual mode
  • Steel wool
  • Cable with a handle
  • A whisk
  • tripod
  • A friend (or someone to help you navigate few steps)
  • A good dark location
  • Calm weather

Note that a steel wool is simply a steel in wool form and it is very easy to light with a lighter to make sparks. You can get the wool from any home improvement or hardware store. Once you have gotten all the tools you need, you can follow our guide below to make your very first steel wool photography.

Guide to Making a Steel Wool Photography

Now that you have gotten the tools you need, it is time to get started. Follow our step by step instruction below:

Step 1

Stuff the steel wool inside the whisk (you can use masking tape to hold it in place) and then find a lighter or nine-volt battery to set it alight. Ask your helper to whirl it around in a circular motion.

As you whirl around, the burning sparks from the steel wool will begin to fly out and fall to the ground thereby creating beautiful bright orange trails of light.

Steel Wool Photography

Step 2

ØSpinning Techniques

There are various ways you can spin the sparks around. Note that different spinning will give you a different image. The three type of spinning you can use include:

§Vertical Spinning: This type of spinning will give you a nice fire circle with sparks flying out beautifully.

§Horizontal Spinning: With horizontal spinning, the sparks will be much closer and flying towards the camera to create a line of attention.

§Walk and Spin: Spinning while you walk will give you vortex-like images. This technique works best with a dark background.

Step 3

ØCamera Setting

Set your camera to manual mode and then stabilize it with a tripod. You should aim for a shutter speed of around 8 to 15. Note that your location needs to be dark, the sparks won't show up on daylight. You'll need to be shooting at twilight.

Adjust your camera's shutter speed to about 30 seconds and the ISO to ISO 200, aperture should be at F8. For white balance setting, use Tungsten and shoot in raw formats.

If your camera has "Live View" feature, use it. It may be too dark for you to focus on your subject properly; therefore using Live View will help you with focusing.

Steel Wool Photography

Step 4

Shoot in the raw so that you can make adjustments to the exposure and color temperature as you deem fit when editing. If your camera has a wide-angle lens, you will need to move closer to the arc of the burning sparks of the steel wool so you can get a stronger composition.

Note that you may need to wear protective hand gloves and clothes that cover the skin as much as possible to avoid the sparks landing on your bare skin. You should as well make use of a UV filter to protect your lens from the burning sparks.

Note: You will need to keep a fire extinguisher around in case things get out of hand. Additionally, when the sparks die down, stick around for about 5 minutes to ensure the fire has finally died down. Be careful of your environment; don't do this in any location where there are inflammables such as gas or petrol.


I hope this guide will inspire you to try out steel wool photography. It is fun and exciting and the images you'll get will definitely inspire you to try other complex photography.

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