What is Fire Performer Photography?
Fire spinning is a dangerous and beautiful art form and in my experience, far too many photographers obsess over finding the perfect camera settings to capture pretty fire textures and siiiiiiiiick fire spinning trails while they ignore the human performer who is risking serious injury or death every time they light up their props.
The simplest way any photographer can show a fire performer at their most primal is to focus your attention, and thus your viewer’s attention, away from the fire and on to the performer where it belongs.
The best fire performer photographers depict the art and danger of fire performance by focusing on the performer for maximum visual impact. It’s never about the pretty flames and siiiiiiick textures. I cannot stress this enough.
Below, I’ve compiled a growing list of my best photography tips, tricks, and camera settings to help you improve your photography of fire performers and other flow artists. It is my hope that these methods can help you add a new dimension to your photography.
My intention is to help you learn to see past the fire itself in order to photograph the soul of the performer by combining the best photography techniques from photojournalism, sports photography in particular, with different elements of portrait photography.
How To Photograph Fire Performers
The best way to photograph fire performers is to learn the skills unique to photojournalism and sports photography. This is my primary technique.
Something to ask yourself: is it really that difficult to ask for permission, or are you just lazy, entitled, and possibly predatory? Always. Get. Consent.
In Part 3 of this Series on improving fire performer photography, I present to you the Four Fundamentals of Basic Rifle Marksmanship. Wait, whaaaaaaat?
We’ll continue learning to think like a combat shooter because Army fundamentals and good fire performer photography fit well perfectly. Here’s how.
Photographing fire performers and flow artists became boring for me a long time ago and that is perfectly okay. In fact, boredom can be a powerful asset in your creative tool box!
Looking for the best camera settings to use when photographing fire performers? I’ll give you a hint. There aren’t any. Read on to see what I mean.
Wanna know the best camera settings to photograph fire breathers? HINT: I don’t care about getting siiiiiiiiick fire textures.
Here’s how to use fire fans and palm torches as a simple two-point photography lighting system for beautiful portraits and action shots.
This is the very best advice I can possibly give to new photographers. It may, or may not, involve 120,600 googol years.
Bonus Fire Performer Photography Tip
Are you looking for an experienced fire-performer and flow artist photographer?
If you’re near Boston, MA and want to refresh your social media, EPK, or performance website with some seriously good photography, then drop me a message!
I can confidently assure you that my photography will always focus on you, the person behind the siiiiiiiick fire trails and pretty lights, first.
How to photograph fire performers
Here are the basic steps you need to keep in mind when you’re photographing fire performers. I’m assuming that you’re already reasonably comfortable with the controls of your camera and aren’t trying to use Auto or any of the semi-auto modes to your camera. Photographing fire performers is an advanced style of photography and isn’t for the point-and-shoot or smartphone photographer.
Got your gear ready? Let’s get started:
Learn the skills and techniques unique to photojournalists and, especially, sports photographers. Fire performers move at a fast pace and you should never try to get them to slow down their performance, just for you.
You owe safety to the audience and performer first, the venue second, and yourself third. Get consent from the perfomer(s) as soon as possible. Some don’t like flash. Some are okay with it.
Your camera is not a rifle but BRM techniques certainly help. Steady your position, use proper aim, control your breathing, gently squeeze the shutter release. It really works!
No, you are not a soldier, but without movement and communication with everyone around you there’s a good chance that you’ll end up more disruptive to the performance than anything else. Don’t be that guy!
Believe it or not, once you get over the novelty of trying to capture siiiiiiiick trails with super sharp textures in the flames or encountering yet another narcissistic performer trying to demonstrate their latest tech moves (flow is always better), you can then use that boredom to your creative advantage.
Muscle memory makes a difference! We’re talking about knowing where the buttons and controls are, how many clicks it takes to dial the control wheel, anticipating a performer’s next move, using back-button auto-focus, the center focus point only, the limitations of your lens (they all have limitations), how far your flash can reach, and so on — all with your head on a swivel and your eyes fixed on the performer.