A Fire Eater in the Studio – A Creative Shoot

Recently I have been booking a series of TF (“trade for”) shoots with some local models with the intent of working on creative lighting. Studio lighting is something I’ve learned much about in the last couple of years, but have oh so much to continue to learn. I’ve enjoyed running the Utah County Studio Co-Op I founded with several other local photographers, and it has pushed me to do more in the studio now that I’ve actually had a place to work.

This week I had Brandi in the studio and I asked her to be responsible for whatever “look” we would shoot. We discussed some ideas in advance, which included some interesting costuming, but then she brought up that she does fire eating performance. That was a new one for me and immediately the cogs in the ole noggin started turning. I picked up a fog machine and decided that my challenge would be combining lighting the smoke with a strobe and illuminating her solely with the light of the fire.

Thankfully my friend and fellow studio co-op owner Pete Stott joined in to assist with ideas and moving things around, specifically being my VAFM (voice activated fog machine) in the background. For the lighting we quickly found that the AB800 strobe even and it’s lowest power was too much relative to the flame light. I was shooting at ISO 800-1600, f/2.0-2.8 and 1/80-320 shutter depending on how strong the flame was as it burned through fuel, so we switched to just using the modeling light as the backlighting. I was pretty darn pleased with the results, particularly when we threw on various gels to tint the backlight.

By the time we were done, the studio was full of smoke that we had to open up the big roll up door for awhile to air out. As we reviewed the photos on the back of the camera, I was happy with what we had done.

Though these photos are not going to win any awards or even provide any sort of revenue that I can think of, I am happy with the results and particularly the knowledge gained in the process. I am a big believer in the thoughts being pushed by the likes of Jeremy Cowart and Zack Arias about personal work being the driving force of where your photography will go, both in your interests and your business. I don’t see fire eater photography being the future of my business, but the skills I am learning in attempting to make creative portraits in very diverse and often strange situations will open up new possibilites.

I’m still working my way through selecting my favorite shots and the post-processing possibilities. These are a few preview shots I put together and sent the model. I always love that reaction when they are obviously pleasantly shocked with the results. She was elated, and it took all of 2 minutes before these appeared on her Facebook profile. Always a good sign, right?