Steel Wool Photography

Steel or wire wool photography can be fun and exiting with dramatic results using very simple equipment and little experience. With the right setting and a couple of friends you can produce fantastic shots that look amazing.

Steel wool photography by a lake on Dartmoor

Care must be taken when doing steel wire photography because it comes with high risk since the burning metal gets very hot, so the right protective equipment, clothing, and surroundings must be chosen.


To be safe, make sure you choose a location without nearby flammable materials, and have the following:

  • Eye protection
  • Head protection
  • Non-flammable clothes
  • Gloves
  • Fire extinguisher
Fire extinguisher Fire safety goggles Heat proff gloves


  • Steel Wool (Grade 000 or 0000)
  • Jet flame lighter, or a 9V battery to light the wool
  • Steel balloon whisk, one with a hoop at the top of the handle
  • Steel chain
  • Key chain swivel
  • Key ring
  • Wire cutters
Balloon whisk Steel chain Key ring Snap hook key ring Steel wool Mini blow torch Duracell 9 volt battery


2Fe + 3O2 → 2Fe2O3

Time and Location

Choose a dramatic location that will be complemented by the orange glow produced by the burning metal. Great examples are:

  • Rocky outcrops
  • Scenes with water, using the reflection to maximise the effect of flying sparks
  • Surroundings with ice or snow

Steel Wire Setup

  • Cut the chain to the desired length, 70cm is good
  • Connect the steel chain to the hoop on the balloon whisk using the key ring
  • Connect the other end of the chain to the key ring on the swivel keychain
  • Pack the steel wire wool into the whisk, not too tightly
  • Light the steel using the jet flame lighter, or by touching it with both terminals of a 9V battery
  • Spin, spin, spin...

Camera Setup

This depends on what you want to acheive, I like images that have only one or two complete rotations, say around 1/2 second exposure time. On the other hand, if you want more sparks then up the time and bring down the ISO and/or appature size. Experement and have fun!


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