The steel wool photography thing isn’t exactly a new idea. In fact, it’s been done to death. To the point now where most photographers avoid having anything to do with it, which isn’t surprising after a number of high profile fires in recent years. It’s not difficult to do, and it doesn’t require a lot of items to do it, either. Items you can pick up in just about any high street (or hardware store).
While browsing around AliExpress, though, it seems a company has actually put a “kit” together. Yes, a kit, consisting of a pack of steel wool, an egg whisk, and some wire to swing it from. There’s no affiliate link here, I just thought this was amusing, given the readily available nature of the “equipment” this type of photography requires.
I’ve been using AliExpress quite a lot the last few months and picked up some pretty awesome deals on electronics components I need for projects. Occasionally it does show me some rather questionable listings, but I thought this one was pretty funny. As if it wasn’t obvious to most people how to do steel wool photography right away, the seller “Digital Accessories Online Store” does provide some handy instructions. And I’m not correcting any of the grammar or spelling mistakes…
- Step 1: Fill the whisk with some steel wool. (to get more sparks when burning, you can puff the steel wool up a little)
- Step 2: Attach a flexible wire to the whisk which enables you to spin the whisk in the air.
- Step 3: Find a proper place. Any place won’t be set on fire would be fine. Because the sparks will bounce of any surface they encounter.
- Step 4: Set up your camera. You can use bulb setting on your camera. Don’t forget to bring a tripod and wireless shutter release with you.
- Step 5: Ignite the steel wool and spin the whisk! Once everything is ready, ignite the steel wool with a lighter. Just a little bit is enough and the steel wool will start to smolder. The whole steel wool will catch on fire when being spined the whisk and have fun!TIPS:
- Appropriate setting is 13 seconds exposed, ISO 1600, F8.
- Whisk is not necessary, and you can gain different result with different tools. So you can try to use bicycle wheels, small cages, etc..
At least they provide some useful location scouting tips for your steel wool photography, like “Any place won’t be set on fire would be fine”. They do actually mention in the listing, too, that you may need an umbrella, goggles and a fire extinguisher for your safety. They also provide a handy photo showing how it all goes together for use.
I suppose they expect their customers to be too dumb to figure that bit out for themselves. But, if that’s the market they’re targeting, surely they’re too dumb to be trying this kind of photography in the first place?
Apparently, 401 people have purchased this “kit” so far and they have almost three and a half thousand still available. But I think it would probably work out cheaper to just hit up your local dollar store (or pound shop in the UK) to buy the exact same items – and possibly something better than an egg whisk to hold it in.
If you do decide to try wire wool photography, though, please do consider safety. Not just your own or your subject’s safety, but the environment around you, too. With all the fires that seem to be raging in various parts of the world right now, we don’t need you to be setting another one.