How to Photograph Fire Rain with Steel Wool Light Painting

To create fire rain you need some steel wool, a whisk, long chains to secure the burning steel wool as you spin it, and the usual long exposure tools. You’ll also need a brave model to stand under the fire rain. Untamed Science’s Rob Nelson and Jonas Stenstom take us through the paces to create a mesmerizing photo of fire seeming to rain down from the sky:

Igniting the Steel Wool

Touching the steel wool with a battery as demonstrated in the image below can ignite the steel wool. You could also try a gentle rubbing motion, as well. But be careful when holding the battery.

fire rain photography tips

Igniting steel wool with a battery


Safety cannot be overemphasized. Have precautionary measures in place and use safety equipment like glasses, gloves, recommended clothing for working with fire.


The crew used a 2-second exposure at ISO 100 for most of the shots.


Try out as many compositions as you can. In this shoot, the crew had a small bridge as a vantage point to spin the steel wool and rain down sparks of fire from high up. That ultimately resulted in the best shot of the evening.

how to make fire rain photos

Directing the Model

It’s important to direct the model to get their reactions timed perfectly. You’ll also want ot help them know when to hold still so that you don’t get blurred shots.

Will you be trying out this technique? Be careful, and let us know how it goes!

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