Steel Wool Photography (Tutorial)

Steel Wool Photography

A Know how Guide from Gulfu Photography



Shutter Speed: 30 Seconds
Aperture: F7.1
ISO: 200
White Balance: Auto
Focus: Manual Focus
Tripod :Yes Flash :Yes


What is a steel wool?

A steel wool or wire wool or sponge, is a bunch of very fine strands of steel. It is commonly used for construction work and cleaning work. As far as photography is concerned, it is used to create sparks by burning it and creating a light painting effect.

What do I need to take a steel wool photograph?

You will need the following items before taking a steel wool photograph.

  • Steel wool – It is easily available across most countries in hardware stores. But in India, you might have to order it online. When you purchase the steel wool, make sure that it is Grade 0, 00, 000 or 0000. Do not purchase Grade 1 and above steel wool as it won’t serve the purpose.
  • Steel cable or chain – You can use a dog chain as it comes with a handle to hold and a clasp that can hold the whisk in place.
  • Whisk – You can either borrow it from your home or get a new one from a shop.
  • Camera and Tripod – Any DSLR camera and Tripod is fine.
  • Camera remote/ Shutter release cable – To fire the camera when you are standing and swirling the steel wool.
  • Cigarette lighter – To set the steel wool on fire.
  • Protective gear – If you want to protect yourself from burns, wear a hooded sweat shirt (preferably black) and sun glass to protect your eyes from sparks. Also wear gloves (not plastic) to protect your hand, just in case you touch the whisk when its hot.



Shutter Speed: 25 Seconds
Aperture: F5.6
ISO: 400
White Balance: Auto
Focus: Manual Focus
Tripod :Yes


How can I take a steel wool photograph?

  • You need to attach the whisk to the steel cable or chain and ensure that it is fastened properly. If the chain is very long, cut it to the length of your arm. Otherwise just wind it around your palm to achieve the length.
  • Set you camera at a safe distance away from the point where you will be standing and swirling the steel wool. But ensure that you set the camera with the proper settings and focus point, covering the width and height of your proposed photograph (within a few trials you will get to know the proper distance). If you are wondering how to set the focus point in darkness, you can do that simply like this. Ask someone to stand at the point where you will be swirling with an LED light. Or you can keep it at the point, if you are alone. Set the focus point on the LED light and turn off auto-focus.
  • Fire the camera using the camera remote/shutter release cable. Light the steel wool using the cigarette lighter. You may not see any flame. But when you start swirling it, sparks start to fly.
  • Stand in a single position and start swirling the steel wool until the sparks stop.
  • Check the result in your camera and make the necessary adjustments accordingly.
  • Ensure that you are trying out steel wool photography in a fire-proof place (if doing indoors). If you are trying it outdoor, things are much safer. Just in case of fire, make sure you have a fire extinguisher nearby. All in all, you should only try steel wool photography at your own risk. There is risk of burn/fire when doing steel wool photography. The best way to try this is to ask your friend to swirl, while you take the photograph, or vice versa. That way, you will have someone to help you in case of emergency.



You can email your steel wool shots to and get your photograph evaluated. For any further doubts about taking a steel wool photography, you can email me and get your doubts cleared. Enjoy clicking and keep following Gulfu Photography.




Shutter Speed: 25 Seconds
Aperture: F5.6
ISO: 320
White Balance: Auto
Focus: Manual Focus
Tripod :Yes




Shutter Speed: 22 Seconds
Aperture: F7.1
ISO: 200
White Balance: Auto
Focus: Manual Focus
Tripod :Yes



Comments ( 3 )

    • Anonymous says:

      Is it very much like sparkles or will it cause burns? If it does what precautionary measures would you suggest before experimenting with this ?

    • gulfu says:

      Yes its verymuch like sparkles..but less can use eye wear, full sleeve dress,cap and shoe..

    • aditya says:

      Great Shots!! Keep it Up!!
      where to buy steelwool ? any particular site ? Please share the site link to buy steelwool . If you bought from ebay then please share the link .
      Thanks you.

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