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How to do steel wool photography

Updated on August 11, 2013
Steel wool photography
Steel wool photography

"Steel wool photography?" - I hear you ask.

Steel wool is first and foremost a practical material, used for finishing and repairing work, and to polish wood or metal objects. It consists of fine strands of.. you guessed it - steel. I don't particularly enjoy cleaning, but upon finding out that when you set fire to this so called "steel wool" it creates safe sparks, and when you spin these sparks you can create wonderful long exposure photographs, I couldn't wait to give it a try, and suggest you do too!


Red Devil 0320 Steel Wool, 0000 Super Fine, 8 Pads
Red Devil 0320 Steel Wool, 0000 Super Fine, 8 Pads

Super fine steel wool is important for the best possible results when it comes to steel wool photograpy.


How can I create steel wool photographs?

What you will need - and what to do with it

1. A camera (preferable DSLR) - but ideally any camera which has a changeable shutter speed. A camera mounted on a tripod is usually best

2. Steel wool - you can buy this from any DIY store for about £3. The fine grade steel wool usually burns better.

3. A whisk - (indeed - the one's you use for cooking!). Once you have your steel wool, break it up as much as possible and put it inside the whisk.

4. A piece of string - attach the whisk to a piece of string - no longer than 1 meter, ideally so that you can spin the whisk around in a controlled manner.

What to do next..

Once you have found a suitable location, set your camera to at least a 10 second shutter speed, or the setting which you desire.

Put your camera on a 10 second timer, and when you are ready, light the steel wool (with a normal match or lighter). When you start spinning, sparks should fly from the whisk.

Play around with the settings on your camera to get different exposure times, i.e. if you want to see more of the background!

Below are some examples of steel wool photography!


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    • profile image

      Finch 3 years ago

      Thanks for coiibnruttng. It's helped me understand the issues.

    • profile image

      Robert 3 years ago

      Hi .I'm new to the group and it's the first time I've posted. I'm doing my first craft show I'm a new fetler .and I saw a list somewhere of things to tape, pencils, cards, etc. I'm wondering if I can be sent in that direction if anyone knows of a basic helpful list thanks, Michelle

    • Resolver2009 profile image

      Resolver2009 5 years ago from Bournemouth, UK / Oslo, Norway

      Amazing hub! Absolutely love it, steelwooling is such a fantastic effect. Well written!

    • Luno2012 profile image

      Luno2012 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      @vocalcoach: Thank you very much! and many thanks for the share on facebook! It was certainly fun taking these photos to see the end result!

      @Rtalloni: Thanks, it's a pleasure :)

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      THanks for sharing your tips on steel wool photography. This surely helps us start thinking outside the box. Your photos are really neat.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Wow! these photographs are so amazing. I've not seen anything like them. I will share this hub on facebook. Wonderful and thanks. Voted up and more!