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How To Take Brilliant Photos On A Firewalk

A group of people standing in front of a fire with a check.

We ALWAYS recommend a professional photographer for your Firewalk Experience, and we have access to expert photographers with experience.

However, if you do not have the budget OR you are working with someone who has never done a firewalk shoot (maybe there is a photographer in your local community who is happy to do it), here’s some tips to help you get the most from the experience.

A group of people standing around a bonfire.

Why Take Photos?

We are visual creatures and photos tell a story WAY better than words. Your photos will be used for…

  • Sending to local press.
  • Updating your fundraising pages.
  • Sharing on ALL the walkers social media, driving traffic back to your fundraiser.
  • Sharing on your website as a permanent page about the experience and outcomes.
  • We will use them too on our social media channels to promote your fundraiser.
 

In my experience, money spent on a professional photographer will bring in more money from fundraising than they will cost in the first place.

A group of people standing around a campfire at night.

The Key Challenges

Two very specific issues present when taking photos of a firewalk:

  • The firewalk happens very fast, the whole walk will last around 20 mins. So there’s not a lot of time to get pictures.
  • The firewalk takes place in very low light and the photographer cannot use flash as that kills the atmosphere. You need to see those orange glowing embers.
A group of people standing around a fire at night.

So, What Should They Shoot?

If they have never shot a firewalk before, set up a call with us so we can help them get everything you need. It is very specific, technically challenging and happens VERY fast. So preparation is essential.

Their shoot duration will be about two and a half hours. They should arrive half an hour before lighting the fire so they are not rushing. Here’s what their shot list should include…

  • Lighting the fire
  • Training in the room*
  • Stoking the fire (while the training is taking place)
  • The first walk(s)
  • Close up shots of feet
  • Wider shots of whole experience
  • Final group celebration shot – one with the big cheque, and one without
 

*The training in the room is not essential to shoot but they may capture something special.

A group of people standing around a bonfire at night.

What Kit Should They Use?

The camera they choose is key, one that shoots in very, and I mean VERY low light. We will add a little light on the night, to lift the overall levels, but it also needs to be dark enough to capture those glowing embers and the fireside vibe. In the past we have used a Sony A7 which is brilliant in low light, but any pro will know what to use.

Add to that a fast lens, one that needs less light to take great shots. There likely won’t be time for tripods too, it all happens too fast.

And finally finding the balance between a very high ISO (grainier images), and a slow shutter speed (to let more light in, but not so much as it blurs – the walkers do walk with some speed!) is a balancing act a pro will understand.  

Remember, no-one is thinking about photos at all, except the photographer. So once it begins, they are on their own. We the walkers and organisers will be 100% focussed on the walk.

In my view, grainy shots that are sharp and capture the fiery essence of the scene is the way to go. Don’t worry too much about grain. We also have tools to fix that later, should the grain be excessive. It’s all about capturing the excitement.

A group of people standing around a bonfire at night.

We have found that low angle shots from the far end of the walk is always a good position too. Ideally, they want to get a shot of everyone who walks too.

We have experimented with a combination of flash and slow shutter speeds, and also masking the flash (so it hits the walker but not the embers)… the results have never really captured the heated glow of the firewalk like low light, high ISO shots do. We would avoid anyone who wants to experiment doing this. It just doesn’t work.

A person standing on a pile of brocken glass bottles.

Glasswalk?

We usually run a glasswalk in our events and of course, that’s also a photo opportunity too. In our experience most people will film the glasswalk on their phones by handing it to another delegate, and then share that video right away or later that night. You can have a photographer for this but that will dramatically extend their hours of work, so they may cost more. Alternatively, if you have a friend who is good with a camera, have them come and shoot some stuff. Bottom line? Video is MUCH better for the glasswalk.

A group of people posing in front of a fire.

Anyone else handy with a camera?

If anyone else in your sphere is good with a camera, enrol them to take photos too. Modern phone cameras are VERY good in low light so they can often capture the event from a different perspective. The group shot can sometimes be better from a camera phone that the professional photographer one.

SPEED SPEED SPEED

You will need the photos FAST. Or at least two or three selected photos. Ask your photographer to send you three ‘selects’ overnight so the following day you can start shouting about it on Social Media. The three you want are…

  • The group shot over the firewalk
  • Someone walking the fire
  • A third one that is just a great photo that captures the spirit of the experience

They may get into it and send more. Be aware that most photographers will want to grade their shots (improve the colour balance and contrast) as well as delete shots they are not happy with. So they won’t just give you a card out of the camera on the night. 

When you get these photos, send them out to the firewalkers. We can help here as we are setup to send out rapid group emails with clear instruction as what to do.

In brief, you want the walkers to share an immediate and enthusiastic message on their social media channels saying ‘I can’t believe I did this last night, it was XXXX and XXXX and I did it for XXXX. Please throw in a fiver here to celebrate this milestone for me (URL to campaign here).

They don’t need to do much more and it should be written in their words, not copy and paste. They will be posting again in the following days too, with lengthier and more considered words, and hopefully a specific image or video clip of them walking.

It’s all about energy, momentum and flooding your social group all at once. What people will sense is that something seismic happened last night and we did it for this cause… please contribute.

Finally, make sure we get the photos too

We will use for publicity on our channels too and we will archive the entire photo library forever should you lose them in the future.

Now I hear you asking, what about video? More on that in a coming post.

Chris Jones
Firewalk Experience

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