Wonderful Photo
Of The Day

Photographing Matches, Fire, & Smoke

What you'll need:

  • Camera
  • Macro Lens
  • Matches
  • Match stand/clamp
  • Lighter
  • Flash
  • Black background

Optional items:

  • Tripod
  • Remote release cable
  • Flash off-shoe cable
  • White reflector


  • Clamp match into your stand
  • Place stand in front of black backdrop
  • Place flash on the left side of match
  • Place reflector on the right side of match

Match Placement:

  • Air currents in the room will direct the match's smoke.
  • As illustrated in the top photo, the air was blowing to the left so the match was framed on the right side of the image to balance the composition.


  • Set your camera to manual exposure since your flash will be the main light.
  • Set your flash to manual as well. The rapidly shifting smoke is tricky to deal with automatically.
  • The brightness of the flame is determined by the camera, not the flash. To make the flame brighter or larger, simply allow for more ambient light to expose in the frame.
  • Chimp between exposures and adjust your settings accordingly.

Igniting the Flame:

  • Make sure your entire setup is well ventilated and that you take appropriate safety measures!
  • Ignite the lighter and place the flame next to the match. It will take a moment for the match to ignite.
  • Once the match ignites, quickly remove the lighter and press the shutter!
Lighting the match


  • As soon as the match ignites, it will flare up brightly. This is the ideal time to take the photo because it is when you'll see all the smoke! A remote release cable is very helpful here!
  • After the flare calms down, you'll be left with just a quiet flame and no more smoke.
Match lit from the left Match lit from the front Match near end of initial burn

Using Multiple Matches:

  • Once you get comfortable shooting one match, you can get fancy and add several more matches.
  • Keep in mind your match supply will dwindle much more rapidly!
Two matches A book of matches


  • As the matches erupt, they'll spew out tiny flakes of ash. Clone them out in Photoshop to make the images noticably cleaner.
  • Boost the cyan saturation to bring out the beautiful blues in the smoke.

No two images will ever be quite the same so create lots of images and have fun!