Menu
Return to Blog

I wrote up some advice for National Geographic Readers on how to shoot around a campfire. Let me know if it’s helpful.

Sitting around a campfire and telling stories with my friends is one of my favorite things to do on summer nights in Montana. I believe that storytelling is at the heart of what makes us human and is at the heart of what every photographer strives to do.

Campfires also make for interesting images, and it’s a fun way to experiment with slow shutter speeds. The biggest challenge is getting the images sharp and the exposure right, since the light source is always changing.

Photo tip: Focusing at night can be difficult. I shine a flashlight on a person’s face to help my camera focus and once its sharp, I turn the camera to manual focus, taking care not to bump the camera or move the focus ring. Then I measure the exposure of the peoples’ faces around the fire while the flames are still going strong.

In this case, a tripod was essential because the ambient light in the sky was already gone and I wanted a long exposure. I wanted to emphasize the movement of the burning embers so I shot this frame for one second. I would suggest shooting between one and ten seconds, depending on the mood you want to create.

Here I used the Nikon D4S, which has the best sensor for shooting in low light. I shot this image at 1600 ISO and it’s still tack sharp, as if it were shot using 100 ISO. I wanted the long exposure while my friend Amy blew embers to create movement and mood.

Make sure to monitor the strength of the fire. As it dies down, you will need to lengthen your exposure or open your aperture. Shoot as many frames as you can, because each one will look different.

You May Also Enjoy



National Geographic: These photos were among the favorites of our 200 million Instagram followers

National Geographic: These photos were among the favorites of our 200 million Instagram followers

My photograph of keeper Joseph Wachira comforting Sudan, the last living male northern white rhino, as he laid dying at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya in March 2018 was among the works that most resonated with National Geographic’s 200 million Instagram followers. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of their account, National Geographic is looking back [ … ]

Read More

PetaPixel: 10 Female Photographers You Should Know in 2022

PetaPixel: 10 Female Photographers You Should Know in 2022

There is no better time than the start of the year to explore talented photographers who all have the power to inspire others. Each one of them with a unique visual voice and creative approach, these are ten female photographers you should know and follow…. Ami Vitale is an American photographer and filmmaker who captures impactful [ … ]

Read More

My Modern Met: Photographer Ami Vitale on Following Your Heart and Documenting Stories of Hope

My Modern Met: Photographer Ami Vitale on Following Your Heart and Documenting Stories of Hope

Photographer Ami Vitale documents endangered species and the powerful bonds they share with their caretakers. This week on the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast, we interview Vitale and get a behind-the-scenes look at how she captured some of her most legendary pictures. Listen now here.

Read More