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Now you’ve seen the video of me playing with fire, and you read the article about how to make giant fireballs with cornflour, the obvious next question is, how do you burn aerosols such as hairspray? That’s what we’re going to answer to day. And be warned, this one gets hot.

This is the picture we’re going to recreate.

Flaming Horse
Flaming Horse
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You all recall the scene in ‘Live and Let Die’ where Roger Moore is cornered in a bathroom by a snake. He quickly grabs an aerosol, points it over his cigar (what a guy: smokes in the shower!) and burns the slimy creature to death. Two things come to mind. What is it that a manly man like James Bond needs in the bathroom that comes in an aerosol? And secondly, is that even possible without blowing yourself up?

It was the 70’s and my dad tells me everyone wore hairspray so I’m going to let that one pass for now but be sure I’ll bring it up with my therapist later. As for the danger bit; fiddle sticks, cobblers, get a life. There’s loads of stories about people playing with aerosols on the net. Did you hear the one about the kid that did it wrong? The flame got sucked back in to the can and caused an explosion! Did you hear about the apartment complex that had a wall blown out by an exploding aerosol? Sigh. The flame will not get sucked back in to the can. It can’t. Impossible. And if it did, so what? There’s no oxygen in the can to burn so it would just go out. The apartment wall? That sh*t is real. These things really go with a bang, but to make them do so you need to puncture them or place them in a fire. So here’s today’s warning, don’t puncture an aerosol or place it in a fire.

To make the flame, you simply need to do what Bond did, get a big ol’ can of something like hairspray (not the pump action kind) and spray it on to an open flame. There’s only two things that might go wrong at this point. You can keep the flame burning so long that the nozzle melts. This is no big deal other than a small amount of pain, but it will end your evening of pyro activities. The second thing, that I do all the time, is you can accidentally cover something with the spray. The something I usually cover is my lighter. Which immediately sets on fire (in a bad way) and causes a few laughs and a brief moment of panic.

The set up for the shoot is simple. You want the camera as low to the ground as possible so your model is learning over you. You only want the torso to be lit so place a flashlight on 1/4 power, with a snood to hold the light, looking up at the face. And that’s it. Simplicity itself. Just like with the fireball picture we’re going to take a few shots. We’re going to take a flash lit picture of the model, using ISO200, f11 at 1/200th of a second. Followed by two shots of the flame at ISO640, f5.6 at 1/500th of a second – no flash!

Do whatever exposure / blackness and cropping you need to do in camera raw and load the 3 images as layers in Photoshop. From the bottom layer up, here’s what I then did to make the top photo.

Firstly, I duplicate the model shot, convert it to a smart filter, and add a sharpening filter to really bring out the suit.

Next I add a contrast enhancing S curve, again to enhance the details in the suit.

The flames needed no fixing but they did need a little repositioning to get them exactly over the nostrils. The move tool allows you to that with a huge degree of accuracy. Remember to set the layer blend mode to Lighten for these two layers. Lighten lets the brighter (flames) show up, but hides everything else.

And finally, add a dodge and burn layer by using the menu item to add a grey layer in Overlay mode.

I was brief in my Photoshop descriptions because it’s almost a replay of the steps used to create the fireball picture here.

Just to remind you, watch the video of the technique.

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