How To Add Fire to the Fireplace With Photoshop

July 3rd, 2012

I got a question about from a reader last week asking about the best way to create a fire in the fireplace with Photoshop. He said he had seen the tutorial that shows how to put flames on text but having trouble making the jump to making a fire place look convincing.

Yes, there is more to good looking fires than just the flame. You need logs on grates etc. My approach is to use a actual fire with logs and all the supports from a real fire. The way to do this is as follows:

  1. Use the polygon lasso tool to select the fire you want to use (assuming you have a collection of real fires) and cut it out of the original photo.
  2. Then drag it on the the photo that needs a fire so the fire is on it’s own layer.
  3. Then use transform>distort, the clone tool and the opacity of the fire layer to get the fire the right size, in the right place and the right look. The great thing about fires is they are usually an amorphous glob so it’s not hard to make them look convincing.
  4. Make sure you don’t misrepresent the type of fireplace. That is, don’t put a big blazing wood fire in a fireplace that has a gas log. Gas fires are more subdued.

If you have a good selection of real fires the process is much easier. I’ll bet you didn’t know about the PFRE fire library did you? Actually it’s been around since 2008 and I’d forgot about it myself. I added a link on the right side-bar under “Other Links”.

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10 Responses to “How To Add Fire to the Fireplace With Photoshop”

  • I also find that setting your fire layer to ‘Screen’ is very useful.

  • This is really an useful and informative post. Thanks for sharing. Am gonna try it.

  • Great trick, thanks Larry : I’d never thought of shooting some stock images of fires nicely alight: much better than setting fire to some newspaper in the grate and then running to hit the shutter release!

  • Great advice…now if only most of the Tucson RE photographers would stop using the exact same fire image in every house…

  • You’re right – I had forgotten you have a fire library! Wish I’d remembered that a few weeks ago when I had to do this!

  • I might be too sensitive to the issue, but…

    Wouldn’t this be considered a material change? What if the fireplace doesn’t even work? I feel the same about this as digitally putting in a working light bulb. You might put in a digital light source for what is actually a non-functioning outlet, and then you have an upset potential buyer demanding that the seller pay for all repairs necessary to match reality to the photos.

  • @Jeff- I think you are a little too sensitive. The whole inspection contingency on home sales is intended to address the issues of what in the property works and doesn’t work and let the buyer and seller negotiate what the seller must fix.

    Adding a fire in the fireplace is more for adding a nice looking fire in a wood fireplace without having to drag in wood, light it and then make sure its out. If it’s a gas fireplace that doesn’t work it’s the agents call on wether they want to show it functioning in the marketing photos.

  • It all comes down to …is photography a document or is it just marketing? It is not a disclosure. it is not a legal document, although permantent features should not be removed like a fire hydrant or power lines etc…but what happens when you tweak a photo? lightening or darkening, adding blur is ok but what about cropping that oil tank or neighbor’s trailer visible out the back yard? I think it should be just about marketing we are not lawyers, we are more artist if anything. Most people know that, and I think they expect it. Beautiful architectual photography is not the way we view homes in reality, but we all appreciate a great shot (or tweak). My opinon is if it were to be true and enforcable the pictures should be placed in the “official document” section, then it could be enforced as a legal document..Other wise it was never intended to be anything more than a marketing piece, and therefore not enforcable from a legal position. What ever happened to visiting the property before buying? don’t you need to verify it your self and not take the lazy way out and put the burden on actually visiting the property. Especially true if it is a high value product like a home. Photos are not a guarantee, just an informitive marketing piece.

    ps what happens when you omit a pictures of an ugly bathroom, is that misleading? or incomplete? I think not!

  • Great trick… false fires…. but my favorite trick is including a golf course in the background followed by several Rolls Royce”s in a 10 stall garage and a beach setting in the front yard. Ohhh and the house is actually in an impoverished area, only about 1000sqft and on the wrong side of the tracks.

    But what a great trick!!!…. perhaps you have forgotten that the prospective buyer looks a pictures and starts to get excited, calls their agent and has a scheduled appointment…… (and he is the BANG)…….. the prospect is utterly disillusioned by the false photos (especially the super-wide angle lens shots) that make a 10X10 room looks more like a 24X24 room, and subsequent loss of further interest in possible purchase.

  • I must say another important consideration is liability. I know this sounds crazy but I know of a house that recently burned down the evening after a photographer completed shooting it. Fortunately he decided NOT to light the fire during his shoot. It’s considered best practice by some photographers to always have the owner and/or agent light a fireplace if it is indeed to be lit. Imagine what would be racing through that photographer’s mind if he HAD lit the fire that day. Even though it might not be his fault that the place burned down it would like leave a rather unsavory felling. By the way, the source of the fire was indeed determined to be a gas fireplace so as you can see, that is no assurance of infallibility.

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