How to do Smoke Photography / by adamkarnacz@me.com

Smoke Photography made easy.

Create some beautiful, fun and abstract smoke photography using these very simple methods.

In this tutorial we look at how to photograph smoke to create some striking images that are jam packed with colour. Smoke Photography has an artistic and abstract feel freezing a moment in time that is often not given any attention. This is very similar to water drop Photography. If you have not seen water drop Photography check out the playlist below.

Water Drop Photography

Smoke Photography is easy and can be achieved with a normal camera. No special macro lens is required although, if you do own one, it can give a different feel to the smoke images that you create.

Gear required to photograph smoke

The gear you will need does not form a long list and many of us will already have the items lying around. Firstly you need a camera. Ideally it will be a camera that can fire an external flash. You will also need an external flash with the ability to fire it off-camera. Wireless triggers can now be picked up very cheaply. See the link below for all the required gear.

How to produce the smoke trails

Smoke can be created in a number of ways but I use Sandlewood incense sticks. They smell a bit but produce a nice constant smoke and are relatively safe. You then need a desk lamp to shine at the smoke to assist the camera to focus although the flash will light the smoke for the picture. If you are using a studio flash then the modelling lamp will be fine.

Photo Background

The images work best with a clean black background. Any kind of black material is fine but pop backgrounds are cheap and effective. You will also need something block the light from the flash hitting both the background and the lens as it flashes from left to right. A piece of card will do the trick just as well as more expensive barn door attachments.

Camera Settings

The images will work best with the camera in manual mode. Shutter speed should be set to the flash sync speed, this is often around 1/200 sec. An aperture of f/8 or f/11 will work well to keep the smoke sharp and in focus. ISO at 100. In the video I had the flash power set to 1/4 power but this will be dependant on the distance between the smoke and flash.

With everything set, go ahead and shoot the smoke trails. Waft your hand around to move the smoke to generate some interesting patterns in your images.

Smoke Photography is a good antidote to the winter weathe, but is also fun and creative. The abstract images you create will grab people's attention making them look twice at you work.

In the video we go into the post processing of the images very briefly using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.

Gear

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