How to Photograph Smoke – Detailed Tutorial

Smoke photography can be extremely aggravating yet meeting at the same time. It all relies on exactly how you come close to the topic. If you have extra time and/or stuck indoors on a rainy day, then it’s the perfect possibility to try this strategy. There is no need for pricey cam equipment. Merely your camera, flash and a couple of house products will certainly do the job.

All you need is a basic understanding of the relationship between the subject, lighting and background. The one vital element that I would say is a must is PATIENCE! Oh, and a camera obviously … Without those two things, you will walk away very stressed.

There is no right or upside-down to accomplish the ideal smoke path. I utilized a mix of my own method as well as strategies I picked up from others. The idea is to experiment and familiar whatever process you are comfy with. You might even find a much better way to do it. The important thing is that you acquire the excellent image.

In this tutorial, I will guide you through the entire shoot step-by-step. I will likewise provide my own suggestions so you can attempt different methods.

Ok, permitted’s start …


Have the best equipment

Besides the electronic camera as well as flash, you can improvisation with nearly everything else. I will be making tips throughout the tutorial so don’t worry if you are missing out on some items.

The standard tools you will need is:

Electronic camera – with command over shooting method. Preferably a DSLR so you could manually readjust the shutter speed, aperture as well as concentration.
Off electronic camera Flash or Strobe with Snoot – don’t worry if you do not have a snoot. I made mine with a cereal box and some black art paper:–RRB-.
Incense stick as well as holder – Scent sticks are the finest source of smoke as they have a pleasant odor as well as give a much longer long lasting continual plume of smoke. If you do not have a proper holder, you can utilize anything from play dough to a potato. As long as it holds the incense in place, it doesn’t matter what you use. You might also wish to use something to capture the ash.
Black background and also surface – You can use any sort of dark colored non-reflective background, but black is best if you intend to capture perfect comparison and specifics of the smoke. You will also avoid lengthy post processing in Photoshop. Usage paper, card or perhaps velvet if you don’t have a proper colorama background. The black surface is not vital but aids to avoid any stray light bouncing off onto the background or the camera lens.
Tripod – This is not entirely necessary, but for this tutorial, we will use one. I took all my smoke photos handheld. It’s a little more difficult but you get some unique shots. Try out both methods and see which is ideal for you.
Reflector – This is optional if you would like to mirror more light onto the smoke.
Portable light – A torch or something to illuminate the smoke so you can lock emphasis … as well as see where you’re entering the dark …
A well-ventilated room – This is vital. Do not try it in a little room with just one small home window! The smoke will fill up a large room within 10-15 mins so you will certainly need to air the area out from time to time. This is due to the fact that the smoke in the room will lower the quality of your photo. Oh, and it’s not good for your health to breathe in all that smoke, even if it does smell good.
A lighter – you have to light the incense …:–RRB-.
PERSISTENCE! Bunches of it!

The Studio Establish.

Now that you got all your gear, you will have to set them up in a manner that will avoid any light spilling onto the black background or into your camera lens. I have included images listed below to show the established I utilize. The initial graphic is the basic set up.

Put up your black background.
Place the scent stick about 3-4ft away from the background.
Place the flash/strobe to the right (or left) of the incense concerning 1-2ft away.
If using a reflector, place it on the opposite side, facing directly at the incense stick.
Location the video camera on a tripod before the scent about 2-3ft away.
You could also set up the equipment at an angle to the background (fig. 2) simply make sure that you stay clear of any sort of light showing onto the background. This is important because smoke has a natural gray color so you require a pure black background to provide it contrast. You also have to see to it that when you discharge the flash, no light smash hits the cam lens. This will certainly produce glare in your picture. It is not completely a bad thing as you can still turn it into an innovative photo, yet you do not really want glow on all your photos.

This is a photo with glow (please view on my blog). It was a mistake and my purpose was to eliminate it, yet I liked the solar impact it was giving so made a decision to leave it as it is.


Camera as well as Flash Settings.

In order to catch a decent smoke photograph you have to remember four important factors that need to be stuck to,.

Fast shutter rate – due to the fact that it is constantly relocating, you need to catch the motion of the smoke.
Little aperture – for a better deepness of field. Smoke is unforeseeable so setting a small aperture enables you to capture more of it in case of sudden changes in shape.
Low ISO – This is due to the fact that smoke will naturally show up on a photo as grainy. A higher ISO will make this worse.
Light – You need lots of it. With a combination of fast shutter speed, small aperture and reduced ISO, there is not enough light to expose the shot. Therefore, the smoke will need to be lit up appropriately.
With all that in mind, set your camera accordingly based upon its abilities.

As guidance, below are the settings I utilized with my Nikon D300 and a Nikon SB-900 Speed light:.

Camera mode – Manual.
Shutter Speed – 1/250.
Aperture – in between f/8 – f/16.
ISO – ONE HUNDRED (or lower if your camera allows it).
Hands-on focus.
White Balance – Auto or Flash.
Focal length – This is your choice depending on how close you really want to reach the smoke.
Blink output should be established at half power or above. Adjust according to your preference.
Ideally, you should make use of a flash or strobe that you can set off remotely. However, you can connect the flash directly to your video camera with a sync cable. Merely be careful not to trip over it in the dark.

You also need to channel as much light onto the smoke as possible. This is when a snoot or barn doors can be found in valuable. If you do not have either of these, utilize some card and safeguard it around the edge of the flash or strobe. Make sure the card extends out by about 2-3 inches.


Taking the shot.

Now that you have everything in place, you need to ensure that all doors and windows are shut. Smoke is extremely fragile, so the slightest draft will disturb it and create thin unpredictable plumes, which you will certainly discover difficult to capture in detail. The space needs to be perfectly still.

Next, light the incense stick. If you want thicker and also special swirls of smoke then I would certainly propose lighting up two incense sticks and placing them in the same holder together.Now, turn off your camera’s auto-focus feature, as it will not help at all.

The smoke will be frequently moving and once the lights are shut off, it will have a hard time to discover a focal factor. Enjoy the smoke to see where it goes and manually focus on where you think the smoke will end up when you release the shutter. I would suggest focusing on the part just 2-3cm above the tip of the incense stick. If you have to, use the torch to illuminate the smoke so you can adjust the focus accurately.

Once done grab your torch and switch off all the lights in the room. Although, in my opinion, it doesn’t truly matter if you shoot with the lights on or off, but for best results it is good to fire in a darkened room to avoid any kind of ambient light reducing the contrast.

Take some test shot’s to check the exposure and change the setups accordingly. The concept is to obtain the background underexposed to a pure black (RGB 0, 0, 0) as well as the brightest part of the smoke ought to be white. When you’re happy with the exposure settings, its time to get innovative and start shooting!

When photographing smoke, I intend to catch smooth shapes and swirls in perfect detail and from different angles. All the smoke images you see in my gallery were taken without a tripod. I got in close to the smoke as well as moved around it to catch a different perspective.

You can attempt the same if you obtain bored with basic smoke swirls. You can even change the change of the smoke to create different forms by positioning a spoon, or any other item, above the scent stick. Likewise, try gently wafting the smoke to get different patterns.

And don’t neglect, ventilate the room every 10-15 mins. The develop of smoke will produce a gray haze that will deny your image of light as well as contrast. It is also very uncomfortable to work in a room packed with smoke no matter how rosy it smells …

Final Thought.

As I said at the start of this tutorial, there is no standard or “appropriate” way to photograph smoke. It’s all about experimenting and also finding your very own technique. You might wind up taking hundreds of pictures and keeping simply a fraction of them, don’t allow that put you off. Smoke is an uncertain subject to shoot, and with the setups needed to catch it, it is tough to get it appropriate every shot. It’s about trial and error.

That’s all there is to it …

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