Smoke photography: a simple set-up for atmospheric still lifes

Smoke photography: a simple set-up for atmospheric still lifes

Shooting smoke photography is challenging: it’s unpredictable and constantly changing, so you never quite know what you’re going to get. But that’s half of the attraction, because when you get it right the shapes and forms you capture have an organic quality that is almost impossible to recreate.

Smoke photography: a simple set-up for atmospheric still lifes

You can take some control when shooting smoke photography, though, particularly when it comes to lighting. For the best results you need to illuminate the smoke from behind to bring out its texture and shape.

But to make it visible you also need the background to stay completely dark, so you need a light source that you can direct at the smoke without light escaping and ruining the background.

For our image we used a flashgun and a simple radio trigger so that we could position the light precisely where we wanted.

We then rolled up a piece of black card and placed it around the flash head to create a simple ‘snoot’ that directed the light straight towards the smoke, which came from an incense stick held in place with a clamp.

One the next page we explain how to set up your shot.

PAGE 1: What you need to shoot smoke photography
PAGE 2: Step by step how to shoot smoke photography
PAGE 3: Smoke photography in practice & making adjustments in Photoshop

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