Thursday, June 26, 2008

Taking Smoke Photos

After forever and a day I finally decided to try and do shoot smoke images. I've seen them done, seemingly by every man and his dog, but each time I think that they are cool. Not sure what it is about photos of smoke but most people like seeing them, maybe something to do with the patterns they create and the shades that are captured in each photo.

I'm not sure about anyone else, but once I had setup the lights it was a case of shoot at random. After a while I started to recognize when to take a shot, i.e. when the smoke was in the middle(ish) of the frame AND was forming a shape. I realize that this sounds obvious, but it's a bit harder than I initially had thought.

Below is the setup I used for the smoke images. I would separate the background form the smoke even further next time to remove any spill form the lights.

I used 2 x 580EXII with pocket wizards, one either side. These were set at 24mm @1/8. I initially used a Stofen filter to ensure the whole area was covered, but the last set of photos I shot were just bare flash. I stopped down the flash when I removed the Stofen filter and I think that the smoke looks brighter without the Stofen filter.

The photo below shows the kind of incense that I used.

The shots below are the final set of my favourite images.

Plain Smoke - no colour changes were done
Graceful lady blowing smoke ring - no colour changes were done

Coloured Smoke
- Altered in Photoshop using a photo filter adjustment layer

Alien - Altered in Photoshop using photo filter adjustment layers

Dragon - Altered in Photoshop using photo filter adjustment layers

Beauty and the Beast - Altered in Photoshop using photo filter adjustment layers
In the end I really enjoyed doing this and seeing the results. However be warned sorting through nearly 300 photos to find good ones take a lot of time!

My friend Vincent LETERRIER recently suggested I use a f/10 aperture rather than the f/5.6 so it seems that I will return again to this topic - hopefully in the next few days :-)

Please feel free to leave comments or questions below or email them to me.


Stefan Tell said...

Thanks for the tips and setup, found you on Flickr. Posted a link to this from my blog and used one of your photos as an example, hope that is ok.

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Dan said...

Love the 'Beauty and the Beast' image.

Am fascinated by this type of abstract photo. Have shown this to friends and am amazed how some can see what others can't. I guess it shows a lack of imagination in many.

I tried this for the first time recently and was amazed at the results. Please feel free to take a look: Lee

Emmett Photography said...


I love your jellyfish image - it's great. the other images a re good too. It's amazing how smoke moves and forms itself!

I'm not sure why some people see things and others don't - maybe it's just about how hard you look :-)


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