Smoke, otherwise an unwanted by-product of combustion, is actually a great subject for photography. In our Photography group we have monthly assignments. This month it will be about the quality of light and light itself. One possibility to show this is as well taken images of smoke. I want to point out at the beginning that there is “NO” right way to photograph smoke and I just give you one possibility how I did it.
The fact that this subject is not really under your control is a fact that makes smoke photography challenging, pulling at your creativity and most of all FUN!
The setup for smoke photography is relatively simple. Here’s the recipe:
- power controllable flash
- smoke from source, like incense sticks
- table lamp or a torch for focusing.
- black cloth for the backdrop
- snoot and wireless or cabled flash trigger
Place your black backdrop on your wall and the incense sticks in front of the backdrop
To get a better focus position your lamp or torch that it points at the tip of the incense stick. Place the strobe on the opposite side of the first light source and put your flash to the following settings: 1/8 th of power. So you are just in the middle and go either go up and down with your power adjusting very easily to the outcome of your images.
Place the snoot on your strobe so that light from the strobe does not spill out to the back drop or flares into your lens. Now let the fun begin and light the incense stick.
Set your camera to manual focus and start with an aperture of f8.0 and shutter speed at 1/200th. Shoot in RAW as you can adjust much better some things afterwards.
Depending how your smoke is rising and developing you can manipulate the stream of smoke by blowing at it to get different forms and shapes. It changes as well if you take more than one incense stick or you hold something into the smoke stream like an egg whip, spoons or forks. You can certainly come up with many different ideas.
Once shooting is done, it's time to proceed to post-processing.
Smoke Photography: Post Processing
Open the image in photoshop and make a duplicate layer. At first I would paint out unwanted smoke and clear the picture up a little bit.
That’s it. You have a smoke picture. You can further enhance it in coloring it with an Hue & Saturation adjustment layer.
If you want to have a white background, Go to Image > Adjustments > Inverse. That's it!