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How to photograph smoke

  • Tutorials
  • 15/09/19

Smoke is the theme for this month’s challenge so we thought we would give you heads up on how to artificially create it. Useful for you still lifers also. So.. Have you ever seen a photograph of smoke, where it is perfectly lit up on a black or white background? How is the smoke captured so flawlessly? Luckily, this technique is not as hard as you might imagine. Yay!

There are a few bits you need:

  • A camera and tripod
  • A black piece of cloth
  • A reflector or something white
  • A match or lighter and good old incense stick
  • An external Speedlight that is off camera.
  1. Hang the black cloth flat as possible behind a table.
  2. Place the incense on a table or something flat in front of the black cloth
  3. Position the lamp so that the light is pointed directly at the end tip of the incense. This lamp won’t affect your final image.
  4. Put your Speedlight off-camera and direct it towards the end tip of the incense also. Put your Speedlight on manual mode starting point 1/8 and you can increase or decrease the power depending.
  5. Place the reflector directly opposite the flash, so that the light from the flash reflects off off this.
  6. You want the room to be dark so this is the time to close blinds, curtains, etc
  7. Pop you camera on f/8, shutter speed about 1/200th, and ISO 100
  8. Manual focus
  9. Light the incense and start firing. Check the image and see if you need to increase the power of the manual flash or decrease it.

It is a matter of just shooting and see what you get. Have fun and we look forward to see some results in this month’s challenge… only a little more than two weeks to get it in. If you want to practice more of these techniques and more why not book onto our Product Photography Course.