Capturing swirls of smoke on camera is a fast track way to put photographic images with an ephemeral feel in your portfolio; and creating the right setting is easier than you might think!
Set the black card up against the wallAbout 1.5m metres away set up the incense stick in the holderEither side of this set up a flash and the reflector or secondary light facing each other
Camera settingsPut your camera in manual mode and start with the following settings:
All of these combined means that you will have to use lots of light to compensate, hence the need for a flash.
To make sure that your focus is correct – get someone to hold an object a few centimetres above the incense stick before you begin. By focussing on that you won’t have much adjusting to do after your test shots.
Top Tip: Make sure that your light sources shine across your shoot to avoid illuminating the black backdrop or the front of your camera – one will define the setting rather than the subject and the other creates lens flare.
If you are using smoke to create a picture try a few of these ideas for interrupting the flow of the smoke without losing clarity:
Remember: to get a good image, you need to create contrast. Try turning off the room lights and shutting curtains to cut out ambient light pollution – the aim is to have the backdrop as black as possible whilst getting the smoke as white as possible.
Top Tip: Every so often, extinguish the incense stick, open the windows and clear the room of smoke, because after a while the space fills up with smoke particles, making it difficult to get a crisp shot.
Many people find that by creating a white background, you add an instant element of abstract to the image. The use of hue and saturation tools can be used on any image to colour the smoke and create some interesting effects.