Tips for Shooting Smoke like a Pro

The fascinating shapes and patterns of smoke make an interesting subject for photography. The arena of smoke photography is alluring and opens you a world of experimentations and challenges. The fact that smoke cannot be controlled makes it an interesting as well as a challenging subject for photography. The mystical designs of smoke can stir your imagination and help create exquisite images. Shooting smoke is indeed an art that requires practice and patience. Whether you are an ace photographer or just exploring new realms of photography, these tips will help you capture smoke in a better way.

Tips for Shooting Smoke like a Pro

Shooting Smoke like a Pro is indeed an art that requires practice and patience. Whether you are photographer or just exploring new realms of photography
The set up
Wherever you are shooting smoke, remember ventilation is very important. A cold room with a high ceiling will enable to capture better pictures of smoke. Firstly, the smoke that rises can reach only so far in a low ceiling. It then builds up into fog that can sting your eyes and interfere with your shooting.
Also, a warmer room will make the smoke dissipate into a fog closer to the source of smoke. Secondly, after the while, the built up smoke will alter you background, scatter light and hence will capture low quality, hazy photos.
Breeze can make photographing smoke difficult and so does sun light. It is also better to flush the room with clean air in between shoots to get rid of the built up smoke. Hence, a room with a door and windows will be ideal for shooting smoke.
Black is the most preferred background colour for smoke photography although some prefer to use a white backdrop. The black background is a great contrast against the colour of smoke. It helps capture the intricate details of smoke. Using a black drop also reduces the chances of light scattering off of your backdrop or camera lens. Further, a dark backdrop minimizes the time you spend in post processing the images.
Camera settings
To shoot perfect images of smoke, you need to use fast shutter speed. Fast shutter speed as high as 1/250 will help you capture the motion of the smoke without any motion blur. A slow shutter speed will result in hazy images. To limit the noise and reduce the loss of details use low ISO (100 or below). A high value ISO, on the other hand, will produce grainy images.
It is also a good idea to turn off the auto-focus setting in your camera. You need to set your camera to manual focus and use the tip of smoke source, for instant, an incense stick, as the motion of smoke is swift. Also, since the object of your photography is fairly unpredictable, it is important to use a small aperture to improve the sharpness of the image.
It is very important to choose the right exposure. Under exposure will reduce the contrast and make the smoke blend with the background. On the other hand, over exposure will lead to loss of details in the image. Further, when you correct the exposure in the post production, it will lead to a larger loss of detail making the smoke photo unappealing. Again, there are no right and wrong camera settings. Take a few test shots to see what works the best for you.

Smoke-photography-2 Tips for Shooting Smoke like a Pro

Tips for Shooting Smoke like a Pro

Credits: William Warby
With fast shutter speed, low aperture and low ISO, the light that is captured will be reduced drastically. For this reason, you will require a light source to adequately expose the smoke. However, you do not want to light the background making it more reflective than smoke – the object of photography. You must not use camera flash for shooting smoke as the light that will fall on smoke will also fall on the background, decreasing the contrast between smoke and background.
Also, no ambient light is allowed as it makes the background apparent in images, which is not desired in smoke photography. To increase the degree of contrast in the image, you will need to use a flash unit. Studio lights are not necessary, just any off camera flash unit with a wireless flash trigger or flash cable will do the trick. There are no hard and fast rules where the flash should be placed. You can experiment with different angles and distances from flash to the object of photography until you are satisfied.

Shooting smoke
Light your source of smoke – incense stick, paper, tobacco or anything that will smolder without going out. It is important to ensure that there is not even the slightest draft in the room. Switch off the fan, air conditioner, close all the windows and doors. Allow the smoke to stabilize for a few minutes and the smoke pattern to build up before clicking pictures. Since the smoke is in constant motion, shoot as many pictures as possible to capture interesting patterns. Shoot the images in RAW format. It not only gives you the best quality and sharpest image but also allows you to change the exposure and white balance of the image while editing.

Post processing
Post processing is an important aspect of smoke photography. Editing will increase the appeal of the photograph. Adjust the background, contrast and exposure to your satisfaction. Playing with saturation or colour balance will create coloured smoke. If the saturation is too high, however, it can introduce noise. Have fun and experiment with different effects to produce extraordinary smoke photos.

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