Many of you have asked how I and many others take pictures of Smoke. Here, I will walk you through how to do it.
So, what do you need?
Got everything! Now What?
Ok, now you have everything that you need to start, you now need to set it all up! The diagram below shows how you should setup your kit. Also check out the picture for a clearer idea =] Place the flash/light source somewhere between the side and behind the smoke. The light needs to cover the area where the smoke might be, and it shouldn’t be so close that the smoke is unevenly lit. Also do not let the light flood onto the background.
Setup Your Camera on the tripod in the form of portrait (at a 90degree angle), this ensures you can capture as much smoke as possible. Set it up approximately 60cm’s away from the smoke (this will vary).
Brilliant! I’m all set up, what next?
Pre focus on the area where the smoke is going to be. I leave auto focus on. Try and keep a fast shutter speed, and an Aperture of between F11 and F16, also shoot at the lowest ISO setting you can (smoke is already quite noisy, so a higher ISO will make it worse). Also shoot in Raw if you can.
The Image Below should help with your settings (screen shot from a Canon 400d)
Light your Incense sticks (I Use two, the heat from one, effects the other and produces nice effects), and then blow out the flame, the smoke should now be flowing. Make sure that you have something to catch the ashes.
Now start focusing on the smoke and shoot…. LOTS. Keep checking the LCD and if its too dark either…. Increase the ISO, Reduce the F Number or slow the shutter Speed. Try to keep a healthy F number and a fast shutter speed. If the smoke seems undefined and dull, increase the flashes power (if you can).
Ive taken loads of shots and confident they are alright, what do I with them?
Now we need to process the images. Open up the selected Pictures raw file in your Raw editor and bring out the blacks to that the background is as dark as possible without losing the smoke. I personally like increasing the contrast, tweaking the brightness and playing with the highlights. It’s all about tweaking until you get the desired effect. Click Ok and open up your shot in Photoshop.
Create a new Layer. (Shift+Ctrl+N) and set the blending mode to Hue.
Then select the Gradient tool.
Select your colours and drag it across your image. Now is the time to experience with your pictures! If you want a white background, simply invert the image. (Image>>>Ajustments>>>Invert).
So thats the basic technique. Any questions, just contact me. Just remember, Saftey First and if you dont get it right first time, just try again another day!
By Shaun Smith