How to photograph smoke

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Capturing lines and patterns of smoke rising into the air in a photograph will yield interesting results. With the proper tools and settings you can begin to experiment with smoke in your pictures.

Things You'll Need

  • Camera with adjustable shutter and aperture
  • Flash (external of attached)
  • Studio lighting (lamps)
  • Black backdrop (dark black bed sheet, poster board)
  • Large incense sticks
  • Choose a quiet calm room to take your pictures in. You do not want any wind blowing through your scene unless it is you that blows it.

  • Hang your black backdrop on a wall behind the area you are going to have the smoke rising from.

  • Then arrange your studio lighting so that it shines toward the backdrop and covers the entire area.

  • Set your shutter to a fast setting in order to freeze the smoke in action. Start with 1/250 as your shutter's speed.

  • Then set you aperture to a high number such as f/8 to f/16. This will make the aperture smaller to help the smoke appear more crisp and focused in the picture.

  • Light your incense and place it slightly close to and below the camera.

  • Look into your viewfinder to see the smoke rising into your frame and adjust the focus so the smoke appears clearly and the background remains all black.

  • Now take your pictures.

Tips & Warnings

  • Move around the incense stick to create patterns in the smoke or try wafting your hand into the air to disturb the smoke's path upward.
  • Using colored lights to illuminate the scene will give the smoke an interesting and colorful effect
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