Smoke photography in simple steps

I’ve been asked a few times how did I managed to shoot some of my smoke images. The technique is pretty simple but requires some basic elements and materials. First of all, here’s what you need:

    • a camera (DSLR preferably)
    • a flash canon
    • wireless kit (wireless trigger and receiver), if you don’t have a wireless triggered flash (not slave)
    • two pieces of cardboard to be tied up on the flash canon
    • a smoke stick (you should find a flavored set, I used the normal ones and my nose wasn’t pleased)
    • a table
    • a lamp
    • one or two tripods (that is if you don’t have the stability of a bridge, but one will be useful for the flash canon)
    • a black background (you can use a large piece of black material, cotton, whatever you have)
    • patience

For the first part, put your black background on something, leaned to a wall or just hanging to something. After that put the smoke stick on the table, stuck in something so it doesn’t stick to the table. Put your flashgun on one side of the table (doesn’t matter each side) and the lamp on the other side. The lamp will be permanently lit so you can focus your camera on the smoke. Put your flash canon on the tripod on the opposite side of the lamp and cover the left and right side of the flash with those two pieces of cardboard (to direct the light on the smoke). You can use a small piece of thread or something elastic to hold them into place. The flash canon must be used with the wireless triggering option or wireless kit.

Now, set your camera on Manual (M), close the light in the room (it must be a dark room), set the focus to Manual (because the camera won’t be able to make the automatic focus, since the light is very poor), the aperture on f6-f8 and the shutter speed somewhere between 1/50 and 1/80. After you lit the smoke stick, take a few test shots to see if you are able to focus manually on the smoke.

Here is the version that I followed to make this, from Gavin Hoey, a brilliant photographer from which can learn a lot.