A Tutorial on Shooting Smoke

Thread starter #1
If you really want to try something challenging, give this a try.
Great for a rainy day project.
I'm no expert on the subject, but this is what I came up with. All by trial and error.:banginghe:bounce:
NOTE: Settings may vary depending on your shooting conditions.

I set the camera to "Manual", then set the aperture to f16
and the Shutter speed to 1/125sec. (Trust Me!!! I did not get this right on the first guess):bounce::bounce:

Next, you will need to also set the flash to manual.
This way you have control over the light neeeded to
illuminate the smoke.
I started at Full power and backed off from there.

About the set-up

At first, I attempted to shoot this outside and let the darkness act as the backdrop. Well, this worked great except for one thing.
EVEN IF YOU THINK THERE'S NO BREEZE, THERE IS!!!!!:banginghe:banginghe

So lets move inside!!!:cool::cool: Now I needed to create a black background and figure out how to light the smoke without getting the background, because
it needs to be totally black.
This was a challenge in it's self. Using a high powered flash (which you will need), in a small room, was bouncing light from everywhere.
You will notice the black cloth behind the subject, for the background and one opposite the flash to absorb the extra light.

Now! If you look at the photo, you will see I have the flash set off
to the side of the camera.
Getting the correct angle of the light, the lens and the smoke will take some tweaking.

Now that everything is set-up, we now have to figure out focusing.
set your lens to manual focus, then put something in front of the camera, at the distance you THINK the smoke will rise:rofl::rofl::rofl: Good Luck!!!

If everything is completely still and you hold your breath for
a very very long time, the smoke will come straight up.:bounce::bounce:
Now all you have to do is watch the smoke so you can determine how high or low you need the smoke stick so that your lens is in the best position to capture the smoke
starting to get turbulance(sp).
Too high is not good and too low is not good either.
And this precise place never changes:banginghe:banginghe:rofl::rofl::rofl:

So, You ask, How do is see what the smoke is doing when
it's totally dark.
That's where the flashlight comes in.
I just propped mine opposite the flash and left it shining on the smoke.

All you have to do now is use a lot of patients, be Very still and
wait on the smoke to do it's thing.
Sometimes the air will get super still and the smoke will rise in one
steady stream. I would just tap the table very very lightly and that would
cause the smoke to turbulize (My Word:bounce:)

That's about it. Post process to you liking!!



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Senior Member
Thanks for taking the time with this David!
I'm sure it will come in handy when the time presents itself.
I sent this link to the boss.:banginghe

Thanks dave guess what I might have to set up when I get Home.:bounce::bounce:


Senior Member
Very cool. Thanks for the tutorial! I'll put a link up in the stickies as well!

I've got some black Foamcore board that would make a grate matte black background...


Shutter Mushin' Mod
great tutorial !!! that is sort of how i shot the smoke from the candles a good while back but i left the shutter open and just flashed the flash manually. i like yours better!!!


You keep coming up with new stuff for me to try, but I dont even have a ghetto light box yet. :banginghe This is mental overload for me. :bounce:


Retired Woody's Mod 7/01-12/09
Thanks DRB, for sharing the "how to do Smoke pics" with us ... :clap:


Senior Member
:hair:Scared me for a second there. I thought you were wanting me shot. I misread the title......thank goodness.