In the last week I have had a few people ask me how I photography and process my smoke photography. So I have recorded a tutorial on how I process the images. Some of the audio is a little messy in parts, its the first time I have tried the software and will be working on better results next time.

Firstly I will explain my setup.

  • Canon 40D
  • 17-85mm f4-5.6 lens
  • Snooted Vivitar 285 flash @ 1/2 power
  • Poverty Wizards for flash
  • Cable remote shutter
  • Black sheet for a backdrop
  • Chair to prop setup up
  • Tripod in Portrait position
  • Incense sticks on plate
  • Matches

The Vivitar 285 has to be snooted so that the light does not spill onto the black backdrop and so that we don’t have any light hitting the lens. In the past I have used a Pringles chips tube and that worked well. However I have destroyed it so this weekend it was spare paper and foam core wrapped around flash head. I have angled the flash below at about 45° to capture the most smoke possible.

Manual focus is the only way to go as we are working in a dark environment. Place the box of matches or something on the plate as a marker to focus on. Let the Autofocus do its bit. Then you want to switch the lens to MF (Manual Focus).

In manual mode set your exposure to 1/250th and your aperture to around say f9. ISO of something around 400. Connect you remote shutter button and light one incense stick. Using your remote shutter button start firing away.

Lightly blow on the smoke or intersect the smoke path with different objects like a spoon to get different patterns.

Also try different apertures and see what works best for you. You are looking for something like this straight out of camera.

So once you have a few nice shots its time for the fun bit, the post processing. Below is a video tutorial by me about how I process my smoke shots in Photoshop CS2. If you use CS3 or higher there should be no issue in replicating the steps.

So whats everyone think of the video? I plan on doing more of them on other post processing I do and any input would be great.

Here are a couple more smoke images from the weekends shoot.