Smoke Photography: How To

Where there is smoke, there is an awesome picture to be taken. Smoke photography is very abstract and looks cool. It's simple to create interesting smoke photos in the comfort of your home. 

Find a Room to Shoot In

The room you select to shoot your smoke in needs to meet two requirements. The first is that it absolutely needs to be draft free or you will lose your smoke shapes. There is no exception to that rule. The faintest amount of wind will carry the smoke away from your lens.

The other requirement is that the room should be dark. A windowless room is preferred because ambient light will affect your smoke and background.

Setting Up

You will need a table, stands to hang a cloth, a deep black cloth (like velvet), two lights, incenses, and your camera with a tripod. Hang the black cloth behind the table. This is going to be your backdrop. Flank the backdrop with the two lights. The incenses will be placed on the table and the camera will be positioned so it is facing the backdrop.


You're going to side light the smoke to illuminate it. But, to get a dynamic looking photo, you need to keep the light from hitting the backdrop or you will lose the deep black color. You also don't want any light hitting the lens or flare will occur. It would be wise to place a shade over the lens to prevent this.

The Smoke

You can photograph any smoke you want, but incenses are not as bad for your health as tobacco. Incenses also smell better and you can choose which one to work with based on your personal tastes. The cones are better to use instead of the sticks because the smoke will always rise from a single point. With the stick, you would have to constantly move it back to its mark as it burns.

The Shoot

A macro lens should be used if you have it because your camera will be very close to the smoke. When shooting smoke, you need to be very still and very patient. It can take a few minutes for the smoke to settle and even breathing too hard can disturb the pattern. 


Smoke has a few colors, but the two that you can adjust to get the most bang out of your photos are the black and white levels. Black is the color of the background and it should be as dark as possible. Make your white levels as white as they go. Smoke is mostly white and pushing these two levels will make your image as dynamic as possible.

Popular Cameras for High Quality Photos: