Best Tips to Capture Smoke Photography and Steam Photography

What is Smoke Photography?

Smoke photography is a technique where smoke is used to produce a ‘mist’ or a veil of haze in the atmosphere around a subject. The smoke will often drift around the subject creating patterns and textures around the object. The effect is quite striking and can create very atmospheric images.

Steam Photography

Steam photography is a similar technique to smoke photography but without the use of a flash. When using steam photography, the photographer focuses on how the steam reflects the light. In this instance, the light source is usually a sun lamp. The light reflects off of the steam particles, creating a glowing image. Steam photography is great for capturing landscapes, architecture, wildlife and even people. It can also be used to create some fascinating abstract images.

What should you use to capture smoke photography?

The first thing you need to do is to make sure that the mist you are using is very fine and doesn’t stick to objects. Most ‘soft’ materials, such as cotton balls, old tea bags, silk or cheesecloth can be used as well as commercial products such as MistFolio. The mist needs to be mixed with water or alcohol to prevent it from sticking to surfaces.

To capture smoke photographs you will need to use a tripod or steady camera stand to stabilise the camera and make sure that the camera remains level with no movement. It is essential that your subject is in focus and that you are using a zoom lens.

To capture steam photography, you need to be able to manipulate and move the smoke without disturbing it and also to be able to vary the speed of the steam coming out of your subject. This can be achieved with a variety of techniques.

Technique 1

If you are using a high power light source, such as a florescent lamp, you can position the light source directly above the surface of your subject. This creates a stream of steam from the hot air as it cools and condenses.

Technique 2

Another method is to have the light source further away from the surface of your subject. The heat then travels through the air until it reaches the surface of the subject. This results in a cloud of steam rather than a plume of steam.

Technique 3

A third method is to have a small object, such as a feather, on the surface of the subject. Heat will travel through the air and condense on the surface of the object.

Technique 4

A fourth method involves using a heat gun. A heat gun will heat up the air and force the air to rise. This means that when you move your subject it will leave a trail of condensation behind it.

Technique 5

A fifth method uses a fan to blow air over the surface of the subject. The air will rise and cool and produce a mist.

The above five methods are the most common ones that we use for smoke photography. They all involve creating a ‘mist’ that will condense on the surface of the subject. It’s a really interesting and creative process that enables you to take photographs that are quite different to those taken by conventional photographers.

What equipment do you need?

For all the above techniques you will need a sturdy tripod, camera stand, a high power light source, a heat gun, a heat gun, a small object and a fan.

There is no need to set up anything ahead of time. Just take your camera and tripod and set up where you are and begin your photography.

Smoke photography is a great way to create some amazing images, but it can be difficult to do well. There are many factors that you need to consider when capturing smoke photography:

1. Lighting. Smoke usually looks best when backlit or side-lit, so you’ll need to figure out how to position your subject so that there’s enough light on them but not too much that it overpowers the smoke.

2. Distance. The farther away you are from your subject, the more likely it is that they won’t be lit up by any lights at all and will just be a silhouette in front of some kind of background (e.g., clouds, cityscapes). In this case, you’ll want to use a wide aperture (f/1.8 or larger) and increase your ISO if necessary to compensate for the lack of light coming into the lens.

3. Exposure time. The longer your exposure time, the more motion blur there will be in your image — whether it’s from people moving around in front of the camera or from wind blowing through trees or other natural elements in the scene. So if you want sharpness without motion blur, keep your exposure times short (less than 1 second).