Smoke – attempt 1

After seeing Ruth’s smoke photo in the Tuesday Challenge last week I wanted to have a go. I read about how to do it and bought some incense sticks.

I quickly learnt some lessons:

  • You need loads of light. I had a 150W flashgun on full power, with a honeycomb snoot but it still wasn’t enough, due to the need to use a small aperture, fast shutter speed and low ISO.
  • It’s actually really hard to make the curls of smoke look pretty
  • It’s hard to focus accurately on a target that’s blurry anyway, and keeps moving.
  • You need to stay relatively far zoomed out as the smoke can go any direction. Cropping the images after you’ve taken them magnifies any imperfections in focus, ISO noise, or cheap camera artefacts.
  • You need a good camera. My inexpensive Fuji S9600 was quickly shown up with bad ISO noise in the low light conditions

Nonetheless, here’s some of the better shots I managed. I’ve crudely given the smoke plumes false colours to make them interesting.


I will most definitely be revisiting this idea in the future 🙂

8 thoughts on “Smoke – attempt 1

  1. Those are some mighty fine shots, Jonathan! Great work – and thanks for the link to Photocritic 😉


    1. Thanks – I stumbled across Photocritic while searching for smoke photography how-to guides. Now I’ve added it to my bookmarks and I find your articles interesting and helpful.


    1. I’m putting them up day by day – writing about Helsinki tonight. I’ll get round to that one of you pulling a face soon enough! In the meantime, would you like me to email you your own copies of the ones at the dinner table?


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