Smoke and Mirrors

It’s Sunday morning as I look out the window I discover it’s overcast, humid and storms are forecast to roll in within the hour – Another typical weekend during spring storm season.  There go the plans to get out into the sunshine and enjoy a walk in nature with my camera.

I have two choices in front of me, I can curl up in my favourite chair in the family room with a good book, a cup of tea and a tim tam or I could head into the studio for a little rainy day fun play.

As enticing as curling up with a book is I am itching for a little camera time.  So heading into the studio wins, time to have some fun with smoke photography.  You don’t need much equipment to play with this type of photography, all you need is incense burner tray, some incense, lighter, camera, macro lens, 1 or 2 flash units and some triggers.

In the studio I set up a black table with a black fabric backdrop behind the table.  Placing the incense in the burner tray and setting 2 flashes with their triggers (one on each side of the burner) making sure they are close but far enough away so the flash won’t be in the frame within the photo.

Now let’s have some fun – I grab my camera, light the incense and start taking some photos.  (Photo Tip – Make sure that you focus on the tip of the stick of incense as the camera will not focus on the smoke.)   With smoke photography, in my opinion, there is no right or wrong photos – each photo is unique is dependent how the smoke reacts.   You will see so many patterns form depending on what you do.


To add some variety and to see what happens with the smoke, I added a fan on the floor to create a wind effect, I also tried the “whack it” approach (I was taught this special technique from some very experienced tutors).  For clarification and a safety warning – you whack the table whilst at the same time being careful not to knock anything over or send your flash flying, it really is an art form you need to master.


At the end of the day it is amazing what you capture just by the movement of smoke.  Why don’t you give it a go yourself this weekend.  (Another quick tip – I have found it much more fun to have a couple of friends around whilst playing, you may end up laughing more than taking photos – a great way to spend a rainy day  🙂 )

Until next week.


One thought on “Smoke and Mirrors

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s