TOP TIPS ON HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH STEAM AND SMOKE
Top Tips for Capturing Smoke and Steam
Capturing smoke and steam
Both smoke and steam are white, so will disappear on a white background. Use a background that will allow the steam/smoke to show up. Dark backgrounds obviously work well, but it doesn’t have to be dark… gentle or bright colours will also work – anything that allows some contrast with the white smoke swirl.
Light from the side or ¾ behind, so the light hits the smoke from the side, and separates it from the background. This can be artificial light or a window.
Use a shutter speed that will freeze the action to some extent. I use around 1/160 or 1/200 with studio flash – some of the smoke will still be blurred, but some of the more distinct trails and wisps will be frozen in time. A slow shutter speed may leave you with a foggy blur.
I use incense sticks to create the smoke – these give off a lot of smoke, and burn for a long time and while they may drop ash over your scene, they are unlikely to burn your house down, if carefully looked after! Keep a mug of water near by to drop them into. One danger is they give up too much smoke, and the scene looks unreal. Takea number of shots, and move the incense sticks around to see different smokey effects.
Be careful of draughts in the room. A window, or even you moving towards the scene, will create draughts and can blow the steam sideways! Move cautiously, and let the smoke swirl naturally.
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