I have been trying to get images of smoke against a black background. Does anyone have any advice on the best way to do this and a good lens choice and lighting set up for the job?
Taking the pictures
- Use a joss stick: there's plenty of smoke and it lasts a while. When the room gets smokey, open the windows to get rid of the smoke, which will increase contrast in your pictures.
- I use a telephoto; it minimises the size of the backdrop needed.
- Make sure the backdrop is black.
- Use a flash camera left or right, and use a snoot to ensure the flash doesn't fall on the lens / backdrop. I used 2 cereal boxes to block the light
- Use a desk lamp to light the smoke for autofocus.
- Recommended camera settings to start: ISO 100/200, shutter speed 1/250, aperture f/8.
- Don't use a tripod; the patterns in the smoke will move and a tripod will hinder you.
- Alternatively, if you do use a tripod, just autofocus on the tip of the joss stick, switch to manual focus and crop the pictures later.
- Use levels to make the background is completely black.
- Use the healing brush tool to remove any stubborn non-black areas in the background.
- Use a black brush to trim any unwanted areas of smoke.
- Load a channel as selection (try all of them to see what's best)
- Create a new layer from the selection, then fill white. After that you can paint colours or use a gradient
Links that i found useful:
P.S. I'm no expert, but the above seems to get decent pics:
Like in many other technical situation, the key is the right lighting setup (the lens has a very small importance). You should flash the smoke from the side, making sure you don't illuminate the black background.
YouTube has many video tutorials on that (search "smoke photography"). Here's a random one.
It depends how serious you want to get with it, but if you just want to try it, I recommend using an incense stick for the smoke source as it gives a constant stream, and shine a torch through the smoke at an angle.