Beginners guide to smoke photography using a DSLR camera

If you love photography then you will certainly like to try out the various smoke effects that many of the photographs have. Smoke can help you achieve some interesting ethereal results, which look astonishing as well as beautiful. Let us see how you can also do the same with very little effort.

 girl clicking pictures

Ideal Time for Smoke Photography

The ideal time to work on smoke photography is during night since that time there is minimum ambient light. You will have to get into a particularly dark room where there is not any draft for achieving the optimum results.

If still some ambient light is coming into the room then block it with curtains.

canon camera

Things you will require

Some of the things that will be needed include:

  • DSLR or ILC Camera
  • Black backdrop, which can be created using black cardboard, hung on the wall.
  • Reflector and if one is not available then any reflective surface can be used such as tinfoil for reflecting the light.
  • Off-camera flash
  • Some incense sticks with a holder

Starting the Photography Session

Step 1: The first step will be to fix the black cardboard on the wall to create the backdrop and after that keep the incense sticks on a table. The table with incense stick should at least be one meter away from the backdrop to get the best result.

Step 2: You will get illuminating smoke if light passes through it at an angle and does not fall on backdrop. For this, you will have to keep the flash accordingly and opposite to it the reflector is to be kept for getting even illumination.


Step 3: Now you will have to fix manual focus on your camera and make use of expanded focus to ensure incense sticks base remains sharp. Ideally, the ISO should be kept at 100 with aperture of f/8 and shutter speed of 1/125.

Step 4: In this step, you need to light up the stick and start taking photos after turning off all the overhead lights. In case images look washed out then reduce the power to a lower level.

Step 5: You can create some shapes instead of letting smoke go up straight. You can fan the smoke with a small paper or move any object around incense stick’s tip. It is also important to prevent build up of ambient smoke by frequently ventilating the room so that photographs do not look hazy.


Smoke photography is an interesting topic and you may try it out at home. The results are going to be exciting if you follow these steps.

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