While I had some free time on my hands I quickly found myself itching for a photography project to kick the winter blues. Like many of you, I'd seen my share of smoke photographs but still wanted to try for myself. Here's the quick run down:
With a black background in place, use a table or other flat surface and set up your source of smoked in front of your background. For these pictures, I used incense. I found that the closer my off-camera flash was to the smoke (without being in the frame) the better my shots were. If I had figured this major detail out sooner, I would have saved myself a lot of time and gotten some better shots.
Next, set your tripod up relatively close to the setup and start shooting! Easy as that.
Naturally, a high shutter-speed is necessary to capture the smoke. Keep your ISO at its lowest, your aperture at f/8-f/10 and your shutter speed at or around 1/200 or 1/500.
Post-processing (The funnest part of this experiment!)
The possibilities in post-processing are just endless with this sort of project. Personally, I inverted colors, added tints, added symmetry, and even drew over them with a (free) iPad app. The only rule: there are no rules.
Take lots of photos! I'm talking hundreds. You never know what shapes the smoke will take so just click away! Focusing on the smoke is kind of tricky because of the black background and the unpredictable and swift movements of the smoke. I focused in around the source of the smoke then moved the camera to reframe with the same focus. I found this worked relatively well, but if you have any other suggestions, please do share!
And just for kicks, here is one that I did with food coloring falling into water (essentially the same setup as for the smoke shots, but with a white background and a giant vase for the water).