Using Smoke as a Creative Photography Tool

Using smoke when taking photographs is somewhat common practice when it comes to shooting rock stars and athletes. However, Jay Morgan shows us to think outside the box and use smoke as a creative tool during photoshoots that you would otherwise go without. Morgan suggest using smoke to capture rays of light, adding artistic vibes to a photograph. He also took the time out to make a video tutorial that shows us how to make a simple fan driven smoke duct system. Watch the video below then we’ll run through the tutorial and make our own smoke machine setup:

To get started making duct system for your smoke machine you’ll need to collect a few supplies. You will need:

  • smoke machine
  • squirrel cage fan
  • 6-inch x 18-inch length of 1/4″ screen
  • metal duct tape
  • 20-foot dryer hose
  • 3-inch ring clamp
  • 4-inch ring clamp
  • 4-inch PVC plumbing adapter
  •  45-degree angle 4-inch drain pipe
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Tin snips

Before we get started, here’s a picture of the finished product in case you missed it in the video. It should you an idea of what we’re trying to accomplish:

smoke assisted photo

  1. Roll the screen into a 6-inch long and 4-inch wide tube. Attach one end of the screen tube to the PVC plumbing adapter using the 4-inch ring clamp. Tighten into place with a screwdriver
  2. Cut four 2-inch slits on the open end of the screen tube, equally spaced apart. Use the 3-inch ring clamp to clamp the end with slits onto the output of your smoke machine and tighten in place. Cover the seam with a metal duct tape.
  3. Cut a 4-foot section of the dryer hose and attach the hose to the 4-inch PVC adapter that should be attached to your smoke machine. Tape the dryer hose in place.
  4. Slide the through end of the 45-degree drain pipe over the end of the dryer hose. Tape into place.
  5. Tape the fan to the offshoot of the 45-degree drain pipe. Make sure the fan is situated so it is blowing in the direction you want the smoke to travel, in this case, out the end of the dryer hose.
  6. Attach the remaining section of dryer hose to the only opening left on the 45-degree drain pipe, by taping it into place.  (see photo below)

You should be ready to fire up the fan and smoke machine to test it out. If the smoke starts blowing out of the screen and the end of the dryer hose, your fan is most likely to strong. Try turning the power down a setting or two until you get a good steady flow of smoke.

When you’re out there shooting with your new smoke machine system, Morgan suggests using a back light to light up the smoke and second light, such as a beauty dish, to light your subjects face if necessary.

Of course, each photoshoot will be different. If you’re shooting in strong daylight, you may not need to back light. Take a few test shots with different lighting setups to determine which will work best for you.

For Further Training on Photography Tricks:

Check out this best-selling eBook on how to do photography techniques that produce unusual, eye-catching results. It can be found here: Trick Photography and Special Effects

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