Create Art with Smoke and Light: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace

Create Art with Smoke and Light: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace


Hi everybody, welcome to another episode of Exploring Photography right here on Adoramatv. Today we’re gonna take some incense and make some really amazing smoke photos… these are really really fun and simple to do. You can do these in your home studio, or in a garage or just pretty much, pretty much anywhere… and you don’t need a lot of gear to make this happen. So let me walk you through how I’ve set things up, so the first thing you need is some kind of black background, this can be a this. It’s a five in one reflector, just a black reflector here a subtraction panel, you can use black seamless paper, or just anything that’s really really dark. you need that as your background.. the second thing you need is some kind of flash, I’m just using a speed light, you can use a studio strobe whatever you have it’s going to work, and then whatever camera you have. Doesn’t really matter which lens that you have, you just want to make sure that you can fill the frame with this black background, that’s the important thing, and that you can focus on the smoke that’s in front of the camera. So I’m using a Canon 16 to 35 f/2.8, l but a 70-200mm would work, a 16 to 35mm… just about anything is gonna work on your camera, and if you have a point-and-shoot… it’s also gonna work pretty much the same way, well let’s talk about the flash… because that’s probably the most difficult thing to set up… and if you don’t set it up correctly, you’re not going to have a nice black background, which you need to make these work. So what I’ve done is… I have my flash to the side… so it’s coming in to the side here, and I need to make sure that the flash doesn’t hit the lens of my camera, and I need to make sure it doesn’t hit this background… so I can just use maybe some cardboard to put it on the sides, just anything to block that flash, but I’ve got a rogue flashbender, so I put that on to my flash ear, and that makes sure that this flash is going to come straight this way… So my smoke is going to be coming up right here, this flash is going to just hit this section and nothing else, and so I’m just illuminating this pocket right in front of my lens, which is pretty cool. So flashbender works great… if you don’t have one of those you can use just about anything, just to make sure that you block the light from hitting on the background, and on your camera’s lens… alright once you have that set up we need to meter this light, because if you set your camera to TTL metering… the camera is going to try to expose this black background correctly, and what’s going to happen is this is going to be overexposed… we don’t want that, so to make this work correctly you need to set your Flash and your camera to manual mode. So I’ve set my camera to manual mode.. ISO 100 to keep all the ambient light down. I’m shooting at an aperture of f/8, that makes sure I have enough InFocus because the smoke is going to be tricky to focus, and my shutter speed is 1/200th of a second , which is the sync speed of this camera. As far as my flash… I have it set to manual mode, I’m remotely triggering that with the radio trigger, you can use a radio trigger or a cable if you need to do that, and then I’m going to meter this. So what I’m going to do here is, I’m using my Sekonic light meter… I’m going to point this to my flash here, and just trigger this really quickly, you know… make sure that that is turned on. so yeah let me do that… really fast that guy is on ok… so now I’ve triggered that, and that is metering at f/8, and so that’s going to be just fine. So what I have found out though that whatever setting this meter.. so I’ve set this at f/8 I have metered this a f/8.. I need to crank up my flash… usually one stop maybe, one and a half stops brighter than my meter is saying, because of the way the smoke is to overexpose that smoke just a little bit. You got to play with this… so what I’m going to do is, I’m going to adjust my flash really quickly… just to make sure that that is a little bit brighter than I said. So it said 1/8 -I’m going to go up to 1/4 power here.. once that’s set, I am all good, so just play with that. You’ll see on the back of your screen… or in a computer as you’re shooting… what the correct level is… all right now, we have everything set up… all we need to do is light our insense. I’ve got a little piece of wood here that my friend Keith drilled out some holes on… and we just stuck it on a light stand, you can use whatever, it doesn’t really matter – a cup, or glass, something on a table… it doesn’t really matter, you just need to have some incense. so I will light this up… the other thing I need to do is focus this and to focus this, it’s a little tricky, I’m not going to use the auto focus on my key. if I do that it’s going to there we go.. We got some smoke, it’s gonna try to focus on the background, so instead what I’m going to do is I’m going to come over here… I’m gonna put my lens in manual focus, and then I’m gonna see where this smoke is, and put my finger right above it, then I’m gonna focus on my finger, and then I know that since my finger is here… my camera is focused on that. I’m gonna get this smoke coming straight up in focus, and that’s probably the easiest way to do that. Alright… so now we have everything set up… let’s start shooting, and then we’ll show you how to process these in post-production, to make them really stand out. So I’m wiggling my fingers in the smoke here to create some turbulence… that’s going to help that smoke look a little bit better, the other thing you’re going to need to do is take a lot of photos, because smoke is unpredictable, and so you need a lot of options, so you might want to shoot a hundred, or two hundred photos, so that you get the right smoke shape. All right so, I’m gonna keep on shooting here… the other thing you can try is adding multiple sticks of incense, to get multiple streams of smoke you can just play with this… you really want to do a lot of different experiments before you hop over into post-production so I’ll shoot a few more, using a couple of variations, and then we’ll head over to Photoshop. now that our photoshoot is done, we can hop on to our computer and do some things with these images.. The cool thing is, it doesn’t take very long and you can get some really stunning results. So we’re gonna start in Lightroom… I’ve already loaded all these images in… I’ve already zipped through them, and flagged the ones I like… so what we’re gonna do here is… I’m just going to show you these really quickly, I’ve got one that was shot with multiple sticks of incense… I think that’s pretty interesting, and this one here looks sort of like a flower… that could be interesting, the key to this is.. you want to shoot a lot of different images so that you have a lot of options in post-production, because maybe you can print these out and make some really cool art to put on your wall… but even if you don’t shoot a lot of the smoke, you’re not gonna have a lot of options to really mix and match these in the future. Alright so what I’m going to do is… I’m going to take this one… that looks sort of like a flower here… I’m going to go into the develop module now in Lightroom… you can do some things that are pretty simple, so you can change the color temperature to make that blue… you can change the tint to you know make that a little bit punchier… but to really play with these… we need to go over into photoshop. So what I’m going to do is… I’m going to right click on this image… and I’m going to say edit in Adobe Photoshop CC 2019… and then we can do some really cool stuff. All right the image is in Photoshop. The first thing I want to do is… I want to change everything from a black background, and a white smoke, to the exact opposite. To do that we need to create an inverse image… all you have to do is hit command or control, and hit I on your keyboard… boom… it totally reverses everything, it’s like an x-ray… kind of a negative effect… once we’ve done that, now we can do the same thing that we did before with our sliders to change the color temperature and stuff, so in Photoshop go to filter, and we’re going to go to the Camera Raw filter… that’s going to give us a familiar interface, if you’re coming over from Lightroom now we have our color temperature here… so we can make this a different color. So I’m going to make it blue, you can make it red or orange or whatever you want… just play with that slider, you can play with the tint, that’s also going to change the background a little bit. If you do that so just play with these… there’s no right or wrong answer once you get something that you like, you might want to add some clarity, you can really crank that up, take the texture up, you can change the highlights and the shadows and the contrast… do whatever you want… there is no right or wrong way to do this. So you can zoom in here… and see exactly what you’re getting, you’re probably going to want to crop these before you print them, or add them as screen savers, or whatever, so just sort of zip around and see what you’re getting.. until you get something that you like. That’s all there is to it, so I’ll hit okay and now we’re gonna have an interesting image.. let’s do one more very very quickly… so over to Lightroom I’m going to go over to this image here.. that was a multiple sticks of incense edit in Adobe Photoshop… now that’s in Photoshop I’m going to double click the hand so we get a nice large view again, commander control I … boop – it reverses that.. I can go into my camera raw filter, once I have that it’s going to allow me to change that… so sorry did that wrong… filter… Adobe Camera Raw filter, now we can change, make this red or blue or green, or whatever you want to do. I always like to add a lot of clarity to this to really make it punchy, you can add a lot of contrast to this, add some, take some contrast out… it doesn’t really matter. Play with the exposure to see.. if I take this exposure down, we’re getting a lot more out of this image, which is really, really cool… we can change our white level it doesn’t matter.. play with these and you can see that we’re gonna get some really fun interesting results and that’s what this is all about. Get in your studio … light some incense, take some photos hop over into Lightroom or Photoshop whatever your choice is play with them create some art that belongs to you. Thank you so much for joining me for this episode of Exploring Photography… don’t forget to subscribe to AdoramaTV, that way you don’t miss a single episode.. I want to mention that because in the future we’re going to take these images and then we’re going to apply them to some stuff that we shoot in the studio then some advanced Photoshop stuff… it’s gonna be really, really cool, you don’t want to miss out on that, so make sure you turn on the bell so you get notifications of all the episodes coming up… also follow me on Instagram I’m posting all kinds of behind the scenes stuff… in fact I just posted a story today of this very video and how I created it … so you don’t want to miss out on that. Thanks again for joining me, and I will see you again next time.

16 thoughts on “Create Art with Smoke and Light: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace”

  1. You can take this a step further in PS by creating mirror images of the smoke (like a reflection almost) to produce some really stunning effects. There is a video that explains how to do it more fully using GIMP. I'm pretty sure the steps are almost the same in PS. Oh, and Mark, I enjoy your content but, can you gargle with glycerine before doing videos because your deep voice rattles my speakers 🀣🀣
    cheersπŸ‘πŸ‘

  2. I had a go doing this sort of thing years ago and also tried with 2/3 guns stacked or on opposite sides with various coloured filters on them, mixing the colours produced some interesting images. Keep up the good work Mark, like your vids.

  3. Great effects Mark, Thank you! And by the way, I agree with the comment below about the gestures similarities between you and Gavin. Both of you are great though πŸ˜€πŸ‘πŸ»

  4. You can inverse the colours/exposure in LR as well by using your curves adjustment, that’s how I achieved the same look 😊

  5. I had forgotten how interesting smoke photography could be. Played around a couple of times in the past with it. Also used gradients with blending modes to get different effects.

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