advanced photoshop

Shooting Smoke

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Tips & Tutorials, by Anna-lisa Saywell

How to safely create and capture your own smoke textures

Shooting Smoke


Simple, thin smoke trails

Step 01 – Prep and Test

Shooting Smoke

Gather some matches, two sticks of incense and your camera. Make sure you take some test shots first to make sure the settings are correct.


Step 02 – Work fast

Shooting Smoke

The best time to photograph all the thin, straight smoke trails is when you first light the incense and only a small part is burning, so work quickly to get those first.


Step 03 – Stick Shift

Shooting Smoke

The straighter you hold the incense, the thinner the smoke will be. Holding it straight up is an easy way to get thin trails when it’s been burning a while.


Step 04 – Wait

Shooting Smoke

In between shots, when you take a breath or the smoke starts to move, wait a bit for the smoke to settle. This ensures contrast and keeps the trails smooth.


Wide smoke trails

Step 01 – Flip

Shooting Smoke

Flip the incense stick upside down into a cup so that the smoke can rise over the edge. The cup’s round edge will make the smoke look like a wall.


Step 02 – Spoon

Shooting Smoke

Place a spoon concave side down over where the smoke is coming out of the cup. This will spread it out and create a more interesting formation.


Step 03 – Aim Low

Shooting Smoke

The thickest, most even parts of the smoke are going to be close to the cup and spoon, so focus there primarily and let the smoke dissipate higher up.

Swirly smoke trails

Step 01 – Spoon Swirls

Shooting Smoke

Hold the spoon concave side down to make the smoke swirl. The swirls move faster than other smoke trails, so you might need to move the light closer to the smoke.


Step 02 – Shake the spoon

Shooting Smoke

If the smoke is coming out too much like a flat wall, tap or shake the spoon to create ripples in the smoke.


Step 03 – Be Quick

Shooting Smoke

Since smoke moves quickly, you can get lots of different results in a short amount of time, but it also means you have to be fast to capture smoke trails instead of smoke blurs.


  • Raphael Oehring

    m8 ill rek u 1v1. dont even try to play wit m3. I am a big boi

  • Rikki Cove

    clearly not at scrabble