Tonight I played with a macro lens, an off-camera strobe, and a candle. Light the candle, wait two minutes, blow it out, take two photos, and repeat as needed.

I took a lot of shots, but this one was my favorite. I’d like to do this again, as I don’t feel like I got the final shot I was hoping for. Still, it’s pretty good, and I’m happy with the results.

Camera/lighting information: Nikon D90 w/Nikkor 105mm micro at f/20. SB900 flash image left, about one foot from the smoke. I took the photo just after blowing a candle out.


  1. Wow, that’s a nice shot!! Is that the real color, out of the camera, or did you post process it to give these blue/purple’ish colors? And did you use something black for the background?
    Klaus recently posted MobileMe Gallery & iDisk alternative when MobileMe shuts down

    • Hey, Klaus, that’s not quite straight out of the camera. I pushed the temp down and the tint up. SOOC it was more white with a bluish tint.

      As for the black background, I took the photo in a long room at night with most of the lights off. The far wall was about 15 feet (4.5 m) away. I pointed the flash so it was perpendicular to the lens so the back wall wasn’t getting any of its light.

  2. I once tried shooting smoke sometime ago, but I used incense which keeps emitting smoke without the need of blowing it out. So, you used f/20! That would have made my attempts easier. I didn’t change my aperture which must have been at 3.5, so I had trouble getting sharp shots of the smoke. And I just trained a flashlight at it, instead of using the flash. Hmmm… thinking of giving it another try. :)
    James Moralde recently posted LP-E8 Battery By Phottix Let Me Down

    • f/20 made a huge difference! It also helped with the black background that Klaus mentioned – because the aperture was so tight, I didn’t have to worry about picking up the lamp in the back corner.

      • Did some shots couple of days ago. The room is small so I didn’t really get the black background I wanted. I think I’ll try again later. Either I’ll find a longer room, or get myself a black piece of felt cloth. :)

        Can’t help but note that your shot is a really nice capture, James. I hope I could catch one as good soon.
        James Moralde recently posted LP-E8 Battery By Phottix Let Me Down

  3. ethereal

  4. This picture is mesmerizing. It looks like a still from an intro to a James Bond film or something. You should try to superimpose the silhouette of someone or something in the middle of the smoke. It’d also actually be really neat on a business card or a webpage, maybe? Really like it.

  5. night vision binoculars ON SALE! A wide selection of Night Vision Goggles, Night Vision Binoculars, and Night Vision Monocular- Lowest Price Guaranteed plus Free Shipping on most orders…”

  6. Cool photo! I love how you captured the “ribbon” of smoke. I was trying to do something like this (I wouldn’t even call myself an amateur, I’m not that advanced) for a shoot, but the smoke ended up being much too blurry. Got any tips for shooting smoke with people in the photo?
    Nyla Crystal recently posted A Casablanca Moroccan Dinner Party in Rocklin

  7. Wow this is a really cool shot! I’ve seen smoke pics like this before, and I’ve always wondered how the photographers were able to capture the smoke so vividly. Thank you for explaining your process!

  8. Very clever! I like the idea of cooling the white balance down to give it that purple hue. Lovin It!

Comment Policy: Unless you’ve received special dispensation (you know who you are), you must use your real name. For a little keyword SEO love, you may use name @ keyword to have a link to your site (only the keyword will be the anchor text). See the comment policy for more.

Leave a Comment


CommentLuv badge

This blog uses premium CommentLuv which allows you to put your keywords with your name. Use your real name and then @ your keywords (maximum of 4 keywords). If you’re trying to promote your site, this helps you get more exposure… but it’s a two way street. Please click to +1, Tweet, or Like this page, and in return, your link will register as a do-follow link with the search engines. If you don’t know what all that means, please ignore this text, it doesn’t apply to you!