A very happy new year to all of you!!
I think everybody loves such kind of photography.I wish to share the technique for taking such images. I am not the first one to do such work,you can get lot of information on internet.This is an attempt to share my personal experience with you.
Before starting to work on this I must say one needs lot of patience for getting good images.One has to select really good images out of the bunch & be ready to throw average images.
My few tips for capturing such good images will be as given below:
PLACE: You will need a place with good ventilation but enough protection for not disturbing the smoke.
SOURCE:The source for smoke can be cigar,incense sticks etc. I prefer incense sticks because they are not harmful for health & pleasant considering long time needed for working on such shots.
BACKGROUND:Use a black background for getting good contrast with the smoke color.The another advantage is that during post processing when you invert image you can get isolated white background very easily.
SHUTTER SPEED:Use higher shutter speed like greater than 1/160 Sec.This will help for getting sharp images.Use tripod even if you are shooting with higher speed. Sometimes you can get beautiful soft smooth effects images with slightly slower speeds.
APERTURE:Use higher aperture like f/12..f/18. Since you don't know the exact area for focusing it is preferable to use higher aperture values.
ISO:Use lower ISO if possible to get noise free images.It is quiet likely to get noisy images with this kind of subject & higher light requirement.
LIGHT:For getting high speed & higher aperture values light should be sufficient enough.For using lower ISO one needs good amount of light for that strobes really helps.Use one or two off camera flash such that light will not hit background.If possible use diffused light.If you don't have strobes here is old technique which I was using earlier. I was using sunlight illuminating only the smoke without falling on background, with some limitation on settings one can get nice images without flash.The on camera flash will not be useful because it will throw light on background.
FOCUS:Last but important use manual focus. After focusing don't move tripod.You can focus on source of smoke & since you are using higher aperture it is quite likely to get the smoke with tack sharp details.Auto focus may trouble you to get shot in time & the focusing timings may irritate you.
In post processing adjust levels to make background pure black & remove unwanted portion of smoke if needed. You can play with hue/sat adjustment for coloring the smoke. You can us multiple layers with masking to get multicolored smoke shots.In post processing one can use mirror image of the original image to get symmetrical abstracts.Most of the time they can turn into really good abstracts.
Few days before I was experimenting on such shots & realised that the music can be very helpful for getting variations in smoke shapes.I played my favorite musicians A.R.Rahman songs & got some really interesting images.They are currently in pending list for review & hope inspectors will pass them :) so enjoy your favorite music & smoke photography. The only thing you will need is lot of time & patience.
If anybody feels this article useful I will be very happy. Love you all Keep shooting... :)