female with smokes in mouth photo-by-emily-lau-on-unsplash

Guide to Smoke Art: 7 Ways and 7 Tips for Creative Smoke Pictures

March 6, 2023

Smoke is erratic, making it challenging to shoot. Nevertheless, the smoke has unique qualities that make it lovely yet tricky to shoot. The incredible thing is that you can consistently produce smoke using precise methods, each with its pros and cons. After realising how simple it is to achieve smoke art, you will start looking for techniques to start utilising in your photos. We have included seven ways to create smoke art, simple ideas and methods for smoke, and several strategies to guide you in learning to capture smoke in your photos.

What is Smoke Art Photography?

Smoke art photography creates magnificent images with smoke as the central focus. It pertains to an art form that has evolved recently and is designed in a studio setting. This style captures the interest of those who enjoy complex and enigmatic images. It is a chance-based art form that mainly relies on unpredictability to give it its uniqueness, making it an aleatoric art style( art that is based on randomness ). The appeal of this genre to the photographer is the opportunity to capture smoke in any of its countless erratic forms, dimensions, and feathery strands.

7 ways to Create Smoke Art

1. Smoke Cakes

 Smoke Cakes

Image Credit: etsy.com 


  • Smoke cakes
  • Lighter

Like a smoke bomb, a smoke cake is a type of firework that produces smoke when lit. Smoke cakes are helpful for practical jokes, airsoft, paintball, and more. When it comes to smoke photography, they help create smoke even though they make a less dense fuzzy look.


  • They are cost-friendly.
  • It comes with a variety of color options.


  • They can be messy.

2. Smoke Bombswedding couple playing smoke bombs



  • Smoke bombs
  • Matchbox/lighter

Smoke bombs can give your portraits and pictures a unique yet realistic look. Smoke art photography using colored smoke bombs can create striking and original images. The colourful and layered smoke creates a beautiful background that might enhance the photo's vibe. Even the smoke bomb might be a fun tool for the model. It would be best to exercise caution when using smoke bombs since they ignite when you light them and can be explosive.


  • Easy to use
  • They are affordable.


  • Smoke bombs can stain clothes.
  • They last for a short time, approximately 45 – 90 seconds.
  • It has restrictions on purchasing in some states.

3. Fog Machine

smoke machine used on band stage



  • Fog machine
  • Liquid for the machine
  • Power source

Having a fog machine around the studio is not only very practical but also a great deal of fun. They are ideal for taking atmospheric images wherever that is hazy or smoky. A different liquid that is much thicker and denser is used in fog machines. In a room, the diffusion from the fog machine tends to flood in, creating thick, murky fog which gives amazing smoke art pictures.


  • It produces dense smoke.
  • It can be used for a longer time.


  • It needs an energy source to function.

4. Insect Fogger

Insect Fogger

Image Credit: amazon.com


  • Insect fogger
  • Mineral oil

Since the fogger consumes liquid quickly, you'll want to bring along lots of mineral oil. You're not utilizing an insect fogger as a repellent; you are only making your fog. Insect foggers produce an air haze and a natural-looking smoke that can also serve as mist/fog giving your pictures a smokey feel. It is mainly used in films to provide a dreamy vibe and produce smoke in some cases.


  • It is simple to handle an insect fogger.
  • Safe to inhale


  • You need to be careful since the insect fogger can lead to a fire. 

5. Water steam

steaming water



  • Hot water 

When illuminated properly,  steam can appear dramatic and exciting in photographs. The smokey effect from water steam is commonly used in food photography. In smoke art photography, the smoke evaporating creates excellent hazy smoke. The smoke is vapor and not steam.


  • It is simple to create.
  • It produces a safe to smoke.


  • It is not ideal for producing lots of smoke outdoors. 

6. Dry Ice

man holding a cup of dry ice



  • Dry Ice
  • Water

Adding dry ice to boiling water will cause smoke to form. More smoke will be produced by hotter water. It is preferable to have more liquid and less dry ice. Dry ice can make good smoke art with a smoke, milky and dreamy vibe depending on the intensity of the smoke it produces. The good thing about using dry ice is that the hazy effect is closer to the ground level.


  • It can be easily controlled to produce different smoke effects.


  • It can make your model cold; thus, you need to use them for a limited time.

7. Incense Stick

burning Incense Stick on desk



  • Incense stick
  • Matchbox/lighter

Incense sticks can produce smoke art with different shapes and designs, which are attractive. All you need to do is light the incense stick's end with a match or lighter until it becomes crimson and lights up. Blowing out the flame gently should cause smoke to start rising and a pleasant aroma to fill the space. Using incense sticks, you must have the correct camera settings and lighting to capture great smoke pictures. Focus is necessary since the smoke is coming from a specific point.


  • They produce a pleasant smell
  • It is easily portable.
  • Easily manageable.


  • It produces light smoke.

7 Techniques to Make Amazing Smoke Pictures

1. Set your camera

When doing smoke photography, it is key to preset your camera for better results. Set the aperture to about f/8 to keep all the smoke in focus. The shutter speed should go hand in hand with your flash. Setting your ISO to 100 will ensure that your final image is less noisy; for more noise, use a higher ISO. If you're shooting in RAW format, your white balance is irrelevant; you can leave it on auto. White balance should be set to shade for a warm image and tungsten for a cooler picture.

2. Use a black backdrop.

a female upholding her head surrounded by smokes


The finest backgrounds for smoke photography are white or black though black is ideal. A black background allows you to see the smoke clearly since it is white, and you can easily control it. Your smoke photo will be crisper and more focused because there will be less light bouncing. The dark background makes sure that you capture the smoke well. Furthermore, post-processing won't take as long, thanks to the stable backdrop.

3. Post-processing

Regarding post-processing in smoke art photography, you can use lightroom or photoshop, depending on which one you are more vast with. In lightroom, modify the RAW file by changing the curves, contrast, and color tones which is a breeze with this software. You can utilize all the features of RAW files by using lightroom. Photoshop can also be used to edit your smoke art pictures by revealing unseen imperfections and getting rid of them. You can give the color of your photos by modifying the saturation. To have diversity, you can select a white backdrop depending on your smoke color.

4. Ensure proper ventilation

man surrounded by smokes in the forest


Make sure you have adequate ventilation necessary while taking smoke photos. It is crucial for your photographs' quality, but it's also critical for your safety. Smoke may quickly fill a room, and the more smoke there is, the worse the picture will turn out. Regularly letting the space breathe does wonder. If you want a lot of smoke, you can move your photoshoot outside for better results and create a secure work environment.

5. Use light to enhance the smoke.

In smoke art photography, a portable light is a need. Testing various light intensities and illuminating the smoke alters the result. It's also enjoyable to play with different kinds of light sources. For this, a modest torch or lantern may suffice. You can use a light cube to have more control over the brightness intensities and light quality. The gels with the Lume Cube also allow you to produce colored light. The smoke may be overexposed if you use the camera flash, as it might cause it to vanish since the image will be excessively bright.

6. Monitor different types of smoke to replicate them.

city photo with smokes


Smoke has different shapes and patterns depending on the smoke source and how you control the smoke. Therefore it is vital to be on the lookout for the different smoke types to be simple to replicate. Insert sticks can give you swirly smoke, fog machines can give dense smoke, and water steam can give you mild smoke. Noting the different smoke patterns will be helpful for you as a photographer, and it can save time.

7. Utilize tripods and reflectors.

Though tripods and reflectors are not necessary for smoke photography, they can significantly impact. Reflectors increase the amount of light that reaches the smoke, producing specific distinctive effects. You can position reflectors as a triangle around the smoke if extra light is required. Doing this may create an intriguing image by reflecting light everywhere. Shaky photos are eliminated by using a tripod which reduces the possibility of missing a lovely shot because of an image blur.

man standing by the lake surrounded by smokes



Smoke art is well-liked photography because it gives any photographer so much flexibility. You can create and manipulate amazing smoke art photos with the essential tools. You can also apply different techniques to achieve the results you desire in your shots. I hope you have fun using our guide on smoke art photography, and do not be afraid to get creative with this style.

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