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Abstract Photography: Taking Pictures of Smoke

Updated on June 17, 2017

Smoke Flower


Taking abstract photographs is one of my favorite pastimes. I can be creative, and use many different subjects that may look like something else. Smoke is a a great example of this concept. Using smoke, you can capture many different shapes and manipulate the colors to look like whatever you would like. Taking smoke photographs is not difficult, and can provide great fun and a chance for creativity.


The supplies for a photo of smoke is very simple. You will need a black background, an off camera flash, a sync cord, a tripod, a camera, and something to smoke. I usually use incense, as they burn steadily and the smoke trails may be manipulated easily.

The Method

If you have read my water drop photography guide, the method is quite similar. For this particular set of photos, you will need to set the flash up with the sync cord so that it is pointed at an angle towards the smoke. You may have to play with the flash so that it will adequately light the smoke that you are trying to illuminate. A reflector may be helpful here.

You will have to place the smoke source in front of a black background. You can make your own background, or purchase one on eBay or Amazon. You can also use black poster board or mat board. It is best to set this up on a table.

Place you camera on a tripod, and find an item to focus on so that your smoke will be in focus. It may be best to focus on the object that the smoke is coming from, increase your aperture for proper exposure, and raise the tripod without moving it front to back.

Set you camera to timer or remote setting so that you do not accidentally shake it while taking your pictures,. You will need to shut off all the lights in the room you are located. Light the source, and fire away!

Some Creative Tips

Do some fun things in the air. See if you can get the smoke to pile up with different things. Block it with objects. Twirl it with your hands. Make it look like smoke is coming from your brother's ears. It's abstract. Be creative!


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  • s.wilson profile image

    s.wilson 6 years ago

    Smoke is also considered a liquid, so unless you want to do water drops, it may be much easier to manipulate. And much less messy.

  • limegreen43 profile image

    limegreen43 6 years ago from Michigan

    Too cool, I have recently become interested in abstract photography. I was thinking water, but smoke makes sense!

  • s.wilson profile image

    s.wilson 6 years ago

    @Ursula: The thing about abstract photography is you don't have to be good at the formal stuff. It can still be interesting, even if the normal rules aren't follows.

    @Robert: You have just inspired me to do a whole series on fluid. Besides water drops and smoke, that is. Now to get my noggin going on what I can use. Time to scrounge around in the kitchen!

  • Robert Kernodle profile image

    Robert Kernodle 6 years ago

    You might be interested to know that physicists would classify smoke as a fluid.

    You, therefore, photograph fluid dynamics events as works of art, which (in my book) makes you a fluidism artist like moi. Check out my articles to see how I define this in detail.

    Besides my primary fluidism art shots, I have tried photographing a few bubbles, with some success. I have not gotten around to photographing smoke yet. Maybe I will follow your inspiration and get started on this fascinating subject.


  • profile image

    UrsulaRose 6 years ago

    Thanks so much Scot for sharing this Hub Article with us.

    As someone who very much enjoys abstract artwork, your photograph certainly caught my eye. It is amazing to say the least.

    Who would have thought that smoke could be so beautiful, although knowing my luck as the world's worst photographer I would more than likely 'stuff it up' (and that is me being positive).