Backlighting and Smoke

smoke studio jopaul gives shine Simon Q. Walden,, sqw, FilmPhoto, photography


Artificial smoke is often used as an atmospheric backdrop within an image. It serves to obscure and hide features. I was more interested in its other property - that of showing light patterns.

There is a reason all stage shows and night clubs use smoke machines, it is because it gives the lighting effects something to shine into. Like fog lamps in mist, or laser beams through smoke. Without the smoke there is nothing for the light to reflect off and so it is invisible.

I wanted to use the smoke both as a complete backdrop in its own right, but also to use JoPaul's body to create shadow lines within the smoke.


It is interesting to see how the rays of light within the smoke make the dark figure of JoPaul actually look radiant. It is as though the light where shining out of her body.

The pose is open with clear spaces between the arms and body and well posed silhouette.

The glow through the hair gives a good colour contrast against the green.


This is shot in studio and smoke indoors gives you very short shooting times before everything just becomes foggy. This studio is about 3,000 square feet of industrial warehouse, yet 15 minutes of smoke machine renders the place unusable until the smoke has cleared.

The studio light is of course hidden behind JoPaul. I need to keep shifting camera position as we work through poses to get exactly the right amount of shine without burnout.

The colour comes from a simple gel over the light. All of the richer oranges, red and blues work well. You do need stronger, deeper colours to get the right level of colour saturation. You can double up layers of gels.

You can also use two coloured light sources on either side and behind the figure for colouring the smoke, but that does not give the same radiance effect.

smoke studio jopaul gives shine Simon Q. Walden,, sqw, FilmPhoto, photography

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