Tag Archive for: smoke

What you can do with some simple lights

I think one of the problems that a lot of photographers encounter is being creative and most of all being creative with light. So the coming days some tips about what you can do with fairly simple lights.


Let’s for today look at the light snake (I hope that’s the correct term).
We all know these lights, especially around christmas they are used a lot, so actually now is a great way to get them cheap. Do make sure you get the ones that are pretty bright because if you are gonna mix them with strobes you want to have the most brightness possible.


In this shot with Poeka we used the snake to light the model which is actually lying on the floor on a plastic mirror. The main advantage of the plastic mirrors is that they not only unbreakable but they als don’t have that nasty double reflection a lot of thicker mirrors can have.


Poeka Januari 9 2016 31098


Doing a shot like this is not easy, but it’s also not that hard.
You have to make sure you use the lowest possible output from your strobes, this is where the Elinchrom ELCs really come in handy because they can go really low. The reason for this is that the output from the light snake is not incredibly bright so you will need a slower shutter speed anyway, but also the widest possible aperture to make sure the lights from the snake do appear.


One simple rule to remember is :
Aperture controls the flash appearance in the shot
Shutter speed controls the ambient light in the shot
Normally we would of course make sure that the aperture is metered and is fixed, otherwise the model would be under or overexposed, the light snake however (or any other ambient light source) we can let appear brighter, or dimmer in the shot by adjust the shutter speed, which has no effect on the strobe because the strobe is a pulse and not a constant light source.


So in a shot like this it would make sense to try to get the aperture to f2.8 and use the shutter speed to “taste”.
And this is the big advantage of digital photography, we have a huge “free” digital polaroid on the back of the camera, or in my case on a big screen tv in the studio, so we can really fine tune this, imaging how the “old” photographers had to do this using polaroids and meters to get the perfect results, and they did 😀
As soon as we had the result we liked we added an extra strobe in the back with a red gel, but this looked very basic, so a little bit of smoke was added for atmosphere. Now remember that smoke acts like a diffuser and reflector at the same time, so be very careful to where you point your lights, especially when you use light pointing towards the smoke, make the beam as narrow as possible, that’s why I actually used a small snoot with grid to light the models face.


If you balance everything nicely you don’t need any photoshop after the shot, if you later decide you DO want the light snake a bit more bright there is however a very easy solution, just use the dodge tool in Photoshop and slightly move it over the light snake and you will see that the lights actually become brighter, don’t over do this however. (Dodge tool settings are of course on HighLights).


Next week we are going to up the ante a little bit and include some more smoke and styling…..


So next time you think about what to do…. shop for some christmas lights and shoot your idea and show it to me via our facebook group called masteringthemodelshoot. If you like these kind of tips check out my book “Mastering the model shoot” or our instructional videos.

Waterlicht… an unique look at my area

As you might or might know we live on the bottom of the sea, and no I’m not spongebob. The area we live in was “won” back from the sea.

Last week we visited an art piece by Daan Roosegaarde very close to our home (actually it’s on my bike route) in Schokland (Unesco heritage) which was an island just a few decades ago. With lasers and smoke the water like it was in the past was simulated and for just a few nights Schokland was an island again.

Images doesn’t really do it justice, but I think you can get a pretty nice idea about how it was.
Now for our region this was a huge event with over 10.000 people visiting each night so all roads were closed and we had to travel with special busses to the location, which brought me to say “Finally full busses in Emmeloord” 😀

Waterlicht  (4 of 80) December 29 2015

Waterlicht  (5 of 80) December 29 2015

Waterlicht  (10 of 80) December 29 2015

The shot below must be my favorite shot of the event… I did fake it a little bit by opening up the top part of the shot to show the stars.

Waterlicht  (13 of 80) December 29 2015

Waterlicht  (24 of 80) December 29 2015

Waterlicht  (34 of 80) December 29 2015

Waterlicht  (39 of 80) December 29 2015


Small spaces are limiting? … nah

One of the most heard excuses is “my space is too small for a good shot”.
Well you might not be able to shoot a model in front of a white seamless, or fit in a whole family, or make a model jump (although that could be funny… for the photographer, not the model,….. nah don’t do it), but in essence EVERY location has potential as long as you use it to the max.


In this case we used a small staircase that is located at the back end of our studio and leads up to the “stage”. Our building is actually and old “church” and this was where the preacher was standing, it’s a tight space but for me it’s always fun to shoot there.


As you can see in the following shots I used some smoke to give the scene a bit more of an edge, but I also used my lighting to the max by moving around my model. Now always remember that smoke acts as both a diffuser and reflector so the more smoke you get… well let me put it this way, it’s always different. Also remember that as soon as the smoke gets in between the model and the front light source “all bets are off” smoke will start to act as a reflector and it will be one big white out.


We used one Elinchrom beauty dish with grid from the front and one gridded (and later open) reflector from the back with a blue gel.
Styling and model : Nadine

Nadine Januari 2 2016 0811

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For the next one I left in a bit more red.

Nadine Januari 2 2016 0817

But you don’t always have to use the same pose of course…..
Why not shoot one from the back for example.

Nadine Januari 2 2016 0867

And while you’re at it. Why not move around your model and get a completely different look?

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Nadine Januari 2 2016 0900

As you can see with the same light setup and the same very tight space you can create something really cool… just think outside the box… or in these kind of cases probably inside the box 😀


Good luck.

Workshop results smoke and props and tips for smoke machines

Today some of the results from the workshop “smoke and props” with Esther.
This was the first time we used a totally new set painted by our intern Angela.


For the workshops we always try to come up with new ideas and sets and I this time we decided to go for the color red, which is found back in the set, the clothing and of course the props used in the set. As you can also see building a set doesn’t have to be difficult, it’s important that you create a certain “look/Atmosphere” and it will transport the viewer to that place, while in fact…. well it’s just in your studio (or home).


Smoke for me is often the magic ingredient, adding it always transforms a set from OK to wow, but that’s very personal.
This workshop did proof by the way why I always advise to have two smoke machines at hand…. one of them broke down and because we always have two we could continue the workshop and luckily for us our neighbor rents also smoke machines so we could actually continue with two, seeing the price of most smoke machines (below $100.00) I think you should never ever run the risk of having to stop or cancel a session due to equipment failure.


Now which smoke machine should you buy?
Get the once that are WATER based, don’t go for the OIL based ones.
The oil ones do start up quicker but they can “kill” your strobes.


Except the tinting and sharpening these shots are pretty much straight out of the camera. We used several strobes to light the scene and the model and the shutter was used to let in the ambient light from the chandelier and the lights on the branches.

Esther Keuze May 16 2015   0221

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