Home Photography Ideas: Use Artificial Fog To Create A Cinematic Portrait

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We’ve all seen those steam-filled railroad platforms in black-and-white movies of the 1950s, and how atmospheric they can be. Even at a rock concert, the appearance of artificial fog (dry ice) creates a moody atmosphere, and it is no different in the world of photography.

By adding a little man-made fog – we used an atmosphere spray can – you can turn simple environments into dramatic scenes, with beams of light illuminating the areas around a model. All you need is a willing participant, a window with direct light and hard shadows, and fog to fill it. This technique works best indoors with no air movement, but if the air is relatively calm outside and you have the ability to generate a lot of man-made fog, you can put on your shoes and head for it. outdoors.

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(Image credit: Avenir)

We took our model, Esme, to the Avon Valley Railway in Bitton, UK for our photoshoot. As you can see, these vintage railroad cars were the perfect place for some simulated steam! However, it is also a perfect project for capturing stunning portraits at home. So grab your camera, your man-made fog, and your model, and we’ll explore what you need to do.

Capture a cinematic portrait

(Image credit: Avenir)

Take your tripod

First shoot freehand to find your preferred point of view. If your photos are blurry because you have to use a longer shutter speed, use a tripod. However, we found that a tripod didn’t fit into the odd cart shapes, so we went by hand for most of the shoot.

(Image credit: Avenir)

No sun…?

No problem. You can certainly shoot this project without a flash, but if you have a dull, cloudy day, an artificial light could be your saving grace. Cover your flash with heating gel, make sure it is set to a wide zoom (35mm is fine), and place it on the outside of the cart, about six feet away, pointing it out. the window. Leave it bare to create the long, harsh shadows you need to accentuate the fog.

(Image credit: Avenir)

Find the perfect backdrop

We went to Avon Valley Railway to find the perfect train car for our backdrop. This restored 1950s car already has character. Finding a suitable location is half the battle to make your smoke-filled photo look authentic and atmospheric. However, you can also try using your living room or office to capture a similar cinematic effect.

(Image credit: Avenir)

Include some accessories

If you have a special location, make sure you have props. The wagon lights looked good, but they looked even better once we turned them on. We made sure all the lights were on during filming to serve as “practical lights,” as they say in cinematography.

(Image credit: Avenir)

Go further

When you’ve made the effort to find an amazing place, you don’t want your model to sit down with a standard t-shirt and jeans. Go the extra mile and find clothes to complement the location – just as important as the camera settings.

(Image credit: Avenir)

Add some fog

We used an Atmosphere Aerosol fog spray to create our fog, and it is currently only available in the United States. If you’re not in the United States, you can also use a smoke machine instead. Spray mist in front of windows in large strips to highlight the powerful rays of light.

(Image credit: Avenir)

Lead your model

You can get creative when posing your model: do you want it to sit in front of the windows, with the light hitting the fog and creating guidelines, or do you want a smoky side shot? We took both, but preferred the seated pose showing more of the car.

(Image credit: Avenir)

Exhibit for the light

To minimize depth of field, we set an aperture of f / 2.8 at ISO 100 in manual mode. We then adjusted the shutter speed until the ambient light was a bit underexposed, to make the most of the light coming through the windows, and really bringing out the texture of the fog.

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