This short DIY tutorial by Caleb Pike over at DSLR Video Shooter shows you how to create a great smoke effect for your product shots or B-roll footage—no fancy smoke machine required.
Smoke is an intriguing component of photography, but it’s difficult to produce conveniently and photograph correctly. The direction and thickness of the smoke is never fully under your control and that makes photographing it a challenge. Fortunately, this little DIY technique helps you reign that pesky smoke in.
To do this at home, you’ll need a simple bulb syringe and a smoke-creating vape device made up of a battery and a tank. In Caleb’s case, he used an Eleaf iStick 50W battery attached to a Nautilus Atlantis tank, that he then filled with some kind of vaping liquid.
(Note: Caleb does NOT use liquid that contains nicotine. Nobody is encouraging smoking. Everyone’s lungs are okay. No baby seals were hurt in the making of this video.)
From that point on it’s pretty simple. You press a button on the vaping device to create the vapor, use the bulb syringe to draw it out (sparing your lungs in the process) and then apply that smoke wherever you might need it.
This simple setup is a great way to create and disperse small amounts of smoke exactly where you want it. It’s particularly useful where a big smoke machine would be overkill, filling up the room and ruining your images.
To see the simple idea in action, check out the video above. And if you like this simple tutorial, head over to the DSLR Video Shooter channel for more like it.
If you have a film or digital camera that can shoot double exposures, there’s a free do-it-yourself accessory you can use to get creative with the technique: it’s the half lens cap.
Photographer Vincent Moschetti of One Year with Film Only writes that he experimented with this technique using his $1 Smena 8M, a 1970s all-manual, scale-focus camera made during the Soviet Union.
The camera allows you to take an unlimited number of exposures on the same frame of film.
“This is possible because the shutter is independent of the film advance,” Moschetti says. “You can recock the shutter as many time as you want without advancing the film.”
To shoot two distinct scenes onto a single frame, Moschetti created a makeshift half lens cap by cutting out half the surface of a black film canister cap.
He found that this film canister cap fits very nicely over the lens of his Smena 8M’s lens — if you have a different camera and lens, you’ll need to find some other cap to hack up for this.
“Now you simply have to cover one-half of your lens (horizontal or vertical), expose your film, turn the splitter to cover the other half, recock the shutter without advancing the film and expose again,” Moschetti writes.
Here are some of his resulting photos from using this accessory and technique:
After flipping the lens cap, you can also turn your camera upside for the second shot to create a mirrored look:
“It takes a bit of practice to visualize a scene this way and imagine how it will merge with the other, but it’s a very good exercise to develop your creativity,” Moschetti says.
Here’s a 4-minute video in which he shares this hack and technique:
A couple of weekends ago I was playing about with some ideas for a new portfolio shot involving a wall clock. Now, this clock happens to look a bit like a pocket watch, and a pocket watch normally has a chain (see where I’m going with this?). So I figured: “what if instead of a chain, I use some wispy light trails?”
After a bit of trial and error, this is the shot I ended up with. This post isn’t really about the finished shot though, It’s about the tool (and I use that word loosely) that I used to create the light streaks.
Of course, these days you can easily buy ready made light brushes, sticks, and a plethora of other modifiers aimed at the avid light painter; but seriously, where’s the fun in that?! In true Blue Peter fashion, I knocked together a DIY light painting brush.
It won’t win any awards for style—in fact, it’s about as aesthetically pleasing as tooth decay—but it did give me the effect I was looking for and it’s super simple and cheap to make. So I thought I’d quickly show you how I put it together and maybe it will help someone who is looking to do something similar.
Here’s the list of parts you’ll need:
1 x £2.99 LED Tourch
1 x Coke Bottle (empty)
1 x Off Cut of Black Card
1 x Snoot Grid
1 x Colour Gel (colour optional)
1 x Roll of Sticky Tape
Honestly gaffer tape would be much better but I couldn’t find any (it’s probably on the floor somewhere) so sticky tape had to do.
Assembly was extremely complex and involved several CAD drawings and a team of engineers. Fortunately though I am now able to present you with a simplified process ;)
Adding the bottle to the torch diffuses and scatters the light, helping to create a softer light trail with different brightness levels within it. It almost gives the light a textured appearance, rather than just a solid beam.
Next I cut a piece of black card, made a tube, and taped it around the bottle. It’s basically acting as a snoot, focusing the light at the bottom of the bottle and preventing it from spilling out all over the show. You can, of course, dispense with the snoot, but you’ll find that it gives a different effect and it wasn’t what I was looking for in this particular case.
I should have made the card longer so it extended all the way over the bottle and blocked up the end. Leaving it short like this meant unfiltered light leaked out and was captured along with the blue light, you can see this in the right hand image above.
(By the way that’s my daughter waving the light stick, if you look closely you can just about see her leopard print pajamas!)
In the end I just wrapped a cloth around the bottom part to block that unwanted light from view.
Next I stuck a blue gel over a grid, it’s the type normally used in a snoot. As luck would have it the little grid is almost exactly the same size as the end of the cardboard tube. Result! So it was simply a matter of fitting the grid into the tube and securing with a little tape.
I wanted a blue light, so the reason for the gel is pretty obvious. The grid was added to reduce the light output (filter helped with that also) and narrow the beam. Without the grid the light was too bright even if I stopped down, and I was getting way too much flare.
And that’s it!
One light painting brush/torch/wand/stick (whatever!) complete. It did the job. The fact that it looks like something a 3 year old made in art class and that it will almost certainly fall apart doesn’t really matter to me. It was the right tool, at the right time. Low cost and low effort.
Here are a few examples of the effect achieved with this DIY light painting brush. These three images are pretty much straight out of camera, they have just had black/white adjustments in Lightroom and the clarity bumped up a bit.
About the author: Darren Turner is a Northern Ireland-based product and still life photographer. You can find more of his work on his website, or by following him on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.
There are a ton of options out there for building your own product photography lightbox, but this is one of the simplest and most functional creations we’ve seen. For under $50, you can build it for yourself.
The tutorial was created spur-of-the-moment by photographer Chris Kuga, who was asked for some product photography while visiting Napa Valley with one of his friends. They needed a lightbox, stat, so they headed to a hardware store and crafts store and were able to get everything they needed for $100. After a bit of thought, that shopping list was paired down to just $50 for this tutorial.
Here’s what you’ll need: white poster board, a large cardboard box, a couple of clip lamps, and some transparent paper or fabric. You’ll also need an xacto knife, some packing tape, and a sharpie.
To build the lightbox, simply close up one end of the box, cut two squares out on either side and cover them with fabric, and then drape the poster board on the inside. Finally, place the lamps on either side of the box, outside of those fabric diffuser panels, and you’re done!
The lightbox drapes your product in nice, soft light that will work great whether you’re using a DSLR, point and shoot, or smartphone. Check out the full tutorial above to see how Kuga built his, and then check out this post to see how you can turn a simple lightbox like this into a 360° photo platform.
Need a home studio for some product photography? COOPH has some great ideas for you. In this inspirational little video, the magazine shows you how to build a DIY photography studio at home using mostly household items.
The video breaks down studios by size—so whether you’re shooting small, medium sized, or large objects, COOPH has tips for you.
Small objects are, obviously, the easiest to photograph. Using a household lamp, a construction paper backdrop, and maybe some parchment baking paper as a diffuser, you can capture some pretty sleek looking photos of everything from LEGO figurines to that pair of sunglasses you want to sell on eBay.
As the objects increase in size, so do the ingredients. Light, in this case, is provided by a window, the backdrop is a roll of white paper from a stationary store, and some additional fill can be provided by using a DIY reflector made by taping aluminum foil onto a poster board.
If you want to add some more fill, consider diffusing your pop-up flash with a thin piece of white plastic.
The final piece of the video is the most interesting. Using a cheap plastic bucket and some parchment paper, COOPH shows you how to turn a household lamp into a poor man’s softbox. Two of these and a black wall for a backdrop, and you can capture some pretty sleek shots like the image of the bike above.