for the love of fog | by Tara Herron
It’s no secret that I am fascinated with light. When I see gorgeous light streaming in, I get chills! One of my favorite ways to showcase light rays is by using a fog machine. When used properly, it can bring so much depth and emotion to images. There are many ways to use a fog machine, but I will focus on how to use it with natural light since that’s what I normally shoot in. (FYI, you can buy a fog machine for around $30 on Amazon.)
To get the best results you need harsh direct sunlight streaming in through a window. I take all of my shots in the morning shortly after sunrise. I actually like to wait until golden hour is over because I do not like the yellow tint I get indoors at the sunrise golden hour. Depending upon the time of year, I’m normally capturing these images between 8-10 am. I get the strongest rays beaming in when the sun is positioned at the top of the window. I have found that only having one window seems to create a more dramatic effect. If you have multiple windows, you can try to block the light from them by using curtains.
The amount of fog that you release is important. If you release too much fog your entire image will become hazy and you will lose some of the details. Thus, I start with a small amount and see how it settles. If you need more you can always add it later. For a small amount, I usually turn the machine on for 2-3 seconds. I point the fog directly towards the light, while keeping the bulk of the fog behind where my subject will go. Next, I let it dissipate for about 4-5 minutes while I start metering the light. This way once the fog has settled, I can immediately begin shooting. After about 10 mins of shooting, if I didn’t get my shot I will repeat the process. Another tip is to be aware of where your smoke alarms are. Mine are on the opposite side of my window so I have yet to have them go off while I’m shooting.
While shooting in the smoke, it’s important not to blow the highlights. I will often underexpose my subject’s skin in order to save some of the detail of the light. In post processing, I will further reduce my highlights but lift my shadows. I also love to add contrast in post processing to really make the light rays stand out. Dynamic lighting adds so much feeling to an image, which is what I am always striving for. Unfortunately, I can only get this type of effect for half of the year due to the placement of the sun in relation to the bedroom window. It’s always such a treat for me to create this magical light, I hope you enjoy it too.