for the love of fog | by Tara Herron

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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.)

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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.

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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.  

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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. 

xoxo, Tara