It was a dark and foggy night. The moon was a fuzzy ball hanging low in the sky…The foggy part of the sentence sets the mood. The sky is a hazy mist. Would it be nice to have fog on demand? Think smoke anytime–anywhere.

Oh, I know about the classic fog maker, dry ice and boiling water. The problem: carbon dioxide (dry ice is frozen CO2) is heavier than air. It falls to the floor instead of toward the sky as smoke does. It’s also kind of messy. So short of building a fire in the studio…. Hey I’m kidding. That’s really dangerous and totally smelly. So what can we do?

Who Needs Smoke?

Photographer’s that’s who. Smoke, also known as fog, makes a photograph believable. Consider these photographs. Gina has a burning cigar in both of them. The one on the left even has ashes on the suitcase. On the right side there’s no contest. It smokes the other one. (Puns are fun).

Gina Smokin compared

Smoke can be the detail that makes a photo look real. After Gina she finishes her cigar, she gets all elegant for her train trip to exotic destinations. The steam engine is spewing smoke. She sees the porter who’ll help her with the luggage. Her train is about to leave the station…

Gina standing


The photograph features lighting from a large Chimera soft box. The smoke is from a Rosco Vapour fog machine on the floor behind the brown suitcase on the right of the frame. It is lit with a 2000 watt tungsten fresnel up near the roof. That bright, harsh light is softened by the smoke. Notice the gorgeous highlight on Gina’s arms. Besides adding realism to the photograph, it solves a couple of rather large believability issues.


Truth is the photo was made in my studio not at a train station. The floor is made of sheets of black Plexiglas.The train and the station it’s in is a twelve by twenty foot painted senic backdrop from C&M Backdrops in Atlanta. It’s hung at an angle to force the perspective. The luggage hides where the backdrop meets the studio floor. The smoke shortens the scene by eliminating the painted floor. The set becomes completely real on camera. The photo below is without the smoke. Which one is more impactful?

Gina 01_1