Shooting with fog can bring a dynamic element to your shoot, whether it’s in a studio, or on location, for cosplay, a cinematic effect or just to add some WOW to a beauty or glamour shot. I’ve been using fog in the studio for many years and, when Atlas Studios announced they could now accommodate fog at their 3,000 square metre, 19th century mill site in Bolton, I couldn’t wait to give it a go. I then booked the amazing Tinkerbella to complete the picture.
We sometimes call this ‘smoke’ but it’s important to realise this is a fog or vapour and perfectly safe to be around. Nobody should use actual smoke in a confined space. Fog fluid comes in one colour: white, and in three flavours: CO2-style fog that dissipates very quickly, light, even fog that persists, and dense, thick fog that also sticks around for quite a while. The lighter fog is useful for creating a realistic haze or atmosphere for natural light or simulated sunlight. It’s also great for revealing laser beams.
I mostly work with the thick stuff and use it as a background. It works best when you light it from behind or from the sides. You can hide the backlight behind your model, or just have it in shot. Use a projector, like the light-blaster, as your backlight and you can project shadows into your fog. You can also do this by lighting the fog through objects (Venetian blinds, a stepladder, or any other junk). Colour gels work well with fog and I almost always end up colouring the fog in my shots. When you release the fog, keep shooting, as it changes character constantly as it moves across the set and evens out.
If you cool the fog down, you can make it stick to the floor and even roll downstairs. I used chilled fog at Atlas to fill up a stairwell and lit it with a red-gelled speedlight from the bottom. Freezer blocks in a flexible pipe are all it takes to cool the fog down and lay it low long enough for still shots.
In a regular-sized studio, unleash the fog only when you have everything else in place (the lights, pose etc). Once you let it out of the bag, it will build up and when you can’t see the model any longer, it’s time to ventilate the space and have another go. A studio fan or floor drier is useful here to push the fog out of the door or window.
In a space as vast as the main room at Atlas Studios though, your fog has plenty of room to drift and the internal air currents are a bit stronger. We made use of the stairwells, the interior walls and the massive open area, where we got some cool, cloud fronts in the background, after a few shots of dense fog.
Even the smallest of studios will have a prevailing wind, a direction to the air, however subtle. Working effectively with fog means working with this airflow to get it to go where you need it.
Fog machines and fog fluid are not expensive and I’m still on the same five litre packs of light and dense fog fluid I bought six years ago (and I use it a lot). Get one with a radio remote, as this will prove especially useful when shooting in a huge space like Atlas.
Fancy having a go at Shooting With Fog?
Book the studio or attend a workshop …
Fog suits this dramatic, industrial playground and if you’re itching to have a go yourself, call the studio to book some time. If you’d like to learn more about how to work with fog, I’ll be running a workshop on this at Atlas Studios soon.
Get the gear …
These 900W machines cost about £40-£50, with a cabled switch, and radio remote (use one or the other).
5L of fog liquid is around £20. This is the thick stuff I use the most:-
Note! Despite the claims on this eBay posting and on the label, it won’t create a “dry-ice effect”, unless you also chill the fog as it comes out of the machine. I use a large flexible pipe with freezer blocks in it to do this.
Rob – Atlas Studios (Owner)
Owen is an extremely talented and very knowledgeable photographer, who understands light and how it works best for creative photographs.
We have worked with Owen, running very successful workshops on creative lighting before. So, when he contacted us regarding running a ‘creative fog photography workshop’, we were very excited.
As can be seen from Owen’s skill with photography, Atlas Studios demonstrates the most incredible imagery. Add fog and gels and the images go off the scale. Whether you join us on the workshop or you hire the studio for your own shoot, we guarantee that you will walk away with an abundance of images and know that you haven’t covered half of what the studios can offer. Not got your own fog machine? You can hire one from us for a very small price. Please see our website for details of our rental prices.
To celebrate the use of fog in the studios, any reader who quotes ‘Fog20’, at the time of booking, will receive a 20% discount. Please note: this offer is only valid for 2020, and only covers studio hire, as Atlas Studios does not control workshop costs.
Fancy running a workshop yourself at Atlas Studios? Then get in touch and we can discuss how we can help.