Smoke Photography by Graeme Black

Graeme Black took smoke photography a step further and created those interesting images:

I recently sold my Studio (an old warehouse of approx. 4000 sq ft ) because I no longer had to build large sets for fashion etc. as I go out and hire locations the cost to the client was the same and I could cash in on the property boom. I still have the use of a very large studio for shooting cars ,trucks etc. so the large size is taken care of. I have started working out of home but 90% of my work is on location, hence the name Photolocum. I sold all of my studio flash lighting and rely entirely on ambient light and Nikon wireless SB800 speedlights and as yet I have not found a situation they can’t cover.

With the new arrangement in place I had more time on my hands I looked for something that was a bit creative and a bit of fun. I had been playing with smoke water type shots for years but it did nothing for the creative side, to me it was simply shooting a lot and hoping you had something that was pleasing and in most cases you got something that looked good but by chance not by design.

I then started to take it a step further by using these great shapes to create an image that had a story, I had no idea in which direction these stories were going to go it all depended on what I saw in the smoke. As you can see an image can be made up of several smoke images, added to with colors, bow ties, eyes, lips, hands, breast etc.

Besides my commercial and fashion work I do a lot of stock so I have plenty of images I can take apart and use in these projects. I have created a 500 GB hard drive of A-Z of images I may need - eyes, faces, hands, cars, animals etc. This drive is added to constantly.

I do not use col gels because I don’t know where that image is going to fit into the final pic, I prefer to ad col in PS, that way I can coordinate the final image.

Each project take 6-8 hrs and 25-30 layers, depending on the complexity, a glass or two of red seems to help as well. Not all projects work out, I have spent a lot of time on some only to look at it next day and wonder what was I  thinking. It can be addictive, frustrating, but never boring.


If you have an interesting idea for a guest postyou can contact me here.

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  • Plug

    Really enjoyable, well done!

  • kwiatek


  • phosgene

    Smoke pictures are great. Photoshopping googley eyes on them, not so great.

    • Aldo

      He took plane smoke images to the next level… creative work which I hadn’t seen before. How would you have done it? …right

      • phosgene

        Oh Aldo, such a tease.

        • Aldo

          No tease. I could easily see the fifth one (red character) in the next pixar animated movie and bamm! big bucks.

          • Timothy

            Any semi-competent animation production would hire a real concept artist to design the character, not someone to play around with incense sticks and make “fine art”.

            • Aldo

              Even a real concept artist may be interested on this technique to come up with a character… Sometimes the mind needs a spark to engulf creativity… and this could be just that.

            • Santiago

              I can’t agree more with you. I see a great potencial on these images. Some envious out there just can’t enjoy a picture without criticizing.

            • Timothy

              A real concept artist doesn’t need to do this. They can generate unlimited random shapes from software (and for free). No concept artist is going to go out of his way to set up a rig with fairly expensive specialist equipment and take pictures of smoke when they can just lay down a few brush strokes and generate hundreds of much more meaningful thumbnails in far less time with far less effort.

              These edits are fine art. Nothing more.

            • Aldo

              Aww you sound like the architect from the second matrix movie… oh well at least you consider it art.

            • Timothy

              Well, I’m just speaking from personal experience and from the types of jobs I get.

    • sell_him

      Wow Phosgene, I think you just lack imagination therefore do not understand nor appreciate the work.
      I’d recommend you sell your camera and give up photography.

      Hate people who critisize then offer nothing better because of their lack of skill

      • Aldo

        Perhaps not lack of skill.. but rather lack of vision… remaining open minded becomes more difficult for a photographer that masters his/her own technique and then neglects the potential of others.

        • phosgene

          Not liking someone else’s art doesn’t constitute a lack of vision/etc. Have you equally appreciated everyone’s art?

          • Aldo

            I’m not a fan of everyone’s art… but I do appreciate everyone’s art equally, or at least I try to, because some art may be beyond my own vision and understanding.

            • phosgene

              I dig it. But I still believe there is such a thing as bad art. I don’t know if the above work qualifies as simply bad art, but still, Rebecca Black’s “friday” and the “ecce homo” restoration constitute art that took a lot of time/effort/vision but are resoundingly ‘bad’.

              If I dislike a photograph that I took, does that mean I lack the vision to appreciate my own art?

            • Aldo

              If you dislike your own picture that is simply part of mastering your own technique as I mentioned above. There is bad art… but it is usually judged by previous standards set by someone. Much like you compare two similar photographs by two different photographers and decide which one is better (better colors…shadows…sharpness…composition etc.) Now how can you call this bad art? To what are you comparing it to? All you said is eyes weren’t great. What kind of eyes would you have put instead of the “googley” eyes. What do you see in the smoke? Did you bother to think of the intended theme? It could be sea creatures… or it could be anything. These images are a projection of the authors own imagination represented in vibrant colors… Done with an air brush…paint brush… or a mouse it is still by definition art. And it is very original.

            • phosgene

              Good photographers can take bad photographs. It has nothing to do with technique. You flip through a shoot on your computer and say ‘ugh that didn’t work’ because it’s simply a bad photo. In the same shoot you can have a good photo.

              I don’t think every piece of art needs to be looked at in comparison to something else – art can be objectively bad. Even still though, this work is certainly not original. Morphing smoke into creatures/people is as old as graphic design and animation (fern gully, Hercules, Lost) itself. Do a google image search for “made of smoke”. I don’t need to think of an alternative to the googley eyes used in this work – that has already been done.

              Also, I never actually claimed that this particular art is bad. I said bad art exists and I’m not sure if this qualifies. Because of the quality of photography usually featured on these guest posts, I was expecting something better, and judging by the rank on my original post, I’m not the only one.

            • Aldo

              You are either evading or completely missing the point. Taking a bad photograph has nothing to do with what is being discussed. “that didn’t work” What didn’t work? exposure, composition.. are you talking about an error? This is a collection of art. Everything was done and portrayed as intended by the author. I did google what you’ve asked yet I still couldn’t find anything similar to this theme. You are simply caught up in the idea that “not liking” this art means bad art and I quote ” I don’t know if the above work qualifies as simply bad art ” Oh and btw, relying on how many votes your post has doesn’t support your argument at all, because not even a Picasso is well appreciated by the average crowd… The excellence of true artists come in few numbers and so do “votes” and opinions.

            • phosgene

              I’ve done my best to keep track of the points you’re making. You don’t seem to understand that I’m trying to argue that in this world, there exists bad art, whether or not you like it.

            • Aldo

              I’ve acknowledged in a comment above that there is in fact “bad art” of course… I just don’t think this one falls into that category. That is all.

            • graeme

              Thank you for your comments on my images,some people are
              confused as to the intention of this project,I am not a concept artist Im a
              photographer who likes to stretch the imagination.These images are both testing
              and fun to do and if any one wants to try them feel free , I have given them
              the details, there are 18 images in this series and they look great mounted on
              a wall as a display. I realise they are not to everybody’s taste but at least they are interesting. We are no
              longer just photographers ,in the digital age we have to supply the client the
              finished job ,post corrected and ready for print ,doing these smoke images
              hones my skills at layers etc to be applied to my working day.I have even used
              some of the smoke to enhance a fashion shot in some trees to give it a
              mysterious look.Thank you again for your kind comments.

    • Ccc

      The truth

  • De Mentia

    Interesting but in my opinion final images cross the boundary from photography to computer graphics.

    • jb

      I was thinking the exact same thing.

    • Aldo

      I guess you haven’t seen the photography that gets posted on billboards and makes tons of money…

      • Ed

        Totally different use and intent.

  • heartyfisher

    That’s fun !

  • hhh

    Wow! Mind-blowing beauty. Thank you for the post. Will definitely try this at some point.

    Lol at Photolo-cum though. Probably means something totally different in England, but my American inner-child couldn’t get past it 🙂

    • DesertCat

      Probably more like photo-locum, though locum isn’t a word that’s used very much in the U.S. It means someone standing in temporarily for another (kind of like substitute teacher)

  • whisky

    photography is a subset of graphic design, and there’s no shame in calling this good graphic design. even the best chance photograph may benefit from a well crafted word or two. JMO.

  • Aldo

    A reflection of what a photographer sees in an image… Awesome creative work!

  • Maji

    great creative work. You have created some humorous images.

  • nano

    good work

  • Spy Black

    Fun, creative stuff. Good work!

  • love them, awesome work! puts a smile on my face

    and look like relatives of the creatures I saw back in the days when I…… 😉

  • AlphaTed

    Holy smoke! Cool stuffs. 🙂

  • John Craft

    Thx! Also checkout this great photo tips and tricks

    • Smoking Hot……….


  • Aileen

    I just wanted to let you know I’ve added a link to this post on our latest post ( Not only is your smoke photography very well executed, but what you have done with the images is very creative and brought a smile to our faces. Thanks for sharing.

  • Lost Girl

    The last image is gorgeous, although I don’t really understand leaving the incense sticks in (incense sticks usually detract from the pure beauty of the smoke, IMO).
    With that being said, smoke photography and smoke artistry takes many years to perfect. What I see here is a great start, but the smoke itself often needs to be refined in order to come up with an excellent final result (take thousands and thousands of shots) and the presentation needs to be cleaned up. Stray, billowy, unshaped smoke makes it look messy. Photoshop plug-ins can also be helpful.
    And there is no boundary between photography and “computer graphics”. Smoke photos are based on a photo and worked on in photoshop, just like almost anyone who would spend hours post-processing a landscape shot. This just takes a lot more imagination!

  • IMO

    IMO this is amazing…………

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