Create moody scenes
Create ethereal light rays with a smoke machine and flash
There’s something magical about rays of light. They create a wonderful sense of atmosphere, whether seen on a misty morning walk as the sun breaks through gaps in the trees, or inside a dusty room pierced by shafts of light from the window. We can make use of this atmosphere to enliven our portraits with the technique explained over the page.
Although we think of them as ‘light rays’, it’s not really possible to photograph a ray of light. What we’re actually seeing is the light illuminating very minute particles in the air.
So the key to creating the rays is to fill the air with particles, whether it be steam, mist, dust or smoke. Here, we’ve made use of an inexpensive smoke machine. The other main consideration is the light; sunlight is ideal but, of course, there’s no guarantee the sun will shine through the right window when you want it to, if at all!
On our shoot, there was no chance of late afternoon sunbeams, so we made our own. Using a flashgun fitted with an orange gel and positioned outside the window, we can make it look as if sunshine is streaming in.
Light rays can look very cinematic. So they’re the perfect addition to an atmospheric portrait, and great fun to try out with the kids. We set up a child’s bedroom for our shoot, but you can try this out in any room with a window and a blind.