Fog photography can give your subjects a moody, dramatic and compelling feel. However, it also has the potential of giving your photos a dull and white-washed look – without definition and void of color. The tips and techniques listed below will help make your fog photography endeavors successful.
Although it is not necessary to own a fancy DSLR to capture amazing shots of fog, you do need to have some manual control over your camera even if it is a point-and-shoot camera. Similarly, any lenses will work, so stick to your favorite camera and lens combination.
Fog usually forms in the mid- to late-evening and lasts through the early morning. It also often forms near the surface of water that is a bit warmer than the surrounding air or in low-lying areas such as valleys. If you want to try out fog photography, these are the kinds of places you should head for.
Fog photography is extremely different than photographing in clear weather. Your subjects are not as defined or clear as usual, and they are deprived of color saturation and contrast.
Fog is basically a natural soft box. It scatters the light source to make it seem that the light is coming from all angles, which reduces the contrast dramatically. Fog can be a very valuable and powerful tool to emphasize the lighting, shape and depth of your subjects. Such traits can make a photograph feel moody and mysterious, which is often an elusive yet desirable result for photographers. The trick to achieve these effects is by knowing how you can use the unique abilities of fog to your advantage without detracting from your subject.
These fog photography tips and techniques will help you do just that.
Fog Photography Tips and Techniques
Meters Can Be Fooled
The main reason why fog photos usually look dark and depressing is because the camera’s light meter couldn’t read the situation accurately. Fog is essentially made up of suspended water droplets that reflect light, which tricks the light meter into thinking that there is more light than there actually is. Thus, the camera decreases the exposure, which results in dark, underexposed pictures. To overcome this, you will have to dial in some positive exposure compensation.
The small water droplets in fog can make light scatter a lot more than usual, which softens the light and makes light streaks visible from a directional or concentrated light source. The best example of this is in a forest. When a photo is shot in the early morning in the direction of the light, light rays streak through the trees.
To make light rays stand out, you have to plan your vantage point carefully. Light rays will be most noticeable if you are standing close to the location where you can see the light source directly. Shooting from such an off-angle position will ensure that the scattered light will be separated from the darker air and will be bright enough.
Shapes and Silhouettes
Since fog downplays the subject’s contrast and internal texture, it can emphasize their shape. The subject can even be reduced to just a silhouette. If you want your subject to appear only as a silhouette, you should remember to expose according to the fog instead of the subject. You could also make sure that your subjects do not come out as too bright by dialing in a negative exposure compensation. Furthermore, you will have to pay close attention to the position of the subjects in your scene since you won’t want the silhouettes of different subjects overlapping each other.
As subjects become farther from your camera, they become smaller and lose contrast (sometimes quite dramatically). Although this effect could be used to emphasize the difference between far and near objects, it makes distant objects harder to shoot in isolation.
While there are no set rules for fog photography since photography is a creative art and depends entirely on the imagination of the photographer, it is usually a good idea to get some of the subject matter close to the camera. This way a part of your photograph will contain high saturation and contrast which will not only add some tonal diversity, but also indicate what everything else would look without the fog.
Here are some breathtaking photographs captured in fog, mist or haze to give you some inspiration.