Playing With Matches
Using match smoke is probably the most common method for making fake ghost pictures. Its easy, its quick, the effect is good and if you take enough pictures, you're sure to get something that looks like a face or figure.
First, you need some matches. We recommend any brand of wooden stick matches. Skip over the cardboard matches you find in matchbooks, they are too hard to handle, especially if you are taking these photos by yourself.
Secondly, you need a camera. This method works with any kind of camera, digital or not. You can even get good results with a disposable camera or a cheap digital camera, but a flash is essential. The flash is what makes the smoke glow and makes it look ghostly.
You also need a good location. The most important factor in your location is that it is dark, so take your pictures indoor or at night. This gives your smoke a good background to stand against. Match smoke in lighter pictures look like a problem in the film and are not as interesting. Its also a good idea to use a location that gives your photo atmosphere. Any place an average horror-movie fan would expect to find ghosts is ideal. Graveyards, old buildings, and anyplace rundown are good locations.
Consider the weather. The bane to all would-be match smoke pictures is wind. While a little wind may help the effect, too much will disperse the smoke almost instantly. The ideal conditions are either no wind at all or a slightly perceptible wind.
Finally, take some friends with you. Extra hands are always helpful to strike and blow out the matches.
To capture some match smoke ghosts on film, simply strike the match and hold it under the camera lens or just to the left or right if there is wind. Then, blow out the match, wait a second, and then take your picture.
On our first experiment, it was probably too windy to be taking match smoke photos, but we found ways around it.
This is a good example of how wind can ruin a good photo. To get any smoke at all, we had to light four matches at a time. The resulting effect looks more like a fog than anything else.
This is a better four-match photo. Notice how the smoke in the bottom-right of the picture looks like it is glowing. The closer the smoke is to the flash the better the effect. The smoke at the top is farther away. We used a wooden board to block some of the wind.
Here the smoke is close to the flash, but the wind disperses it too much. Its a good effect, and we can even discern a face in the bottom-right quarter of the smoke.
This was the best picture we took that night. Of about 25 photos, we got one really good one. The face is a product of the smoke and the tree branch and the smaller, hooded face above it is just a leaf and some twigs. For this one, we had to crouch behind a tree to block the wind.
In our next article on match smoke, we will deal with creating "streams", best done without wind.
Photo Credits : Moonlight Embrace, Make_up1, and Caufield.