Recently, I had a photographer friend stay for a few days. Although we had several days of good weather and were out and about, we had a truly awful day. It was so miserable that we opted not to go out, but to spend a few hours being creative in the studio with dry ice.

So don’t let the weather get you down. Make the most of the gloomy weather and have an indoor photography adventure with friends.

Take dry ice

You might have to do a little internet research, but I’m pretty sure dry ice is pretty easy to get in most areas. It’s pretty cheap, just takes a bit of care when handling and storing. I have a cheap plastic cooler and a pair of barbecue tongs specially designed for dry ice. I bought 2kg of dry ice pellets, which might seem like a lot, but if you consider 1kg to be about a big handful, 2kg isn’t that much. However, a little goes a long way. Just be careful NOT to let the dry ice touch your skin, as it can burn. Tongs or gloves are the way to go when handling dry ice.

Set the scene

Staging

We set up our scene on a table, using two Godox AD200 with strip boxes to give a soft and diffused light to the scene. Since it’s October, we decided to go for spooky Halloween looks. Perfect for dry ice, right? Witches, cauldrons, scary masks, pumpkins and more. We found that placing black jersey fabric on the table “catched” the fog and made it linger longer than without it.

How to best use dry ice?

Handle dry ice with care
Handle dry ice with care

Once your scene is set and your camera is in focus, it’s time to capture the action. I found that using hot water creates more fog when you pour dry ice into it with tongs. Never touch dry ice with your fingers. I put a few dry ice pellets in a glass or ceramic bowl 3/4 full of hot water. It will fizz and pop and make lots of wonderful mist. In the martini glass we also added food coloring to the water (I think we could have added more).

Camera

Apart from my Godox Speedlights (1/32 power), I also used a Godox X1 trigger on my Sony a7R III. I used my Tamron 28-75mm lens at f/3.5 – f/5.0. Just to free up our hands to place the dry ice, we placed our cameras on tripods to make things easier. Consider adding gels or playing with different light sources to get really creative.

To clean

Cleaning is simple
Cleaning is simple

As a general rule, you can only use a small bowl of water once, as the dry ice cools it very quickly. We used a mix of ceramic and glass bowls. Even inside the cauldron, it was just easier to handle. Once cooled, dry ice is no longer as effective. When the dry ice has dissolved and the fog is gone, you can dump the water and start over. We had a bucket on hand to pour the used water into. We also had a jug of hot water on hand to refill our bowls each time. Both can be poured into the garden when finished. Dry ice only lasts a few hours, so there’s nothing to clean up when it all wears off. It’s best to shoot the day you picked it up. The ice will last 1-2 minutes depending on how much you add and how much water you use. You may need to experiment a bit at first.

Best with friends

Now you can do it yourself, but for me it’s time well spent with photographer friends. Be creative and explore different configurations and settings. It doesn’t have to be scary, but it can also be a lot of fun.

Check out the little behind the scenes video I captured on my cell phone. Bubble bubble, boil and trouble!

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