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5 Things I Learned from Shooting with Dry Ice

“I like photographs which leave something to the imagination.”

~ Fay Godwin

When I find myself in a creative rut, something I like to do is surf through a variety of work. I try to elicit creative inspiration from stories, my favorite artists, music, and even food! In my most recent rut, I stumbled upon work by Tatiana Lumiere. She is a fine art photographer and shoots frequently with dry ice. Upon seeing her work, I was instantly taken and thought I had to try this.

Shooting with dry ice appeared intriguing. Sometimes a new challenge or new way of doing things is exactly what’s needed. So, I did my research. I read Tatiana's article on shooting with fog and even registered to watch her live shooting with Sue Bryce Education, which was amazing. I took my notes, gathered my materials, and thought I was ready. Before offering this as one of my portrait themes, I experimented with the style with a few willing and wonderful models who weren’t afraid to go along for the ride.

During our days of shooting, I learned quite a few things as I tried to gain a good handle of shooting with dry ice.

All photos are taken by Adnarim93Creative.

Breaking apart dry ice will strengthen arms

When I bought dry ice for my shoot, it came in large blocks. So, of course, I had to break it up. I didn’t have an ice pick, so I used the next best thing—a flathead screwdriver and hammer. While I also flattened my thumbs a couple of times, my hands and arms were sore from breaking apart all the ice.

Dry ice burns and it can also suffocate you

This is the dangerous side of shooting with dry ice. While I knew dry ice will burn you if you touch it, I did not know it could cause third-degree burns! Also, as dry ice is all carbon dioxide, you can suffocate in the fog if you are inhaling or in the fog too much. For this reason, your subjects should not do yoga breathing once there’s fog or lie in it for too long.

Simmering and boiling water works best

Once dry ice is out of it’s cooler, it immediately starts evaporating. Adding a warmer liquid, such as water will create a fog effect. The hotter the liquid the more fog you will get. Preferably boiling water off the stove or in a kettle work best for a great amount of fog.

Focus on one pose

You are on a timer from the moment the water touches the ice. At best, you have a good 45 to 60 seconds, especially if you’re wafting the fog. When you start capturing, it’s best to focus on one pose first, or if your ambitious two. Another way is to position the body first and allow for subtle head movements afterward. This allows you to focus on composition more.

Don’t forget about textures

The fog created by the dry ice will give you a nice smooth texture, but you also have to consider the other textures in the photo. Sometimes the fog will not cover the entire background. So, what will? This is when background texture (or even color) that compliments the fog comes in to play. Also, consider your subjects’ dress. Are they wearing lace, chiffon, silk? How does this affect the overall look?

Points like these five were some of my takeaways from my preliminary experiments with dry ice. From trying this style, I’ve organized a checklist, so my sessions have a more seamless flow and so I don’t forget anything.

Dry Ice Shooting Checklist

There are important small details when it comes to shooting with dry ice, such as containers for the dry ice. We shouldn’t carry them with our hands after all. They need to be put in something after being broken. Little things like this and along with the big things, need to be remembered. If you’re interested in trying this style, try bringing my dry ice shoot checklist with you. Easily download or pin your free checklist and let us know how your trial with dry ice goes!

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