Photo of the Day

Eye-Catching Portraits and Photos of the Week for Jan. 16

January 16, 2024

By Hillary Grigonis

Haze from fog, smoke, and smog can create big challenges for photographers by reducing clarity and interfering with autofocus. But, haze can also be embraced and even intentionally added to create a dreamlike look. This week, we talked with five photographers on how they managed to work with fog and smoke — and even create intentional haze. Find inspiration from these five stunning images by Pratiksha Mohanty, Gloria Velvet, Ash Coniglio, Alexandria Odekirk, and GabeMcClintock.

Pratiksha Mohanty, Studio Tangerine

© Pratiksha Mohanty

When Pratiksha Mohanty of Studio Tangerine arrived at the shooting location, she quickly realized the smog was going to obscure the actual sunrise. The photographer embraced the haze and even added a mist filter to really lean into the look. She placed the couple with the water at their backs in order to create backlighting with the reflection of the sun. Mohanty captured the shot with the Nikon Z6, a Sigma Art 35mm f1.4 lens, and the Nisi Black Mist Filter 1/4.

“It is sometimes tricky to get the focus right when shooting in haze because of the reduced contrast,” she says. “Additionally, haze can scatter light, making it difficult to get a clear image. To combat this, I used a 35mm lens and increased the ISO setting on my camera, which helped me capture more detail. The dynamic range of my trusty Z6 helped me recover a lot of details during post-processing. I lifted the shadows and brought down the highlights to maintain an evenly lit look.”

Gloria Villaverde, Gloria Velvet

© Gloria Velvet

The fog in this elopement photograph by Gloria Villaverde of Gloria Velvet gives the image a feeling of isolation while also simplifying the color palette. Velvet was inspired by the rock in the lake that resembled a mountain as well as the fog behind them. She placed the couple in the center of the image in order to surround them with the turquoise of the lake and add to the remote feel. She captured the shot with the Canon EOS R6 Mark II and the Canon RF 28-70mm f2.

Shooting with fog or smoke can be challenging. First, it may be more difficult to focus on the subject. It usually comes along with fewer, but softer light (this part is something positive for me, but it’s a matter of taste and style), and the subject can lose part of its importance and look less defined.” She says, “This time, I didn’t do anything to modify the fog, but sometimes I may use a flash, especially with smoke, to make the subjects stand out and be more outlined. However, having this not-so-thick fog and being sufficiently far from them, I didn’t feel the need to adjust anything.”

Ash Coniglio, Ash Coniglio Photography

© Ash Coniglio

This photograph by Ash Coniglio of Ash Coniglio Photography perfectly delivers the moody, artistic, forest vibes that Isabelle requested for her senior portraits. The trick to the haze? A sandwich bag! The haze works well with the light peeking through the treetops and the dance-inspired pose. She captured the shot with a Canon 5D Mark III and a Canon 85mm f1.8 lens.

“Shooting with haze, which I intentionally did here, and often do, comes with challenges, sure,” Coniglio says. “You might not get the most clear, crisp photo, but that’s not what I always go for anyway. I keep a box of cheap sandwich bags in my car—poke a hole in it, and secure it on my lens with a rubber band, and we get lovely soft haze.”

Alexandria Odekirk, Sage Trails

© Alexandria Odekirk

The inspiration for this elopement-day portrait came as Alexandria Odekirk of Sage Trails saw how far the beam of the couple’s headlamps spread inside the clouds. She took several portraits in the parking lot because of the wide-open space, but also got this moment after the groom commented on how cool it was to watch the fog moving quickly past his headlamp. Odekirk captured the shot with the Sony a7 IV and the Sony FE 35mm f1.4 GM lens.

“In general, shooting in fog or haze is trickier from far away because you won’t have the same definition that you get while being right next to someone because of all the particles in the atmosphere,” Odekirk says. “If you want clearer images, you need to be closer to your subject. Because of the headlamp light and proximity to my subject, I was able to capture the movement of the fog and his emotion. It looks magical, and it looks a little cold. I can feel the wow, and I can see the amazement in his eyes.”

Gabe McClintock

© Gabe McClintock

The Fagradalsfjall volcano on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula serves as a dramatic backdrop for this stunning image by Gabe McClintock of Gabe McClintock Photography. While the lava flow created dramatic smoke in the background, it also created one of the bigger challenges for the shoot. McClintock explained that the wind would sometimes blow the sulfur and hydrogen gasses toward them, causing eyes to water, so they would have to stop and move away until the wind shifted directions again. The direction of the wind would also either push intense heat towards them, or drop temperatures dramatically when the wind pushed towards the lava instead. “It was a lot of pose, move, regroup, pose, move, regroup,” McClintock explains.

The other challenge was the hike out — after night fell the winds picked up, fog rolled in and it started pouring rain. That mean a long two hour hike out with limited visibility. McClintock captured the shot with the Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon EF 35mm L II.

While the image looks daring, McClintock explained there were several safety precautions in place. “We never got dangerously close to the lava edge,” he says. “I always had Nina and Rand at least 2-3 times their body length away from any danger in case they slipped or tripped, so there was some safe ground. We also wore masks when we weren’t shooting to protect against the gasses and solid hiking shoes as the terrain is extremely uneven and rocky. I think the biggest safety was simply having common sense.”

Dig into our Photo of the Day archives for even more timeless photoseye-catching wedding photos and portraits. Submit your wedding, editorial, documentary and other interesting imagery to:

Outdoor and On-Location Photography: How to Create Better Portraits and Make More Money
The Location Lighting Series
Photographing Love by Kristina Wikle