Dry Ice Portraits: Using Vapour for Effect | Warren Marshall | Skillshare

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Dry Ice Portraits: Using Vapour for Effect

teacher avatar Warren Marshall, Passionate Photographer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

11 Lessons (36m)
    • 1. Introduction to Dry Ice Photography

    • 2. Working with Dry Ice

    • 3. Dry Ice Safety

    • 4. Your Project

    • 5. Shooting with Dry Ice Outdoors

    • 6. Shooting with Dry Ice Indoors

    • 7. Indoor Shoot with Krysta and Bounced Light

    • 8. Indoor shoot with Krysta and Directional Light

    • 9. Dry Ice Head Shots with Krysta

    • 10. Vapour shots on the floor with Krysta

    • 11. Wrap up

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About This Class

Skillshare student Hind Nassar said:   "Absolutely loved everything about this class!" 

Dry ice is a substance that can help us create unusual images. It is relatively safe, controllable and behaves in a manner that is very interesting.

I have used dry ice on many occasions, mostly when shooting people because that is my main interest but it can be used to enhance many different genres of photography.



In this class I will be teaching you about the use dry ice for photographic purposes.

You will learn how to handle the substance safely and how to predict the behaviour of the dry ice vapour in a photographic situation.

You will watch me using dry ice for a model shoot in the studio as well as see many images that I have taken using this substance both indoors and outdoors.



What is Dry ice? ….Dry ice is simply frozen CO2 at a very low temperature.

Why use Dry ice? ….When it changes state from a solid to a gas it gives off CO2 and water vapour. This will happen as it warms. We can accelerate the process by warming it more quickly. Adding water at room temperature or above. Hot water gives the best results.

The advantage of using dry ice vapour over smoke or fog machines is that the dry ice vapour is heavier than air so it sinks downwards and is more controllable for our photography.

You should be able to procure some dry ice (either in granular or block form ) from a supplier in your area.

 Storage of dry ice is fairly critical if you don’t want it to evaporate before you get a chance to use it (which is what happened to me the first time I bought some). A foam portable cooler is generally best but it is also a great idea to use the ice as quickly as you can so you don’t lose it through evaporation. I usually purchase about 5 kilos and try to schedule my shoot within a few hours of getting it.

Safety factors?

Because of the extremely low temperature of dry ice it can burn your skin on contact so it is best not to touch it. I use a plastic scoop to distribute the ice while using it.

The gas given off during evaporation is Carbon dioxide which is what we exhale when we breathe so it is relatively safe.

 Having said that, if someone breathes in the gas for an extended period it could cause headaches.

 Always use it in a well ventilated area and never leave anyone alone in the room. When driving home with the dry ice keep the car well ventilated as well.

Some of the models I have used have said that their eyes can water occasionally so be sure to give them adequate breaks during your shoot.

Even though dry ice is relatively safe, I would advise you to research its use and safety in the preparation stages of your shoot.

Shooting images with dry ice will set your images apart from the usual.

By following a few basic safety measures you can have a fun time and produce images that cannot be done easily any other way.


Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Warren Marshall

Passionate Photographer


Hello, I'm Warren Marshall.

I am owner and head photographer at “Imagine Studios “ in Newcastle, Australia.

I am also owner and principal of “Newcastle Photography College”.


I have been a photographer for the past 40 years and a full-time professional photographer for the past 26 years.

I am passionate about image making. I also have a thirst for learning new techniques and love experimenting with my photography.

Our studio specialises in people photography from Weddings, Portraits, Headshots, Glamour, Lifestyle, etc.



In my time I have photographed many celebrities, politicians and entertainers but it is the average people that I enjoy working with the most.

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1. Introduction to Dry Ice Photography: Good, I Muslims Warren Marshall. And this course is about DRY AS photography. Dry ice is a substance that can really help us create unusual images. I'm going to teach you in this class how to use it properly, how to use it safely, how to control the dry ice FIFA, to give you images that you can't get any other way. I've used dry ice and many occasions, I've done many shoots with it. And I've learned how to use it properly. I've learned how to shoot people, particularly because that's what I mostly shoot. In a situation with dry ice vapor, there are a few safety concerns that we're going to talk about and make sure that you know, all of those things. But we're going to have fun with it. We're gonna produce some way add images. We're going to show you a video of a shoot that we did with dry ice with Christa and model, where we got some amazing photographs. It's not a difficult thing to do. It helps if you've got a couple of helpers with you. It doesn't only work for portraits, it works for all genres of photography. We've used dry ice indoors and we've used it outdoors as well. You can use it for product photography, you can use it for still lifes, you can use it for any sort of Photography. Use your imagination. I'm sure there are a lot of different ways that we can use this substance to enhance our images. So in this class you're going to learn how to use dry ice in your photographs. The photographs I take R of people because that's what our nicely shoot. But the principles are going to be the same no matter what you're shooting. The safety concerns are there. It's a relatively safe substance, but there are a few safety concerns to consider. We're going to go through those with you. Controlling the dry ice is a major part of what we do. It's a very controllable substance, much more controllable than smoke or fog. That's why I love to use it, because I know that I can manipulate it in a way that's going to make my images look the way I want it to look. You'll see lots of my dry ice images, mostly portraits, that I've used this substance in various different ways. I teach classes with this substance. I teach people how to use dry ice. So sit back and have a look, watch our video of eschewed learn through the lessons about how to use this substance and what a difference it can make to your photography. 2. Working with Dry Ice: Welcome to our class. So what is dry ice? Dry ice is simply frozen carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide that's been frozen to a very low temperature. Because it is such a low temperature, it can burn your skin, you handle it. So be very careful how you handle it. I use a plastic scoop and often I use gloves when I'm handling the dry ice, but I try not to handle it directly or trying to use some sort of implement to be able to skip the dry ice and put it where I need to. Now, dry ice, as I said, is carbon dioxide frozen? Now, it becomes useful to us when it changes state into a gas. And it does that quite readily by just warming up. So if we can warm up this dry ice, we can produce a vapor that's quite controllable and quite safe. Because dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide. When it turns into a vapor. The vapor consists of carbon dioxide with a bit of water vapor in there as well. Carbon dioxide is the guests that we breathe out. So it's a relatively inert gas. It's not particularly dangerous. The any issues you may have is if you breathe it in for a long period of time at a high concentration, then it may cause a headache or it may cause you to feel a little bit sick. But the types of uses we use the dry ice for. We use it in a well ventilated area so we don't have any problems. The advantage of using dry ice viper is that it's heavier than air. So as opposed to fog or smoke that tends to swirl around and fill the room quite quickly. Dry ice vapor falls down. It falls from a high down to a lower position. So we can control it that way. We can contain it on the floor or on the ground. We can put our subject in a situation where they're dry ice is falling down over the top of them. Because we can control way that vapor flows, which makes it much easier to control than fog or smoke. To turn the dry ice into vapor, we need to heat it up some hair, generally by placing water on it. Because the water helps to warm up the dry ice, it helps to create the Viper, and it also gives us some water vapor to accentuate the look of that gas. So we can use room temperature water, which will warm up that very low temperature or us. And that will produce vapor. Or we can use warm water, which will do a quicker and give us a higher volume of vapor. Now we don't want to use boiling water because we don't want to make it dangerous to use. We just use hot water in the situation where I'm shooting because I'm shooting people most of the time. And safety is a big issue. I don't want to be working with boiling water, so we just worked with hot water just in case anything spills, its not going to be a problem. So pouring that hot water onto that dry ice will change the state of that solid dry ice into a vapor. And it will flow out of your container or whatever your heavy. Now accessing this dry ice in your area, maybe a little bit difficult. There are not a lot of outlets that cell dry ice depending on the country or the region that you're in. We only have one supplier in my local town in New Castle. But that's enough. I know that I can go there at any time and get the dry ice that I need. It is a little bit expensive. It costs me a roundabout, 50-60, $70 sometimes to get enough ice to produce the enough vapor for the shoot that I want to use. So generally get a little bit more than I need because I don't want to run it. I rather have a little bit left over at the end. Now, you also need to be careful about when you purchase your dry ice because if you do purchase it early and you have to wait quite a few hours or even a day for your shoot to happen, then that dry ice could evaporate into the air and be disappeared by the time you get to use it. Which happened to me the first time I tried this technique. I bought my dry ice later in the afternoon and I meant to use it at about ten o'clock the next day when I open my cooler, there was nothing there. It had all evaporated overnight. So when I use this dry ice, I tried to buy it close to my chute time, so I'll generally gone by at 435 o'clock in the afternoon for a seven o'clock chute. And that allows the dry ice to be there so that it's not evaporating into thin air. The other things you need to be careful of if you're carrying it home and your car, make sure your car is well ventilated because as that dry ice evaporates, it produces at carbon dioxide. So you don't particularly want to fill up your car a confined space with that carbon dioxide. So be careful about that. Keep your windows down or put it in the boot, possibly on the trunk of your car, just so that you don't breathe in that carbon dioxide overextended period. Now storage of the dry ice obviously is a critical thing. We want to try and keep it in a cooler if we can, even though we can't find a cooler, No matter what substance you have, is not going to be nearly as cold as the OS itself. So any sort of cooler that we put it in is going to eventually warm up that ice. So we just go through it as best we can. I use drinks cooler to put my dry ice in and it seems to keep it relatively cool. Anything that's fairly insulated that's going to stop the heat getting into there. I try and keep the lid on the cooler the whole time before I'm using it just so I don't let any warm air or let some of that carbon dioxide out. Now you can buy dry ice in a couple of different ways. The ice that I purchased because it's the only stuff available is in granular form, which makes it a little bit easier to use. I can just get a scoop and put the dry ice in a container in any quantity that I want. The other way you can get it as in block form, which means you may have to break sections of that block, which can be a little bit dangerous and little bit more difficult. The granular stuff is so much easier to work with if you can find it. 3. Dry Ice Safety: Now we're going to talk a bit about the safety of using dry ice. As I mentioned before, dry ice is simply frozen carbon dioxide. So when it changes state into a gas, it gives off carbon dioxide with a little bit of water vapor, which is a fairly inert gas. It's the guests that we breathe when we're breathing, but it's still in high concentrations can be a little bit of a problem. So I wouldn't expose a person to a high concentrations of that carbon dioxide over a long period of time. When we do a shoot, you'll see later in the class we had L model in a confined area. Confined so that we could confine the dry ice vapor within that area. But I was conscious to allow her to sit up and breathe normally for a while before she laid back down in that gas because if the vapor was there for a long period of time and she was bringing in over long period of time. She might start to breathe heavily. She might start to get a bit of a headache as well. If obviously if somebody falls asleep or somebody is is in that gas for a long period of time, it could be more dangerous, but over the period of time that were using it, its failure and its fairly safe. The other thing we need to be careful of is touching the eyes, because if you do touch the arts, you can burn yourself. Try not to touch. It uses an implement, a plastic implemented scoop or something to, to manipulate the Ice Center, put it in their containers that you need to. Now, also when we're shooting, we need to be careful about the water temperature. As I mentioned, we use warm water to evaporate the dry ice into the vapor, but we don't use a temperature of water that's high enough so that it's going to burn just in case we have an accident or we have some water spill onto a subject or onto one of our helpers. We don't want to cause any accidents. So it makes sure that your water temperature is comfortable, not over hot. Some of the models that are used in these situations have said that the dry ice can feel warm when they're in it, particularly if they are lying down with the vapor around them. Some of them have complained that their eyes have done a little bit or their eyes have started to water. So we've, we've made sure that those models have been looked after as best as possible. We don't expose them for a long period in that time. It's never been a major issue that I just mentioned that this can be an issue for some of them. Some of them are fine, others have a little bit of a problem with it. So look after your models, make sure that everybody's safe. Make sure they're not uncomfortable because you want a nice, comfortable, happy model to get the shots that you're after. So even though this dry ice is a relatively inert substance and the gas is not particularly dangerous. I'd advise you to read up and study as much as you can about it before you do your shoot. It's your responsibility as a photographer to keep everybody safe at the shoot. So you need to know as much as you possibly can about any substance that you're using. So researcher take and learn as much as you possibly can to keep everybody safe. 4. Your Project: So having considered those safety precautions, your project is to produce a dry OS image. It doesn't need to be a portrait. It can be a photograph of anything you like. Just use your dry ice in a wider scouting to enhance your image. A y that's going to make your image look a little bit different to any other images that you might produce. Anyway, that we can make our images stand there and have people look at them for a bit longer and wonder about the process and wonder how we did it, why we did it is a benefit to us as photographers. So upload your project with a bit of information about how you did it, what considerations you had, what difficulties you may have had. I'll try and answer any questions that you might have. So give it a go, upload your project. I can't wait to see them. 5. Shooting with Dry Ice Outdoors: When dry ice is placed in water, the difference in temperatures causes the dry ice to change state because the dry ice is very cold and the water is at normal temperature, the gas that's given off contains a vapor of carbon dioxide and water. We use this principle recently at caves beach where we skipped some of the dry ice into some shallow rock pools just to see if we could get some vapor coming up to enhance the shots of our model. We did this in the evening because we wanted to have the effect of backlighting flesh on the water vapor to show it up a little bit more. We used their model in a position behind the rock pool and we placed their dry ice in the rock pool or a couple of rock pools around the area. And when the vapor came up, we shot with that backlighting and frontloading on m model to give us that sort of image that you can see now, on both occasions when we've tried this standard caves Beech, we've had fairly windy evenings, which was a little bit of a worry because we thought we might lose the vapor. It might blow away quite quickly. But I think it actually enhanced the images because the dry I swirled around a little bit and gave us a little bit more volume to the vapor. So it worked quite well, particularly with a bit of backlighting from the flash. We tried a few different variations. We had our model in different spots. We used different depth of rock pools with the dry ice. Now obviously you do need to be careful working in this sort of environment. We did the research, we made sure we were there at the low tide on a running app tied just in case we got caught if we were there for too long. So we knew that that Todd was gonna be fine. We knew that the access to the area was quite good. There's a cave that runs through the headland so that even if the water did come up and block off air passage out, we could go through that passage into the caves and come out onto the beach. So working at night is a little bit more difficult than working in the daytime, obviously because you've got no light. In a situation like this where we have slippery rocks and we have water around, we need to be doubly careful. So everybody had a torch or a headlight so that we could see where we're going. We made sure they're all turned off when we started our exposures. Now the exposures that I used in this situation, we're determined by my background sky. I wanted to get a bit of detail in the rocks and the background sky. So, uh, needed to set my camera exposure to a setting that would give me that tone in that background. Then my flash exposure was turned up or down just so that we got the balance light onto our model. You can see some of the shots that we did that they worked out quite effectively. We will be going back on another night, hopefully where we've got some still conditions to try it again, but it was quite a successful shoot both times that we did it. 6. Shooting with Dry Ice Indoors: Now you're going to see a video of a studio shoot that we did with Christa or model, where we use dry ice in a number of different situations. You'll see it in the video. So I don't need to explain it fully, but we needed to be careful with the safety concerns that I've mentioned before. We need to be careful of our models, comfort. We needed to make sure that she was safe at all times. We wanted to be sure that we got as much dry ice vapor as we could around Krista so that we got the effect that we were looking for. We tried her lying down in a little enclosed area, which you'll say, and it worked really well. We tried her sitting on a stool with the water vapor coming down because dry ice is unique in that the viper drops down. It doesn't swirl around like smoke or folk would. It drops straight down. So we could put that dry ice and the water above Christa and have that dry ice vapor come down over her face. And that work really effectively as you'll see. We also set crystal Dan on a black background and just a layout, the dry ice vapor to move around the area and to see what sort of effects we got. And that worked out quite well as well. So you'll see all of these things in this video. If you have any questions, you can always post them in the discussion section later on, but I'll see you after this video in the conclusion. 7. Indoor Shoot with Krysta and Bounced Light: Here we are in a studio where just about to do a dry offshoot with Christa model. We've got a setup over here that gives us a chorale for the dry ice. We wanted to try and contain it if we can. We're going to have crystal lying down in that wooden structure so that we are going to be able to contain the dry ice within that area. Now the main light we're doing to start with is simply a speed light bounced off the ceiling. It's a very simple lighting setup that you can do. I'm going to be up the letter shooting down on Krista. So the lots gone to becoming from behind the camera, a big soft light bounced off the ceiling. It's going to be an attractive Lloyd down onto Christa. We're going to have the dry ice vapor moving around Christa as we, as we shoot so that we can change the looks of the shot. You'll see what we do when we get started. So here we go. Turn the question. I'll just do a test. Chuck, first year Frankenstein skylight. That's looking good. Okay, lovely guys. That's great. You got crystal wonder row if I save this way for me. Yeah, that's it. Just looking straight at the camera. There we go. Maybe bring this hand up into closer to you. Just be careful with that applies to me. Straightaway. Just move a little bit closer. Focus on ours. River again. And have a little bit more dry ice. You can turn this place. She, she she has critical capacitance. It's warm. There is what's really says it's walker. Yeah. I want that expression to look mysterious. Not, not sort of bored. Or you're doing badly by a little bit more intense to the chemical. Yep. You put this other arm up. If Thanks. Tough, but then that probability weighted by the DRA Azra. Let's apply cert ties health because only one place in your car so you can get it after they like the princess will serve a dead princess. Well, if that's the look I want. Yes, exactly. That's good. You don't use it all up. Alright. Of course, ice can ever changed the hands with the button. And you may have a bit higher near her hips. As good. An arrow gets more water, please. Mix together and benefit up to strike them. That's it. Alright. Maybe she'll think they used dry ice. That depends. I used both spike machines. It's cheaper for smokestack, dropped dry ARE stays down, smoke moves up to dry. Os is easier to control plus the change in the face of a union first and then hand, it looks great. Okay. I play ice to me. Don't say anything bad about oh no, never. Let me do cool things with us. And now we'll just leave it and see how it goes in and we'll just wait till they're vapor loser. Yeah. Okay. Great. Again. And about a month to, I guess some wafting happening place? Yep. Yeah. Just a little bit there. And like comments about Christa. That's it. That's much better. Here. It. Just going to move and get some shots. Sylvia has been shown to us at the end of Christianity. Yeah. I think we should have a restaurant. When you mix water with our running, their interface to this good is still up and take a restful rule. So we'll change the sliding a little bit. 8. Indoor shoot with Krysta and Directional Light: The SIP. Good. Yep. Yep. That looks great. To me all the time. Yeah. Good. Play a hand down in the viper if you can. Yeah, so good. That hand up close and to face. It will sing another day. But it is another time. You're looking forward to the bubbles were because to me, yeah. Yep. It instead eyes to me. I really look just down there for me. They're throwing first serves as the controller or a restaurant worker who told her good. Yeah. I refer to them and they're like, oh, I got my wife and daughter and choking out. Yes. Fearful. Right than n DNS. I'm so excited. Flowing pressure up just right to feel good. Now has to make this turn. Can look over towards vaccine closures. Closure idea. To gradually open again. To make that large working well, it looks a little bit different to the other lot. Strictly front on. Ok. That's it. There. Okay. At the end of the Latvia, yep. Alright. So as to make them heavily. 9. Dry Ice Head Shots with Krysta: Now we've changed our situation. We've got Krista sitting down on a stool here. We've changed our apparatus as well. We've got a box up here, packaging box with a slip cut in the front of it. And we've hung it on this boom so that we can get this IS training down onto crystal, over her face and over her her body. We pour some warm water into the top. We've already got some dry ice in there. It will come down over Christa, and we just shoot as we get through. Now, I need to shoot reasonably quickly because the ice vapor is moving around all the time. So I need to try and get crystals eyes visible in the shot. So I'm shooting quite quickly and I'm shooting a lot of shots just so that I can make sure that I've got a couple of the work. We've also got a backlog here. We've got a flash that's lighting the backs of crystals here and launching that vipers wealth. Plus I've got a blue Jill on a flash on the background coming up from down low. So that's showing a bit of blue onto the background. We've got the background light, we've got the backlog and crystals here, and we've got a frontline with a soft box to light her face. So we'll do a few more shots so you can see what we get is come forward a little bit. Yep. Just funny on the edge here. Did say it. Shane rich too quick for that backlight. I don't get it every now and again. Yep. Maybe two hands up beside your fascia. Split. Right? Come forward a fraction. Yes. Hello and welcome to mentor-ship. Yes. Spoke up here with kitchen if ice to me. Alright. That looks awesome. Mexico. Ascribed. Now we're just going to finish off and use some of those flowers at great depth effective column back closer to your face if you can't get maybe fast forward for the rocket. Yep. Yep. Here's how we might do, I think is sit you on a lower chair so that, that vapor might spread out a little bit as a stamp it further. Maybe cefazolin following his theories and that's it. Yep. Because it made me closer to your face are still wanna say when I made the flowers and clostridia species. Can describe. Yeah. That's right. Yeah. I can sit on that. I see look as failed intimate, close off, Young's facing this way, we'll isolate the tape. Right? Okay. Wonderful. Alright, thank you for that. Now we're going to just finish off with some shots on the ground and we're gonna put the paper around Jason. 10. Vapour shots on the floor with Krysta: But we need not, not so high because we've got a gap a gap between the double bubble toil and trouble. Historian. Okay. Yep. Okay. Depth starts Brian. Good science to make Chris Gaia, right? I downloaded. Yep. Good. Alright, and vector. Again, that's not looking too bad. So Crystal, Can we get you down on your elbows so the lecturer, Lucas, more extended? Yep. Okay. And we just yet and I just move it up a bit sauce behind crystals off a body. And we'll need to move the flash across to Adam place. If further. Yeah, that's it. Yep. Flashback as far as it can concede, probably. Yeah. Okay. That's good. You know, it's pointing at this slide, Stan. Okay. And you're asked to me and I'll just shoot down on crystallizing. And although certainly doesn't know what to do. And we bring that handout in front. Yeah. Good. Alright. I we still got maximum stuff in there and say, okay, we'll do some more study. Yep. Again, that flesh enough ice, but that's okay. So that's a wrap. We did some really good shots tonight with the dry ice is a difficult thing to arrange to sort out with everybody here, but we had a lot of helpers. So that might've much easier. Crystal was fantastic and the shots we got some great shots of her. How did you find it? Was good, I guess like maybe something for your models. When you have to think cautious like tiny and putting faces into the ice and then make the odds what are actually kinda hurts when you get downloaded to inhale a bit. Like it's a good it's a good thing, but just be cautious so that when you are doing like, you know, sometimes you're going to be hiring people to come in and do it. And you can just courses for them to say that you know what, you know what you're doing and safety is a major factor. Otherwise, we gotta look after her modals, make sure that they're safe. But it's a great technique to try. Just check out the safety factors first and make sure you do it well. Okay, we'll see you in the next class. 11. Wrap up: So as you've seen, dry ice and dry ice vapor can lift your images up to a new level. It can give them a quality that you can't get any other way. So experiment with it, be careful with it because of the safety concerns, but it should be quite safe as long as you're careful and follow the safety concerns that I've mentioned in this video. I hope you've enjoyed this video. I hope it spurred you on to do new and creative things. I hope you'll post some projects and some discussion in the discussion sections of this video. I look forward to seeing you in our next class. Bye for now.