Amp Your Backlight with a Cheapo, Disposable Fog Machine

Yesterday, I spent most of the afternoon cruising my local big orange store for an upcoming "Home Depot" week here on Strobist. Yep, a whole week of cheapskate, hardware-themed DIY fun.

The goal is to have the posts pre-written for late October, so I will not have to spend my entire week in Paris attached to a laptop. I have long since considered HD as tightwad photo gear heaven. Given that, I walked in with notebook and pen in hand, ready to scrounge. Two hours later I walked out with a cool list and more new ideas than I could shake a stick at.

But this particular find was too perishable to hold until late October. Get the full details on the dirt-cheap fog machine after the jump.

(Cool, fogged-up backlit photo by mwreeve)

1983 Called. They'd Like Their Lighting Back.

Nothing makes hard, strobed backlight look cooler than a bunch of smoky fog wafting around, making those cool beams and layered tones. A little '80's if done too over-the-top. But lotsa possibilities, all the same. Sadly, the professional model fog machines are mid-three digits to start.

Fortunately, America's insatiable appetite for tacky, over-the-top Halloween decor is your temporary ticket to a fog machine for just $29.95. But as you might imagine, at that price there are catches.

Number one, they won't be around long. HD has them in the pagan holiday tacky decor section. And that opportunity is fleeting, for obvious reasons. You can also apparently get them at Wal*Mart, Michaels, and a few other companies I have never heard of. Ditto the Halloween-themed, fly-by-night stores at your local mall.

Number two, at $29.95 it does not come with the water-based fog fluid. So that'll set you back a few more bucks.

Finally, (and this is why I refer to it as "disposable,") the fluid can reportedly sometimes get too thick and gum up the machine. But it is water based, so my game plan is to dilute it a little with water and thicken it back up juuuust until I get decent fog. (I like to tinker.)

In fact, your local Home Depot may or may not carry the fog fluid just for that reason. So call around to find out who has the whole set before you waste the gas.

UPDATE: Check out the anti-clogging solution by RootyB in the comments.

Hey, it's $29.95. If it holds up for one good shoot it's worth it for a chance to play with smoky backlight. (I'll bet Keith Taylor would have liked to have it for that fireman shot.)

(Fog Machine Product Page, at


New to Strobist? Start here | Or jump right to Lighting 101
Connect w/Strobist readers via: Words | Photos
Got a question? Hit me on Twitter: @Strobist
Grab your passport: Strobist Destination Workshops