Looking to capture incredible fog photos? I can help.
For most photographers, nothing compares to shooting in the fog. The mysterious shapes, the silky textures, the ethereal light – it’s a uniquely magical experience, and it’s a recipe for breathtaking photos.
But capturing stunning fog photography isn’t always easy. Fog can be unpredictable, it can cause focusing and sharpness issues, and it generally appears during camera-shake-promoting low-light conditions. To create the best fog photos – the kind that you’ll often find hanging on gallery walls – you need a well-planned approach. You should set out during the right conditions, use the optimal gear, choose the perfect settings, and more.
Fortunately, as a veteran fog photographer, I’ve developed plenty of strategies to ensure that you can capture consistently great shots in the fog. And in this article, I share my 13 best tips – so if you’re ready to start creating ethereal, mysterious images, then let’s dive right in, starting with:
1. Predict the fog before it happens
What’s the most challenging part of fog photography? Finding the fog, of course! In many areas, fog is a rare occurrence – and you, as a photographer, have no control over the weather. So you need to learn to predict fog in advance; that way, you’re in a position to capture beautiful compositions when the right conditions occur.
The simplest way to anticipate fog is to check the weather. Fog happens almost exclusively in the morning, so before you head to bed each night, take a quick look at your favorite weather app. Scroll through the hourly predictions for the next morning, and if you see the “fog” icon, choose a good location, set your alarm clock, and make sure you set off in the dark.
Another option is to wake up before the sun rises and look outside for foggy conditions (assuming, of course, that you plan to shoot near your house). The problem with this approach is that fog can burn off quickly, and by the time you’ve determined that fog is present, you may have missed the main event.
A third (and better) strategy is to learn to predict fog in advance. If you can understand the conditions that lead to fog, you can be prepared, no matter what the weather forecasters say. In particular, fog often occurs when:
- The ground is wet (due to the previous day’s rain)
- The temperatures are low
- The wind is weak
- Skies are relatively clear
Make sure you pay special attention to the weather in late fall, winter, and early spring. While fog technically can occur at any time of the year, it happens far more regularly during the cooler seasons.
Pro tip: If you have a specific shot in mind and want to check the progress of the fog, see if you can monitor it using public webcams. That way, you can see exactly how the fog looks and whether it’ll work for the image you want to capture.
2. Bring a tripod and a remote release
Since fog often occurs at sunrise and because fog tends to heavily diffuse the ambient light, you should definitely expect darker conditions. The darker the scene, the lower you’ll need to drop your shutter speed – so to prevent camera shake, make sure you carry both a tripod and a remote release.
The tripod will keep your camera steady at shutter speeds of 1/60s and below. (It also comes in handy if you plan to capture long-exposure fog shots, which I highly recommend; see the tips presented elsewhere in this article!) And the remote release will prevent camera shake when you press the shutter button. (It isn’t a requirement – you can use your camera’s two-second self-timer instead – but a remote release can make your shooting process faster and more precise.)
By the way, make sure you lock up the mirror before shooting (if you’re using a DSLR). And regardless of your camera model, use the electronic front-curtain shutter mode to prevent shutter-induced vibrations.
3. Use manual focus and a narrow aperture
Getting sharp shots in the fog can be tough. That’s why I encourage you to switch off your camera’s autofocus and instead rely on manual focusing, especially if you’re planning to do foggy landscape photography. Otherwise, your camera’s AF system will struggle to focus in the low-contrast environment, and you may end up deeply frustrated.
Alternatively, you can use your camera’s AF to lock on the highest-contrast portion of the scene, then twist your lens’s focus ring to fine-tune the point of focus.
I’d also encourage you to shoot with a narrow aperture. The narrower the aperture, the deeper the depth of field, which is essential if you want to maintain sharpness from the foreground to the (foggy) background.
Plus, a deeper depth of field offers more leeway in case you accidentally focus in front of or behind your subject. A good starting point is f/8, but you can always narrow the aperture farther if you’re dealing with an especially deep scene and/or need more room for error.
Note that a narrower aperture will reduce the amount of light hitting the camera sensor, so you will need to reduce the shutter speed – but as long as you’re using a tripod (see the previous tip!) you should be just fine.
4. Try a minimalistic approach
Fog does more than just add a mysterious touch to a landscape. It’s a natural tool for creating negative space, which in turn allows you to simplify the scene and place the focus on your subject. In other words, you can use the fog as a blank canvas to create beautiful minimalistic shots.
But how exactly does this work? In minimalism, the goal is to lean into the empty, negative space – but then include a clear main subject somewhere within the scene. So by surrounding your main subject with pure expanses of fog, you direct the viewer’s gaze to what really matters.
Note that negative space doesn’t just simplify photos; it adds a layer of emotion. By using fog to eliminate distracting details, you can evoke feelings of mystery, solitude, or even tranquillity. The emptiness around the subject adds a powerful atmosphere and as a result, the entire image benefits.
You don’t have to stop at simply isolating your subject. Fog gives you a chance to experiment with abstract compositions, too. By getting in close, especially in areas with heavy fog, shapes and silhouettes can become exciting elements to play with. A lone tree branch in the fog or a building surrounded by mist can result in a minimalistic geometry that makes for beautiful abstract photos.
Bottom line: When the fog comes, try a minimalistic approach. Focus on the simple yet striking elements of your scene. Let the fog guide your eye, and create compositions that you might otherwise have overlooked.
5. Get above the fog
If you want to capture breathtaking foggy landscape shots, instead of working from within the fog, see if you can rise above it. Search out various overlooks, make sure you’re in position as the sun rises, then photograph the fog as it sweeps across trees and buildings:
If you’re in the right place at the right time, you might even get to capture sunlight hitting the fog from above, which can look positively wondrous.
And if you’re serious about high-angle fog photography, consider purchasing a drone. That way, you can capture gorgeous shots whether or not you have access to a good vantage point.
One more tip: If you do work from above the fog, you’ll often run into high dynamic range scenes, which many cameras struggle to capture. Make sure you shoot a series of bracketed images; that way, if the dynamic range does prove to be too much, you can always blend several shots in post-processing for a well-exposed final result.
6. Take steps to protect your gear
Fog is more than a beautiful photographic subject; it’s also water. It can seep into your equipment and cause damage such as corrosion or mold. You might think a weather-sealed camera and lens are immune, but no weather-sealing is perfect and even the most rugged gear can be susceptible to fog-related damage.
So here’s a simple rule to follow: When photographing fog, keep your camera in your bag until you’re ready to use it. It’s all about limiting exposure to moisture.
Additionally, silica gel is something you should always have in your camera bag. You can find it online or (if you ask nicely!) acquire some from local shoe stores. By placing several packets throughout the compartments of your bag, you can absorb any moisture that your gear brings into the backpack.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to replace or regenerate the silica gel regularly, because it can get oversaturated and stop working. And by the way, keeping silica gel on hand isn’t just about fog photography; it’s also useful for photographing in tropical areas, in the rain, or even in the snow. Plus, its benefits can extend to other sensitive accessories like memory cards and batteries.
Finally, when you get home from a morning photographing fog, let your camera bag air out. Placing your gear in an airtight container with a few silica gel packets is also a wise choice.
And if you find yourself photographing in moist conditions regularly, consider investing in a dry cabinet. It may seem like a lot, but bad weather can genuinely damage equipment, and taking these precautions is how you can keep your gear operating smoothly for years to come.
7. Don’t forget about the ordinary subjects
Fog has a way of turning ordinary scenes into something spectacular. So while you can capture more traditional subjects on foggy days – such as seascapes and skyscrapers – you can also take a second look at the everyday, the boring, and the cliché.
For instance, you can get great shots simply by heading to your local park and photographing trees, cattails, and fields. Or you can take a walk through your neighborhood streets and point your camera at fog-shrouded streetlights, houses, and cars.
On a related note, you can use fog to capture original images of frequently photographed locations. Everyone photographs the Golden Gate Bridge, but the Golden Gate Bridge plus some morning fog can lead to unique (and spectacular) shots:
8. Use a neutral density filter
Neutral density filters are designed to block out light. Put a strong ND filter over your lens, and you can drop the shutter speed to 1/10s, 1s, and even several minutes without issue – even if you’re working in brighter conditions.
Why is this useful for fog photography? Well, if you can slow down your shutter speed, you can capture smooth, silky fog that looks incredible in landscape shots. Long-exposure fog appears like waves of water:
Note that ND filters come in many different strengths, and you’ll need to choose your filter based on the time of day and the lighting conditions. If you’re shooting before the sun has crested the horizon, you’ll probably need a relatively weak filter (or no filter at all). But if you’re working from above the fog and the sun is bright, you may want to bring out a 10-stop or even 15-stop filter.
Pro tip: When you’re working with an ND filter, make sure you set up your composition and focus carefully before slotting the filter onto your lens. Strong ND filters are extremely dark, so by taking such an approach, you can make sure the shot looks great while the scene is still visible in your camera viewfinder.
9. Shoot in the fall
Have you ever noticed how fog seems to go hand-in-hand with the fall season? Autumn is a magical time for fog photography, and it’s not just because fog is often generated by cooler temperatures. The combination of a foggy mood with the rich colors of fall leaves makes for genuinely breathtaking shots.
In addition to the colors, autumn offers unique subjects that pair well with the fog ambiance. Falling leaves, harvest themes, withering plants, and Halloween vibes all go great with fog, due to the sense of nostalgia, the emphasis on endings, and even the spookiness.
So when fall rolls around, make sure you take advantage of any foggy days! To get started, try photographing in forests when fall colors are at their peak and see how the combination of gray fog and colorful leaves creates visually striking images.
Additionally, think about the specific details that come alive in the fall. Dew-kissed spider webs, mist-covered fields, and solitary structures all take on a unique beauty in the fog. Allow the combination of fog and fall to guide your creative eye, and capture some wonderful – and wonderfully moody! – images.
10. Try a mix of wide-angle and telephoto fog compositions
Wide-angle lenses are most photographers’ go-to for fog shots, and understandably so: the sweeping views you can achieve with these lenses are often instantly arresting to the viewer. In other words, a wide-angle perspective can capture the grandeur of a fog-covered landscape in a way that’s both breathtaking and immersive.
But don’t let your fog photography start and end with wide-angle compositions. Telephoto lenses may not be the most obvious choice to capture a foggy forest, but trust me when I say that they offer a wonderful perspective.
In particular, telephoto focal lengths – in the 70-200mm range – are perfect for more intimate fog images. Try focusing on specific details like a lone tree standing in a foggy field or the delicate dew on a spider web. At 200mm, you can isolate the subjects among the fog and create a powerful composition that draws the viewer in.
You can also capture photos of distant landscapes using a 70-200mm lens. These longer focal lengths can compress space, making the fog appear denser and giving your landscape shots an enhanced level of moodiness:
And, above all, don’t be afraid to experiment with different focal lengths. Mix wide-angle with telephoto shots. Try working with a standard 50mm lens. Try different perspectives. Each approach will offer unique shots of the fog, resulting in a rich and diverse collection of images!
11. Experiment with different shutter speeds
While I’ve spent time discussing the benefits of long-exposure techniques for fog photography, it’s important to avoid keeping the shutter open for too long. Because while lengthy shutter speeds can certainly create stunning ethereal effects, they can also make the fog lose its shape and turn into a flat mess.
That’s why I encourage you to experiment with different shutter speeds whenever possible. If you’re confronted by a foggy scene and you have the time, test out a few different settings, then view the results on your LCD. Sometimes, you might like the slower version – but other times, the faster version will look the best!
And don’t shy away from relatively quick shutter speeds, either. A fast shutter speed – such as 1/60s or even 1/125s – will give the fog more texture, which can also look great.
12. Keep photographing until the fog is gone
Fog is an ever-changing phenomenon. One moment it’s dense and mysterious; the next, it’s lifting to reveal a spectacular landscape. So don’t pack up your camera just because the fog seems to be lifting. Keep seeking out compositions, keep shooting, and you might just be rewarded with some stunning scenes.
As the fog fades, you’ll need to keep an eye on your camera settings, as it can be easy to accidentally overexpose your shots as the sunlight starts to shine through. You can also try different camera settings to explore unique effects. Don’t be afraid to adjust your aperture or exposure as the light changes with the fog’s movements!
Patience is a real virtue in fog photography. Keep your camera at the ready and watch as the various stages of a foggy cityscape or landscape unfold. You never know when a truly once-in-a-lifetime scene will present itself, especially at sunrise or sunset as beams of light break through the foggy environment.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to check a weather app on your phone every hour or so. It can provide valuable information about the fog’s potential movements and density. The more adaptable you can be, the more you’ll maximize the potential of a foggy day!
13. Edit your fog photos for the best results
If you’re serious about creating top-notch fog photos, editing shouldn’t just be seen as a method for correcting poorly captured images; instead, view it as a way to take a great image and make it truly spectacular. Get in the habit of sorting through your images after every shoot, identifying your best files, and then spending time editing each one.
Start by experimenting with basic adjustments like contrast, exposure, and white balance. These tweaks can keep the colors and details looking natural, and they can also help balance the emptiness of the shot with the main subject to create a more compelling composition.
Local adjustments such as dodging and burning can accentuate details in the fog. They can even be used to add depth to the fog itself, and while you’ll need to build up the adjustments slowly and subtly, the results can be spectacular.
Color grading is another creative tool at your disposal. Enhance the mood of the foggy scene by playing with different color tones. The right hue can elevate the emotions and atmosphere captured in your image, so take your time to find what resonates.
And no matter what, don’t shy away from trying something new. While there are standard adjustments that are frequently effective, you can never know for certain what will really level up a fog shot.
Remember, you don’t need to be a Photoshop wizard to make these changes. Many beginner-friendly tools – like Lightroom and Luminar – can help you achieve professional results. The key is to practice, play around, and most of all, have fun with the process. Your fog photographs will only get better as you grow more comfortable with editing.
Fog photography tips: final words
Fog photography is an incredible opportunity to stretch your creative muscles, and by following the simple guidelines I’ve laid out, you’ll find yourself producing gorgeous shots that really do communicate the mood and feel of a foggy scene.
And keep in mind that you don’t need to be a professional or own the latest gear to capture great shots. All you need is your passion, a sense of adventure, and the willingness to see the world through a foggy lens.
Even if you struggle at first, don’t give up. Refer back to this article, figure out what you need to do to improve your results, and keep shooting!
What subjects do you plan to shoot in the fog? Will you do foggy landscapes? Foggy portraits? Foggy street photos? Share your thoughts (and images) in the comments below!