Guide to Smoke Bomb Photography

Smoke-bomb-photography-trinity-kubassek

Have you seen smoke bomb pictures online and wondered how you could make them? Then you’re in the right place!

Smoke bomb photography is trending on social media, and it has become popular amongst wedding photographers and other events because they level up the production value.

Since smoke bombs are pyrotechnic, you must know how to handle them, where to use them, and the risks.

I’ll tell you about all these technical issues in this guide, and I’ll give you some great smoke bomb photography ideas to get you on your way.

If you’re ready to plan your first smoke bomb photoshoot, let’s dive in!

What do you Need for Smoke Bomb Photography?

 
  • One or more smoke bombs (we recommend this brand)
  • A lighter or matches (if the bomb doesn’t have a wire or ring pull)
  • Your lighting gear
  • Camera or smartphone
  • Tripod
  • Fire extinguisher
  • First aid kit
  • A metal container or bucket
  • Water

How to Choose the Right Smoke Bombs for your Photoshoot

There are many smoke bombs in the market. To choose the right product for your smoke bomb photos, you need to consider your budget, expertise and the effect that you’re going for.

Here are the factors you need to decide on:

  • Presentation: To make smoke bomb photography, you can choose amongst smoke grenades, smoke sticks, smoke cans, smoke tubes with single or double vents, smoke clouds, etc. – each one creates different smoke trails.
  • Ignition: The easiest and safest type of activation is the ring or wire pull – they are a bit more expensive. Otherwise, you’ll need a lighter.
  • Duration: this refers to when the smoke is visible – normally, this can be between 40 to 90 seconds.
  • Density: with this, you control the visual effect on your photo – are you looking for a foggy effect or a dense opaque coverage?

With those 4 factors in mind, you’ll be able to buy smoke bombs with confidence.

What are the Best Photography Smoke Bombs?

Shutter Bombs is a premium brand with top of the line smoke bomb and smoke grenade products.

The bombs activate with a pull-wire which makes them very safe and easy to use.

All the burning happens inside the tube, so they’re comfortable to handle – make sure you take all the precautionary measures anyway to avoid burns.

The prices are very accessible, especially if you buy one of the multiple packs they offer. They have a refund policy for any defective products, and a full refund can be requested if the order hasn’t been shipped.

Enola Gaye – this British based company makes wire-pull smoke bombs in many colors for amateur and professional use (keep in mind that professional use products usually require a permit before using them for smoke bomb photos). They also sell noise and fragmentation devices.

Peacock Smoke – This is another popular brand for photographers as they have a wide variety of colors, and you can buy them in different packs for a better deal – the smoke bombs and smoke grenades are wire-activated. The downside is that all sales are final –  you can’t get a refund on any product.

9 Tips for Running a Succesful Smoke Bomb Photoshoot

1. Safety first

Credit: Kara Muse

For a smoke bomb photography shoot to be a successful one, it needs to be safe. You don’t want to end up having to call the fire department or getting a fine because you violated any local regulations!

So, first of all, get informed about what you can and can’t do. Also, avoid holding the photoshoot close to flammable materials or a place where it could easily start a fire – for example, the forest during the dry season.

Don’t pull the ring towards your face or body – always away from you and never point it directly at people, since smoke grenades can burn the skin.

When the smoke stops, it doesn’t mean it’s all over. The bomb continues to generate heat so, make sure you pour some water on it and then put it in a metal bucket or container.

In any case, always bring a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit with you.

2. Try it out beforehand

Credit: Ilya Shakir

Smoke bomb photography is not difficult, but it can be a little tricky at first. You need to get a feel on how quickly the smoke releases, how fast you need to move it, how to light it, and the best camera settings.

Usually it’s your shutter speed you’ll need to experiment with, to take advantage of how the smoke billows, but aperture plays an important factor too to ensure you get everything in focus.

If you’re going to take smoke bomb photos at a wedding or an important one-time event, you should definitely practice first.

Make sure you do some test shots in another location before the actual smoke bomb photoshoot.

3. Bring some extra smoke bombs

Credit: Cleyder Duque

Smoke bomb photography isn’t an exact science. It will take a few tests to get the desired result, especially if it’s a windy day. Make sure you bring enough color smoke bombs to get the best shots.

If you’ve been shopping for a budget smoke bomb, there’s always a risk of getting a faulty product.

However, if you stick with recognized brands – like the ones recommended in this article, the risk is less, but it still could happen. It’s better to pack some extra smoke sticks just in case.

4. Watch out for the weather

Credit: Aziz Acharki

Smoke photography depends a lot on the weather – especially on the wind. If you’re looking for a surreal and mellow look, you want the smoke to diffuse as much as possible to create a misty effect. On a windy day, this is what you’ll get – if there isn’t wind, you can try using a fan to create a light breeze.

If instead, you want a dense smoke cloud – you don’t want any wind, so all smoke emitted can billow around and engulf the subject.

Another important issue with about the weather regards the rain. During the dry season, there’s a lot more risk of accidental fires – so you should limit your locations to urban settings, for example.

5. Choose the right color

Credit: Rahul Pandit

When you buy colored smoke bombs, make sure you think about the atmosphere that you want to create.

Also, consider the colors from the background and your model’s clothing – you want your smoke bomb pictures to pop.

You can also consider using two or three bombs with different colors at the same time – if you’re feeling really arty, select triadic colors.

Most brands offer single products or packages, including more than one color.

6. Make the most of your lighting

Credit: Tom Roberts

To really make your colorful smoke pop, you want to have good lighting. Sunlight at noon or any other hard light created with flash or strobes makes a really nice effect.

Light is also important because you want enough of it to be able to use fast shutter speeds to capture the details.

If you use a slower shutter speed, then you’ll get a completely different effect – more like a fog.

7. Get ready before you activate the smoke flares

Credit: Nicolas Postiglioni

Most smoke bombs for photography have a short burn time. Depending on the type and the brand, the smoke effect will last between 40 and 90 seconds.

To avoid wasting any time, make sure you have the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod, and you have all the settings adjusted. Check the lighting and pose your model, everything you need to get the perfect shot.

Once you have all of that, you can pull the wire or light the smoke bomb and start taking pictures.

Why set up on a tripod? Well, if you aren’t using an assistant, it’s a good idea to make yourself available just in case anything goes wrong.

You can trigger your camera remotely or set a timer – this will allow you to be closer to your subject, just out of shot.

8. Give clear instructions to your models

Credit: Yury Orlov

Smoke bombs are pyrotechnic devices that need to be handled with precaution. Make your model aware of any risks involved in this type of photoshoot and ask them if they agree.

Also, have them well informed of where you’re going to position the smoke bomb or grenade so they can keep a safe distance. As you activate the bomb, always do it away from the model’s face.

If you’re going to ask models to handle the smoke bombs, make sure you clearly explain how to do it to stay safe and make sure that they hold it from the base where it’s cooler.

Let them know how to treat the bomb when the smoke finishes, and how they should never put it down on the ground – especially if there’s grass or something that can catch on fire, put the used smoke bombs in a metal bucket instead.

Also, instruct your model on how to move. Depending on the effect you’re looking for, you’ll get better results with slow motions instead of a fast shake. Try out different techniques to find which one works best for you.

9. Experiment with other subjects

Credit: Nathan J Hilton

Even if portraits are the most common subjects on smoke bomb photography, experiment with still life, abstract photography, conceptual photos and landscapes.

There are lots of possibilities to try out with the average smoke bomb, so give free rein to your creativity!

How to Manage the Risks of Smoke Bomb Photography

Are Smoke Bombs Dangerous? Not if you use them sensibly. If you stick with the brands recommended in this guide, they’re usually non-toxic, but their smoke should never be inhaled.

In addition, there’s also a risk of fire and burns unless you’re using a cool burning smoke bomb. Let’s take a look at some other safety tips.

  • Store the bombs properly, especially in a dry place, to avoid malfunctions.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher at hand.
  • Use them where there’s nothing flammable.
  • Pour some water on it after you’re finished, and then dispose of it on a metal container until you’re sure they are off and cold.
  • While in use, never point it directly at someone’s face or body to avoid burns.
  • Don’t inhale the smoke.
  • Keep a first aids kit with you.

Smoke Grenade & Smoke Bomb FAQs

Are smoke bombs for photography illegal?

If you’re over 18, they are legal to buy and use in most places, but you should check with the local authorities because they are considered a pyrotechnic device. Also, ask for permission if you’re working on a location. Make sure you don’t break any laws indirectly, for example, creating a disturbance in a crowded place.

Do smoke bombs ruin clothes?

The color smoke from the bomb could stain your clothes if they are too close. However, it’s more likely that you stain them with your hands with the dye that remains from handling the bomb – so make sure you have an old rag to wipe yourself off.

How long does a smoke bomb last?

It might change from brand to brand – normally the effect lasts a maximum of 90 seconds. Keep in mind that on a windy day, the smoke dissipates faster.

Do smoke bombs leave a mess?

You need to dispose of the color bomb properly. You can’t leave it around – not only because it’s littering but also because they remain hot and can continue to heat up even after the smoke is visible.

Do smoke bombs smell?

Yes, they have a sulfur smell – like fireworks.

Are smoke bombs loud?

Some of them are very loud, while others make a hissing noise.

What is used for making smoke bombs?

You can check the components of the specific smoke bomb before you use it, but normally they have an oxidizer, a fuel, a moderator and an organic dye if it’s a colored smoke bomb.

Final Words

Now that you know all the tips and tricks, it’s time for you to take some smoke bomb photos. Be safe and have fun!

Ana Mireles is a Mexican researcher that specializes in photography and communications for the arts and culture sector.

1 Comment

  1. Ana on July 2, 2021 at 4:55 pm

    Thanks for reading my article – let me know if you have any questions.

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