Smoke bombs are the real deal if you want to transform your photos into an explosion of colors.
Smoke bomb photography is an exciting technique that is trending in photography. Many use them to elevate the quality of wedding and portrait photography. Professional photographers use colored smoke grenades to create spectacular effects in their photoshoots.
Want to know how to produce incredible photos using colorful smoke bombs? Continue reading.
In this article, I am going to give you a complete description of this photography style. You will learn how to use smoke bombs to add color and intrigue to your images. I will share some helpful tips, the best smoke bomb out there on the market, and precautions to take when using them.
You can use the Table of Contents to move through the various sections of this post.
What is Smoke Bomb Photography?
Smoke bomb photography is a shooting technique that enhances your images with the use of smoke bombs.
This photography technique adds life to your photos. Create an unforgettable atmosphere in your images with the use of smoke. You will see the effects in your various pictures. Imagine a photo with colorful smoke blowing across a street as your model emerges from it. Visualize a portraiture peeking out of colored smoke. You can use smoke bombs in any type of photo you can think of. Many use it for wedding photos, landscape pictures, or events such as gender reveals. Check also our recent article on smoke art.
Compose your photos by adding a blast of color and texture to your background to create that wow effect.
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The Basics of Smoke Bomb Photography
Smoke grenade photography requires preparation and attention to detail to maintain a high level of safety. Lack of caution can be dangerous, causing a fire if not used according to the directions. A tragic example is the El Dorado Fire in California in 2020. This forest fire began at a gender reveal party where they used a “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device.”
It is imperative that photographers first learn the basics of using smoke bombs. After doing this, they can venture into being as creative as they want. It is vital that all those involved in the photoshoot are aware of the possible risks. This would include the models, who may be the ones holding the device during the shoot.
Here are a few crucial points and terminologies that you need to know before getting started with smoke bomb photography:
Smoke Bomb Mechanism
Smoke bombs work the same way as fireworks or flares.
You have to fire them up. You will do so by pulling out an attached ring known as a WP (wire-pull). The bomb will then deploy sparks and smoke of different colors or a single color through a hole at the top of the can.
Wire Pull (WP)
The wire-pull or WP is a ring that you have to pull for the bomb to blow out smoke. How do you do this safely? Hold the can away from your face and body, then pull at the ring to the side, not up.
Bursts refer to the types of smoke bombs that send the smoke out at both ends. You use them if you want a more impressive photo session, but, unfortunately, they last only half the time.
“Cool burning” smoke grenades are easier to hold because the temperature is lower. When it comes to fire risks, they are also safer. You can read more here.
Legality of Smoke Bombs in Public Places
Check with your local authorities on the legality of using smoke bombs in public spaces. It would be best to do this because using smoke bombs may cause a fire or be a cause for alarm.
People could also get very uncomfortable when they see smoke billowing out. Thus, it would be best if you got clearance before using smoke bombs in your photoshoots.
Secure Smoke Bombs Could Still Be Dangerous
Smoke bombs marked as secure could still pose some danger. When you pull out the WP, the bomb will release some sparks, which could hurt your models, damage their clothes, or, worse, cause a fire.
The packaging warns that users should wear protective gear, such as goggles and gloves. You can then ignite the bomb, keeping it away from your model’s body and clothes.
Also, avoid using them near flammable items or substances.
How to Find the Right Smoke Bombs
Finding the ideal smoke bomb for your photoshoots depends on your photography needs.
Before jumping to buy the best smoke grenade brands, there are a few things to consider:
Smoke bombs come in different styles, names, and designs. These include smoke cans, smoke grenades, and colored smoke sticks. Activated some by pulling the WP ring, while others need a lighter.
You will notice that the cool burning grenades are safer to hold when ignited. You can put the type that heats up on the ground until you feel comfortable handling it.
Burn Duration and Amount of Smoke
Some smoke bombs emit smoke from both ends. These release plenty of smoke but burn out faster than standard smoke sticks. Others spew out a small amount of smoke but last twice as long as regular bombs (70 – 90 seconds). Please note that some smoke bombs continue to heat up even after they are empty. That is why having water nearby may be a good idea.
Ease of use
The smoke bomb that you buy should not be difficult to use. It should not be hard to pull out the ring or ignite the bomb, and you or your staff would not need any training. Under ideal conditions, it should allow you to capture the best moments.
Prices of smoke bombs start as low as $7 per piece, with the somewhat more expensive bomb going for as much as $30. Considering this, it is always wise to shop around to find the right smoke bombs that fit your budget.
Where to Buy Smoke Bombs for Photography
After some research, I found that the best brand you can find online is Enola Gaye. Its initial use was for paintball and airsoft games. It was not too long before it became the go-to brand of photographers, film, and TV productions because of the quality and safety.
Enola Gaye smoke bombs have all the features I mentioned above – WP rings, cool-burning sticks, and they last for about 90 seconds.
Please note: I’m NOT affiliated to Enolagaye and I DON’T earn a commission if you buy their products.
I am an Amazon affiliate partner. While preparing this article, I could not find smoke grenades with positive reviews on the Amazon website. So at this point, I would not recommend getting your smoke bomb from Amazon. Once I find better quality smoke bombs on Amazon, I will update this post. I invite you to leave a suggestion in the comments below.
Best Smoke Bombs Photography Tips
Finally, I will include some helpful tips, so you get the most out of your smoke bomb photoshoots.
Choose the Right Location
The location is everything when it comes to smoke bomb photography.
The location is everything when it comes to smoke bomb photography. Avoid choosing a crowded area, and make sure there are no fire dangers around you.
The ideal environment should be quiet, safe, and have proper lighting with little to no wind. You do not need to set up an expensive lighting system; the sun is adequate to create a splendid backlight for your shots.
If you have strobe lights for portraits, use them to add more excitement to your photographs.
Plan Ahead Your Colored Smoke Photoshoots
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
Setting up smoke bomb photography can be a pricey venture (time, hiring a model, location, props, etc.). Though smoke bombs seem inexpensive, an ill-planned photoshoot can end up costing you a lot more money. Keeping this in mind, professionals recommend that you plan and practice your shots before using the bombs.
Have your model practice the poses and movements he/she will do when using the smoke bomb. Take some shots to understand what you will shoot, the lens adjustments you will make, and how you will later compose the photos. Doing this will allow you to capture the best images without wasting your smoke bombs.
Use the Smoke as Background
Smoke bombs and grenades can create great backgrounds and produce magical effects.
To use smoke as a background, your models have to hold the bomb and direct some smoke behind them. Alternatively, you may set the bomb on the ground behind your models before shooting your images.
Use the Right Props in Your Smoke Bomb Photos
For interesting smoke bomb photos, consider adding some props to the scene.
For instance, you can consider placing a smoke bomb inside a prop and ask your model to hold it. Using an item for the smoke bomb will add a new, exciting element to the scene for impeccable smoke bomb pictures.
Smoke Cloud Effect
The model can stand still for a few seconds, smoke grenade billowing in front of him/her. When the smoke is right, then he/she will walk forward through the cloud of smoke to create a surreal mood.
Colored Smoke Movement
To create thicker smoke trails, your model or assistant will slowly move the bomb in the desired motion.
The best lighting is undeniably the sunlight. You may shoot your smoke bomb photos during the golden hour to add a natural, soft glow to your portraiture.
When you need night photos, why not consider using brightly colored smoke bombs? They will give you those creatively stunning pictures.
If you want to use artificial lights consider bringing some strobe lights for portraits.
Smoke Bomb Photography Frequently Asked Questions
Are smoke bombs for photography illegal?
In most countries, smoke bombs are illegal in public places. It is best to inform the local authorities if you want to use smoke bombs in parks or public areas in general.
It is not against the law to buy them or use them in private spaces as long as you are over 18. If you do not damage other people’s properties and do not disturb others, you can fire off that smoke bomb.
What is the fire risk of using smoke grenades?
You have to be aware of the location where you’re shooting. Woodlands or dry bush areas demand particular attention. It is wise to stay away from such places to avoid causing fires that could very well get out of control.
Shooting in the snow or at the beach, close to the water, significantly reduces fire risks.
Do smoke bombs leave stain clothes?
Yes, if not used correctly, smoke bombs will leave stains on clothes. The colored dye used to produce the colored smoke can stain or damage clothing, stain hair, and even your skin. I would suggest not holding it too close and use proper precautions.
Are smoke bombs toxic?
Smoke bombs are not toxic, but this does not mean you should inhale the colored smoke. It may irritate the eyes and throat of some people. As a side note, the smell of smoke may remain in your hair and clothes.
Smoke Bomb Photography and Safety
Safety comes first in smoke bomb photography. As you know, smoke bombs usually emit sparks, and even the safest may cause a fire.
Some bombs may be too hot to handle, and they could burn your hands or injure your models if not used with care. With this in mind, never hold a smoke bomb too close to your body, and always wear protective clothing.
Smoke bomb photography can be fun and exciting.
It allows you to create interesting backgrounds and add more color to your images so that no other photography techniques can offer.
You only need to be wary of the aspects we have discussed to avoid potential harm, and you are sure to have a lot of fun!
Over to you know.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Have you tried smoke bomb photography? If you have not, will you try?
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Stefano Caioni is a photographer from Sydney, Australia. Founder and editor of Pixinfocus, his passion for photography helps him explore new places and live new adventures. Thanks to photography he reconnected with the outdoors and was able to travel the world and take photos of some of the most beautiful places on Earth.