Smoke bomb photography is a great way to add a pop of color and interest to your next photoshoot. When done right, this technique can elevate your photos, not to mention expand your offering and photography skills.

In this post, we’ll explain what smoke bomb photography is, share tips for getting started, and recommend the best smoke bombs for your photography business. 

What Is Smoke Bomb Photography?

Smoke bomb photography refers to the use of smoke during a photo session. With the help of this technique, the smoke adds a realistic and unique smokey effect to all photography genres.

The smoke creates a different atmosphere, not to mention it adds a quick dose of color in portrait, wedding or street photography. In addition to that, the smoke bomb itself can be an interesting prop for your models.

Why Use Smoke Bombs In Your Photography?

Smoke bombs can transform a regular photo session into a fairy tale. Smoke photography is so popular that it’s being used for wedding photos, gender-reveal photos, engagement shoots, street portraits, and even landscape photography. We could argue it could be even used in real estate drone photography creating a really cool effect, depending on how you’d be flying the drone (we recommend as close to eye level as possible to capture the smoke & the property).

Photo by Levi Guzman on Unsplash

The smoke can be used to create an interesting background, highlight movement as your model is moving around while holding the smoke bomb or simply to add a nice contrasting color to the photo.

If you want to quickly spice up your photos, smoke bomb photography is the way to go. Not to mention this can really make your online photography portfolio stand out.

How to Get Started With Smoke Bomb Photography

Smoke bombs are also known as smoke grenades which means they are a type of pyrotechnic device or firework. In most cases, this means they are regulated by the government and as such, there are many rules on where and when you can use them as well as buy them.

Before running out and buying your first set of smoke bombs, here are some tips that will help you get started.

Learn About Different Kinds of Smoke Bombs

First things first: just like with any new gear or skill, you need to get familiar with what you’re getting yourself into. And that means learning about different kinds of smoke bombs.

Some bombs come in a can form while others are made in the form of a stick or a grenade. Some burn longer, some will require a lighter to get activated, some will create a more dense smoke, and so on.

In general, when buying smoke bombs, pay attention to the burn time, the density of the smoke, and the activation method.

Budget Properly

At first, glance, smoke bombs are not expensive. But when you consider that you might need to pick up quite a few of them for a single photo session, the cost quickly adds up.

To start off, consider setting up a test photoshoot to get used to working with smoke bombs and then see how long the smoke lasts for as well as estimate how many you’ll need for your photoshoot.

Another tip is to consider buying smoke bombs in bulk as you’ll usually pay less when buying larger quantities. You can also wait for a sale and stock up.

Photo by Brittani Burns on Unsplash

Practice Safety

Smoke bombs are fun but they do have their own set of risks. For starters, they can burn your model or you if you hold them in the middle, rather than closer to the base.

Smoke bombs also give off sparks when lit which means you shouldn’t use them anywhere where there is a significant risk of fire. Barns, woods, or dry bushes can easily catch on fire with a simple spark so avoid using them in those spaces.

Another safety tip is to avoid a location with a lot of people as smoke can cause panic. You can also put up signs around your location to warn potential passersby.

Lastly, smoke bombs can leave stains on your clothes so instruct your model to avoid wearing white or other light colors.

Check Local Rules

As mentioned earlier, smoke bombs are regulated by local governments since they are essentially a pyrotechnic device. Before planning your smoke bomb photoshoot, be sure to check with your local authorities on allowed use.

Familiarize yourself when and where you can use smoke bombs, where you have to avoid them, and if there are any other special regulations regarding their use. If you need permission to use them, be sure to get one from the local authorities and inform your neighbors if you plan on using them on your own property.

Keep in mind that smoke bombs are illegal if you’re under 18.

Smoke Bomb Photography: Tips & Tricks

Now that we’ve covered how to get started with smoke bomb photography, here are a few extra tips for your photoshoots involving smoke bombs.

Plan Your Photoshoot Beforehand

Remember that you have a very short window to get your shot just right. Smoke bombs don’t burn for long and you have to wait for the smoke to actually be usable. As such, you need to plan out the photoshoot beforehand and know exactly when you want to introduce the smoke bomb and the pose you want your model to take.

Another tip to keep in mind is to look for cold-burning smoke bombs. Since other types of smoke bombs get very hot, they may be impossible to handle and control for your model.

Avoid Windy Days

Wind will make smoke dissipate rather quickly so you want to make sure to plan your photoshoot for a calm day. On top of that, the wind will make it impossible to have the smoke where you want it to be so be sure to keep an eye on the forecast.

Instruct Your Model to Move The Smoke Bomb Slowly

Instead of having the model simply hold the smoke bomb, instruct them to move it slowly. This will help create an impressive background and smoke trails. All that’s left to do is to wait for that perfect moment just before your model’s face is blocked by the smoke. You can also use a small handheld fan to blow the smoke away from the model’s face.

Consider Using a Prop

To make your photos more interesting or to add a theme to your photos, consider using a prop. You can place your smoke bomb inside of a cage, under an umbrella or inside a lantern.

Suggest Thematic Outfit

Smoke bomb photography is a great way to create a post-apocalyptic scene so consider suggesting a similarly-themed outfit to your models. This can include gas masks, soldier uniforms, cyber-punk outfits, and more.

Photo by Christal Yuen on Unsplash

Experiment With Colors

There are two ways to go about smoke bomb photography. One, use a matching color to create a pleasing, yet interesting scene. Two, use a contrasting color to make the smoke pop and to give your scene a more fantasy-like look. The final choice is a matter of personal preference but you can and should experiment to see what works for you.

Don’t Forget Lighting

No matter what kind of photo-session you’re planning, make sure the area is well-lit. This will make it easier to make your smoke more noticeable so feel free to bring along your lighting kit.

Play With Your Shutter Speed

Since the smoke movement depends on the air current, your shutter speed will have a massive impact on the final result. As such, your shutter speed should be set to 1/800 to help freeze the smoke’s motion and get a clear shot of the smoke’s puffiness.

If you want more of a wispy look, opt for a slower shutter speed and use a tripod as well.

Best Smoke Bombs For Photographers

So by now, you’re convinced you want to give this whole smoke bomb photography a go and you’re ready to buy some smoke bombs. Here are our top recommendations for smoke bombs.

Enola Gay

Enola Gay is one of the most expensive smoke bomb brands out there but it’s also one of the longest lasting ones. They come in a variety of colors and an impressive lineup.

Peacock Smoke

Peacock Smoke brand is one of the more affordable choices that can be activated with a simple wire pull. They have a good range of colors and multipack combos that you can buy.

Smoke Fountains

Finally, if you’re looking for the most budget-friendly option, Smoke Fountains have you covered. They come in a stick form and have a wide range of colors as well as some color-changing options.

Final Thoughts

Smoke bomb photography is a popular design trend that shows no signs of dying out any time soon. Use the tips in this article to get started with smoke bomb photography and add a dose of color and fun to your photoshoots.