Smoke Bomb Photography You Can Master Quickly and Easily

February 18

20 min. to read

view 5117

Smoke bomb photography is trendy. Here are some easy tips and tricks that will help you master colored smoke and create stunning portraits and landscapes.

Color smoke bomb photography has gained popularity in recent years. It adds creativity, mood, atmosphere, and plain fun to your photoshoots and the results. If you want to enjoy a great shoot outside, add quality pictures to your portfolio, or simply practice a new technique, it’s a great choice.

Smoke bomb and other gear

So what do you need for an awesome color smoke bomb photography shoot? Here is a quick checklist:

  • A camera
  • A large deserted space outdoors
  • One or more models
  • Colored smoke bombs
  • Lighter (if needed)
  • Some water to extinguish the bombs completely
  • A bin or bag to dispose of the smoke bombs efficiently
  • A photo enhancer to edit your photos after you’re done

Luminar is great editing software that allows you to store, organize, edit, and add looks and filters to your photos. For example, you can add a black and white look and only highlight the colored smoke. Or you can add a vintage feel to make a photo seem older and create even more of an authentic atmosphere. Your smoke bomb photography will never be the same! You can try Luminar for free and see if it suits your needs before you buy.

Smoke Bomb Photography You Can Master Quickly and Easily Image1

luminar 3

Make Fantastic
Photos. Faster.

Smoke bombs for photography

Where can you find smoke bombs for photography and what should you look for? Of course there are many brands and websites that offer them. One issue to consider is that smoke bombs can be called by a variety of names: smoke sticks, smoke cans, smoke grenades, colored smoke grenades, or colored smoke sticks. Try different search keywords to get the most out of your search. Some smoke bombs for photography can fire out of both ends simultaneously. These provide twice the smoke, but they aren’t ideal for colored smoke bomb photography since they only last for about half the time of a standard smoke bomb.

Purchasing criteria

When browsing and purchasing smoke bombs, consider the cost, range of colors, ease of use, quality, and duration of burn. On average, smoke bombs last for less than two minutes. One popular brand of smoke bombs is Enola Gaye, which were primarily designed for paintball but turned out to be useful for photographers too because of their long burn time and the range and intensity of colors available. On average, smoke bombs for photography cost about $8, but if you buy in bulk you can find some discounts. We recommend buying them from trusted stores. But if you’re a risky person, you can also learn how to make a smoke bomb yourself.

Choose safety first

One of the main things to look for when choosing colored smoke bombs for photography is the label “cool-burning” or a line in the description that says they’re safe to hold in your hands when you ignite them. If there’s no such description, it probably means that they’re designed to be lit on the ground and will be too hot for the model to hold, causing burns. Also pay attention to how smoke bombs can be activated. They may have a wire-pull ignition system or fuses that you’ll have to ignite with a lighter. Think about how you’ll activate the smoke bomb beforehand, what materials you’ll need, and whether it’s safe for your models. Refrain from using smoke bombs in photoshoots with children and animals.

Smoke photography setup

Make sure that your model knows how to use the color smoke bomb correctly. Since the burning time is limited, you’ll need to shoot quickly, generally in less than two minutes. This means that preparing your camera ahead of time and knowing what exactly you want to achieve in your smoke bomb photography is a must.

Smoke Bomb Photography You Can Master Quickly and Easily Image2
Mind the weather

The weather plays an important role in smoke photography. Since it’s advised to activate bombs outdoors, you’re bound to mind this aspect. Wait for a calm, sunny day without wind. Even the slightest wind can cause your pictures to look less than ideal. Don’t shoot when it’s overly warm or dry, as even the smallest spark can cause a fire. Since you’re dealing with smoke photography, refrain from smoking nearby or using flammable objects. A barn full of hay is definitely a no, no matter how romantic it may look for a wedding smoke bomb photoshoot.

Find the spot

Colored smoke bombs may look innocent, but they’re still pyrotechnic objects, and that means you have to follow regulations when using them. Make sure there are no people around your shooting spot, as strangers may become nervous when witnessing mysterious clouds of colored smoke. Find a background that’s neutral and complements your shooting idea.

Smoke Bomb Photography You Can Master Quickly and Easily Image3
Think of the lighting

Just like for any other photoshoot, ensure that the location has ideal lighting. Portrait lights or strobes may come in handy during your smoke bomb photoshoot. If the cloud of smoke is properly lit, the colors will stand out in the photo. This doesn’t mean always using flash, however. Maybe you like natural outdoor light or a dreamy atmosphere or prefer soft backgrounds? Then you can consider shooting during the golden hour, which is the time right before sunset and shortly after sunrise. The sunlight is particularly soft at these times, so it can be used as a backlight, side light, or even direct light for your colorful smoke, creating beautiful dreamy visions.

Something extra

Even though it’s exciting to shoot with a smoke bomb for the first time, don’t forget that your shots should look wonderful even without it. Use the smoke bomb as a prop, as something that highlights and accentuates the already great shot that you’ve accomplished. Think about your location, theme, models, and outfits beforehand if you really want to have great outcomes and not just have some fun with a little bit of smoke.

Smoke Bomb Photography You Can Master Quickly and Easily Image4
Colored smoke techniques

Now that you know how to set up the scene for smoke photography, it’s time to find out what creative tricks you can achieve with a color smoke bomb.

Movement

Colored smoke bombs are great for accentuating movement. Ask your model to slowly move the hand with the bomb until the smoke starts to create interesting shapes. The speed of movement can control the intensity of the smoke. You can also create clouds behind or in front of your model or wrap your model in smoke – anything your imagination allows you to do. Your model can move the smoke bomb quickly in unexpected ways, making circles or loops in the air. Remember to think about the poses beforehand and guide your model for the best results. Another interesting shot can be created with a background made entirely out of smoke, giving the illusion that the model lives in their own smoke-filled world.

Incorporate objects

Did you know that you can add some magic to your photography? Try using some everyday objects and make smoke come out of them. Bring a suitcase, an umbrella, a vase, a birdcage, a lantern, or even a top hat – anything you can think of. Make sure that the model places the smoke bomb carefully inside of the object. And voila, the resulting shot will look magical and surreal. However, mind that the smoke bomb can leave a colorful stain, so don’t use objects that are hard to clean or hold a special value to you. If you notice that some smoke didn’t come out the way you wanted it to, you can always edit it in Photoshop or use some Photoshop plugins to do it quicker.

Get a cinematic look

Smoke bomb photos can also look like cinematic stills. Cinematic stills are stretched or expanded to fit a certain format and have some particular characteristics. For example, there can be mist and colorful smoke, a beautiful landscape, and cinematic poses and costumes. A great way to incorporate a cinematic feeling into your photography is by rewatching your favorite films and noting some of the themes that can be achieved with clever use of smoke bombs.

Smoke Bomb Photography You Can Master Quickly and Easily Image5
Genre experiments

Colored smoke grenades are popular because they can create many different effects and make your photos stand out from the crowd. What kind of genre or mood would you like to pursue? Maybe an apocalyptic world, a fantasy, a romantic photoshoot, an eerie masquerade or a battlefield? Smoke bombs can help you set the mood. Think outside the box with props such as gas masks, soldier uniforms, wedding gowns, zombie outfits, thematic dresses from a certain era, and all-colored rainbow smoke. Your photo editing software can help you with filters or looks, but the set-up and theme is all up to you.

Smoke bomb photography safety hazards

Even though color smoke bomb photography may look pretty, there’s no need to sacrifice body parts for it. These are some issues to acknowledge before using smoke bombs.

Explosions

There have been occasions when a seemingly safe smoke bomb has exploded. This can be caused when too much moisture gets inside of the tube. Moisture can clog the pathway the smoke escapes through, causing the smoke bomb to combust. If your smoke bomb fails to emit smoke shortly after you light it, this could indicate that there’s a clog inside of the bomb. If this happens, move away from the smoke bomb and allow it to burn itself out. And in any case, do not use colored smoke grenades if you’re planning to photograph children or animals.

Burns

Colored smoke grenades may not just produce colorful smoke but also sparks when you light them, so be careful where they’re aimed when you’re lighting them. If you want your model to hold the bomb, make sure to use a cool burning smoke bomb. Not everyone is experienced in smoke bomb photography, so explain in detail the hazards of using colored bombs. Make sure that they place their hand as low on the base as possible, since it will prevent burns. The bomb burns from top to bottom. Additionally, make sure the model is aware of the position of their hair and keeps the bomb as far away from it as possible.

Smoke Bomb Photography You Can Master Quickly and Easily Image6
Stains

The colorful smoke from your colored smoke grenades can leave a stain. Consider this when using a special outfit, as it would be a pity if a great outfit were ruined. You need to specify this especially for wedding and commercial photoshoots.

Fire

Always prepare some water to extinguish the bomb after it has burned out. As with any pyrotechnic device, it’s your responsibility to dispose of it correctly. When the bomb has stopped smoking, water it or even put it in a basin with water so the fire is completely gone. Keep it away from flammable objects and don’t use smoke bombs in overly dry fields or forests. Only when you’re sure that the fire has been completely extinguished can you dispose of it in a trash can.

Smell

Some people are prone to irritation from smoke bombs as they may be from any other smoke. If your model feels uncomfortable or if their eyes or throat get irritated, stop the photoshoot and tend to them immediately. You shouldn’t let the model inhale too much of the smoke, since it can cause coughing. Additionally, the smell of the smoke can stay in your model’s hair and outfit just like cigarette smoke.

Technical tips for colored smoke

What about your camera settings for smoke bomb photography? There are no particular settings that you should definitely use. Each photographer prefers their own type of shots. It’s always recommended to shoot in RAW format to get the maximum data for post-production, but if you’re limited in memory and don’t intend to edit, then JPEG is your choice.

You can reduce the noise of the final shot if you set the ISO to 100.  For the smoke to stay in focus, set the aperture to approximately f/8. The sync speed of the flash is supposed to match the shutter speed – usually 1/200 or 1/250. However, a high shutter speed allows you to capture textured smoke trails. If you experiment with exposure, you can capture less distinct shapes. Using flash can accentuate the vividness of the smoke cloud. You can use a tripod to set your shot firmly before your model lights the bomb and take some test photos to see how it will look before the shot. If possible, make sure the smoke bomb itself doesn’t get in the shot to preserve the illusion of the smoke.

Smoke Bomb Photography You Can Master Quickly and Easily Image7
Rainbow smoke

There are so many colors at your disposal in smoke photography! There are truly enough to make your own smoke rainbow. The key is to use them wisely: make sure your colors match! You can create not only stunning visuals but whole stories out of different colors of smoke. Consider color symbolism – for example, red for passion when you’re taking a couple’s photo or black to set a gothic mood. Keep in mind the location of the shoot and the model’s appearance. Colors that match can create a wonderful visual, whether it’s just two colors or a full rainbow smoke. For example, a green bomb will look great paired with a model who has ginger hair. Also consider the time of day: try a pink smoke bomb at sunset or a blue one at dawn. You can use two or more colors together to create fantastic compositions for your smoke bomb photography.

Smoke Bomb Photography You Can Master Quickly and Easily Image8

If you’re not satisfied with the colors or your bombs, you can always fix it using Luminar in post-production, for example by using color splash. Try Luminar for free now by clicking the button below and decide if you want to invest in this quick and easy photo editing software.

luminar 3

Make Fantastic
Photos. Faster.

Disclaimer: Please note that the following article is for informational purposes only and does not encourage readers to produce or use pyrotechnics that can cause any harm or damage. Please check if there are any legal restrictions regarding buying, using, and producing the mentioned equipment in your country. Please сomply strictly with the fire, health and safety regulations and follow the usage instructions from the equipment manufacturer.

Follow Skylum Software on YouTube // Get the latest videos, tips, and photography inspiration each week!

Start using Luminar 3

Use Aurora HDR for free for 14 days.

Sent successfully!

Please check your inbox.
We've sent you a copy via email.

Sorry

Looks like you're subscribed already

Sorry

This is sad. Looks like you’ve earlier unsubscribed from Skylum emails. Please resubscribe here.

Please wait

Use Aurora HDR for free for 14 days.

Sent successfully!

Please check your inbox.
We've sent you a copy via email.

Sorry

Looks like you're subscribed already

Sorry

This is sad. Looks like you’ve earlier unsubscribed from Skylum emails. Please resubscribe here.

Thank you for downloading
Aurora HDR

Preparing your download...

Did your download not start?
Dont worry, just click here to try again.

Oops! Something went wrong. Don't worry, just click here to try again.

Step 1

Step 1 Find & Open
Aurora HDR Installer

Step 2

Step 2 Follow the instructions
to install Aurora HDR

Step 3

Step 3 Enjoy new photo
editing experience

Luminar 3

Use Luminar 3 for free for 30 days.

Editor Software Features review

Sent successfully!

Please check your inbox.
We've sent you a copy via email.

Software version review attention

Sorry

Looks like you're subscribed already

Photo editor Software error

Error

This is sad. Looks like you’ve earlier unsubscribed from Skylum emails. Please resubscribe here.

Thank you for downloading Luminar 3

Preparing your download...

Did your download not start?
Dont worry, just click here to try again.

Oops! Something went wrong. Don't worry, just click here to try again.

Step 1

Step 1 Find & Open
Luminar 3 Installer

Step 2

Step 2 Follow the instructions
to install Luminar

Step 3

Step 3 Enjoy new photo
editing experience

Luminar Flex

Use Luminar Flex for free for 30 days.

Editor Software Features review

Success

Please check your inbox.
We've sent you a copy via email.

Software version review attention

Sorry

Looks like you're subscribed already

Photo editor Software error

Error

This is sad. Looks like you’ve earlier unsubscribed from Skylum emails. Please resubscribe here.

Thank you for downloading Luminar Flex

Did your download not start?
Dont worry, just click here to try again.

Step 1

Step 1 Find & Open
Luminar Flex Installer

Step 2

Step 2 Follow the instructions
to install Luminar Flex

Step 3

Step 3 Enjoy new photo
editing experience

AirMagic

Use AirMagic for free for 30 days.

Editor Software Features review

Sent successfully!

Please check your inbox.
We've sent you a copy via email.

Software version review attention

Sorry

Looks like you're subscribed already

Photo editor Software error

Error

This is sad. Looks like you’ve earlier unsubscribed from Skylum emails. Please resubscribe here.

Thank you for downloading AirMagic

Preparing your download...

Did your download not start?
Dont worry, just click here to try again.

Oops! Something went wrong. Don't worry, just click here to try again.

Did your download not start?
Dont worry, just click here to try again.

Step 1

Step 1 Find & Open
AirMagic Installer

Step 2

Step 2 Follow the instructions
to install AirMagic

Step 3

Step 3 Launch AirMagic
and start enhancing your images.