There’s nothing quite like smoke-bomb photography. Exuding a sense of mystery, it automatically draws viewers in to wonder what is really happening behind the image. From dark, mystical, urban shots to ethereal engagement photos in the woods, smoke bombs have been making a major appearance in photo trends; and while they look straightforward to use, they can be messy and even a bit dangerous when used improperly. Here are the basics and how to get started in incorporating an enchanted aura to your photos.
- Smoke bombs (obviously)
- Lighter, if you’re not using “cool burning wire pull” grenades
- Open outdoor space, away from dry areas susceptible to catching fire
- External flash
- Gloves as smoke bombs can cause some staining
- Water to pour on the smoke bomb after it’s burnt out to ensure safe disposal
Conditions and Setup
Make sure you have a very dry environment to shoot, especially if you’re shooting in the peak of summer. You’ll also want to use them outside because they stink…a lot. Have your water handy in case something catches on fire. Shooting at night will allow you to get the most out of the colors, but isn’t imperative. Smoke bombs also burn quickly—you have a few seconds of smoke, so you’ll need to plan your shots ahead of time. Lastly, wind is another major factor. If there is much wind, the smoke will all blow in that direction.
Get all your gear ready with the right settings and consider that when photography smoke, it’s better to be just a bit underexposed to bring out highlights in the smoke. Set your aperture between f/4.0 and f/5.6 with a fast shutter speed. Make sure the subject and some of the smoke is focused, but have some depth of field.
Remember the smoke lasts for a very short period of time. A smoke grenade can run for 90 seconds, and will take a few seconds to get going. While you’ll need to have planned out shots, you can still get creative. Have you subject wave the smoke bomb around, or walk with it so the smoke trails behind them. Play with different colors and mixing two contrasting hues. If you have someone there to assist, they can circle your subject(s) with smoke to create a more magical ambience.
Do you have a photo gallery or photo sharing site? You’ve spent money on buying a digital camera. You might also have spent some money buying lenses. May be you even got some photo processing software. Where are your photos?