Photographers are known for going out of their way to produce awesome effects for their shots. Even (or I might say: especially) when it involves a certain risk. If you are one of those adrenaline-addicted snappers, you will love smoke bomb or smoke grenade photography.

You can use it to spice up pretty much any genre of photography – be it portraits, wedding sessions, landscapes, action photography, or any photo session that needs a touch of extravagance. It looks splendid, yet isn’t hard to perform.

“What is this world? A mere curl of smoke for the wind to scatter.” – Abraham Cahan

But just like anything else, smoke bomb photography requires some prep work. You need to keep in mind some precautions and have a trick or two up your sleeve, in case anything goes wrong.

Photo Aspects 
Newsletter

Subscribe to our weekly 10 point newsletter. It's short and damn good - we promise!

In this blog post, I’ll cover the most vital information about smoke bomb photography – what it is, how and when to use it, tips and tricks to make it even better.

What Is Smoke Bomb Photography?

If you were that kid who always used to perform pranks, you will be familiar with the notion and function of smoke bombs. They are a kind of firework that produces awesome, colorful effect as it burns. These bombs don’t actually explode – or at least they aren’t meant to. They are made of potassium nitrate, powdered dye, and fuel such as household sugar. I know what you’re thinking now, but don’t do it – making a smoke bomb at home isn’t recommendable. Apart from the fact that it might not work if you don’t get the right ratio, it can also be dangerous. Anyway, smoke bombs are pretty cheap online, so there’s no reason to put yourself through any hassle.

When you employ smoke bombs in photography, they create an awesome, colorful effect. When made right, they can burn for up to a couple of minutes, allowing you to take quite a few amazing shots. And yes, it’s far better than just applying smoke effects in Photoshop.

“Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs.” – William Shakespeare

What Do I Need?

Not much, really. The list of items for smoke bomb photography is very short.

  1. Smoke bombs, obviously. It’s best to get more than one, since you’re in for some experimenting and playing around. As I said, a smoke bomb burns out really quickly, so that’s why you will need some backup.
  2. Some water. Where there’s fire and smoke, there has to be water in case something goes wrong.
  3. A camera. Use the one you already have. Even a high-quality phone camera could do the job.
  4. Models. Make sure he, she, or they fully understand the risks involved. If you’re having a troubles finding the right person, you can photograph yourself. Just get a tripod and set up the timer on your camera.
  5. Appropriate clothes. Chances are your model’s clothes will get some stubborn stains due to the dye. So, it would be best to choose old clothes that they will be able to throw away after the shooting.

girl behind a cloud from smoke bomb photography

Precautions and Tips

I know this section doesn’t sound sweet, but I have to include it since I don’t want anyone or anything to get hurt. To make it up to you, I will also recommend a few tips to get even better effects.

  • Only use cool burning bombs. The other types can get really hot, and there’s even a risk of explosion – even though that shouldn’t normally happen. If anything gets suspicious or the smoke stops emitting too early, have your model throw away the bomb. Better safe than sorry!
  • Never ever try this at home or in a crowded space. Choose some place in the wilderness or an abandoned city area, where you can be sure that there are no people or animals. Just like in steel wool photography, you will want to minimize the risk.
  • Wind can ruin your session for the simple reason that it will disperse the coveted smoke very fast. So, do your homework and check the weather forecast the day before.
  • The best place to choose for smoke bomb photography would be somewhere near water. River, lake, sea, or just a regular environment on a very moist or foggy day would be perfect. The bombs can produce a lot of sparks, and you don’t want any of them to cause wildfire or similar damage. If you don’t have a nice watery place, make sure to bring a fire extinguisher or at least a few bottles of water.
  • Practice your poses and everything else before igniting the bomb. You won’t have enough time to do it while the bomb is burning.
  • For thicker smoke, have your model move the bomb slowly. If you want an even fancier effect, they can move it in circles.
  • Get bright red or orange bombs for an amazing vibrant effect. You can even top it up by having the models wear clothes in the same color.
  • If you are shooting smoke bomb photography at night, having a light source piercing through the smoke will produce gorgeously mystical effect.