Tips From a Pro: Using Smoke Bombs in Portraits

Add some smoke to your next portrait for a whimsical feeling.

We get asked a lot about our smoke bomb photos. The two big questions always seem to be, “How do you guys go about using them in shoots?” and “Where do you guys get your smoke bombs from?”

First off, why would anyone want to use smoke bombs in a shoot? Simply put, it’s pretty dang cool. They provide a fun and unique aesthetic that can add life to any session. Whether it’s with a couple, a model, a band, whatever, the addition of colorful plumes and the subsequent haze they leave can give any shoot an extra kick of interest. Most importantly, however, people should understand that using smoke bombs can potentially pose a few risks. It is paramount that these risks are openly discussed and understood by all parties involved before using them in a shoot. This is especially true if one intends to hold them in their hands. Let’s go ahead and get to the meat of this post.

Items needed:
Smoke bomb

Lighter (if not using a “cool burning wire pull” grenades)

Open outdoors space, away from anything that is overly dry and susceptible to catching fire

Camera

Water (to pour on the smoke bomb after it has burnt out to ensure safe disposal)

Model(s)

pot-67

SAFTEY CONCERNS

The primary concerns are explosions/burns, stains, fire, and inhalation/smell. More of each of these below.

Explosions/Burns: We recommend everyone use cool burning smoke bombs due to these risks, but we also understand they are not always available. While it is unlikely that a smoke bomb will explode, it can happen. This is possible when too much moister gets inside the tube, thus clogging the pathway for the smoke’s expulsion. When this happens, it can cause a smoke bomb to combust. There is a way to tell if your smoke bomb could potentially have this issue. If it fails to emit plumes shortly after the fuse has burnt, this could indicate that there is a clogging issue relating to moisture inside the cylinder. In the event this happens, move away from the smoke bomb and allow it to burn itself out. Regarding burns: unless you’re using a cool burning smoke bomb, they will get hot. It is advised not to hold them and one understands they do so at their own risk. If you choose to hold them, place your hand as low to the base as possible. They burn top to bottom and the base will be the coolest spot.

Stains: If you’re using colorful smoke, just know that if the smoke is directly and closely emitted to clothing, it can leave a stain.
Fire: Once a smoke bomb has burnt out, dispose of it responsibly and carefully. This is why we recommend carrying water bottles with you when using them. Do not use smoke bombs in overly dry fields, forests, or buildings with a lot of flammable components. Once the bomb has burnt out, immediately dump water into the tube. This will make the bomb safe to dispose of in a trashcan.

Inhalation/Smell: The smoke is often very thick and can irritate the eyes and throat of some people. I personally have no issue with this, however, they tend to aggravate Whit’s throat if she manages to inhale some of the smoke as it flows around her. The smell of the smoke can also stay in your hair and clothes much like can happen when eating at a restaurant or bar that allows patrons to smoke cigarettes.

HOW IT IS DONE

When we use smoke bombs, we use them for the color they provide. We love the haze that surrounds our subjects and the billowing plumes. There will be days that it’s advised not to use them. Like briefly mentioned above, it’s always important to use these away from anything that’s overly flammable, or anything that is too dry. So we’d recommend not using them during the dry months of summer if you aren’t immediately near water. It only takes a single spark to cause a big fire, so please keep that in mind. Wind is the enemy with smoke bombs always. If it’s an incredibly windy day, pack them up, and save them for later. They will prove mostly useless since the wind will quickly disperse any plumes and/or haze.

pot-68

Smoke bombs can really work in a variety of situations when it comes to shoots. There are no rules. We actually travel with a bunch in the trunk of our car on any given day. We do this because we never know when we may want to hop out of the car, and pop off a few frames using them. We also never know when we may want to incorporate them into an engagement session, a wedding day, or even a lifestyle session and more. Whether having a subject stay still as we run circles around them, engulfing them in smoke, or whether they run around holding the bomb themselves, like I said, there are no rules.

WHERE TO BUY

Now, people always ask where do we get our smoke bombs? Well, it depends. We love Enola Gaye Smoke Grenades because, again, they are cool burning with a wire pull system. They are pricey, but well worth it. It’s also very easy for us to get them living in the Midwest, especially in Missouri. We have fireworks warehouses all over the state. From Black Cat markets, to Pyro City, to Fireworks Supermarket and more, there are places all over to buy smoke bombs. However, one should know that most often, they will not find cool burning smoke bombs at these places. They do occasionally have them, but not all of the time. This is where the risks stated above need to be given thorough attention and consideration since they will be fused and hot burning.

Rating:

Topic Filter: Commercial / Landscape / Portrait / Stock / What's Hot

Related Tutorials

Interviews

Martin Lawrence

After many years as a keen amateur photographer, I decided to start a small landscape photography business called Lakescenes which I ran alongside my main job as an IT Manager. As business increased, I found myself working long, but rewarding, hours just to keep up […]

Read More

Rob Sheppard

Rob Sheppard is a naturalist, nature photographer and videographer who says his favorite location is the one he is in at any time. He is the author/photographer of over 40 books, as well as a well-known speaker and workshop leader, and a Fellow with the […]

Read More

Gary Hart

Gary Hart has photographed California’s natural beauty for over 30 years. Gary’s photos and writing have appeared in many publications, most recently Outdoor Photographer and Sierra Heritage magazines. You’ll also find his images in greeting cards, postcards, calendars, and many galleries and private collections throughout the world.

Read More

Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz

Originally from Poland, based in London UK, Jaroslav has background in Fine Arts, degree in Architecture, and wide array of experience. Being an Architect taught him how to be resourceful and to solve complex problems with simple, yet innovative solutions. Constant passion for graphic & […]

Read More

What's Hot

Stupid Photoshop tricks #2 – Fold a Photo

I love the texture of old heritage photos, particularly those that have been kicking around for some years and which have managed to accumulate folds and crinkles. While it can take many years for a printed photo to develop this sort of quality, luckily Photoshop […]

Read More

How to Shoot the Olympics

Five of the world’s top Olympic sports photographers talk about what it’s like to shoot the biggest sporting event in the world. Getty Images photographer Streeter Lecka puts it best: “The Olympics are unlike anything you will ever shoot in sports,” he says. “For professional […]

Read More

You Don’t Need the Insane Zoom That Camera Makers Are Shilling

Camera makers are trying everything to revive the tanking market of low-end shooters. Their latest gambit? Insanely long zooming cameras that reach across vast swaths of land. But zoom is just another sweet-sounding spec that could leave you with crappier pictures. Way back in the […]

Read More