- Color Smoke Bomb Photography Gear List
- Be Safe!
- Plan Ahead and Practice
- Try Smoke Bombs at Golden Hour
- More About Mina (in Her Own Words)
- Photographer Bio - Mina Hami
- A tripod to keep your camera stable.
- Artificial lighting, like strobes, diffusers, light stands, and a 5-in-1 reflector pack, so you have plenty of lighting options.
- A fan to blow the smoke around, if desired.
- A lighter, in case the type of smoke bombs you buy don't self-ignite.
- Safety gear in case a fire starts (e.g., a bucket, a blanket, a shovel, and water).
One of the most visually interesting photography accessories you can use is a smoke bomb.
Think about it - it's something that brings color and textures to your images. It can be used as a backdrop or as a prop. You can use smoke to draw the viewer's eye to the subject or use it to obscure part of the subject. The possibilities are endless, which is why color smoke bomb photography is so popular.
But, there's a difference between simply popping a smoke grenade and pressing the shutter button and creating a beautiful, impactful image with a smoke bomb. In this guide, you'll learn how to do just that!
To give you some smoke bomb photography inspiration, we've teamed up with Mina Hami of Photos by Mina (Facebook, Instagram) as well as Peacock Smoke, which is available online on websites like Smoke Effect. You'll see her photos throughout this article as examples of how to make gorgeous, eye-catching smoke bomb photos.
We had a chance to interview Mina recently, so we've included some of her insights, tips, and techniques on color smoke bomb photography as well.
Let's get to it!
Table of Contents
Color Smoke Bomb Photography Gear List
First things first - what gear do you need to create smoke bomb photos?
Here's some basic stuff you might want to add to your kit if you don't have it already:
Of course, you need smoke bombs, too!
There are tons of options for smoke bombs out there, but Mina personally likes the single vent smoke grenades from Peacock Smoke.
Why a single-vent smoke bomb and not a dual-vent? As Mina puts it: "I don’t mind the dual end ones, however, your smoke time is pretty much cut in half and it goes by so fast." She goes on to say that, "single vent ones last and you can move around in them," and, furthermore, "they produce vivid color."
So, if you want to maximize the time you have to capture smoke bomb photos and maximize the color output, a single-vent smoke bomb might be the way to go.
What color should you get, though?
Mina likes brown, teal, purple, orange, black, and pink.
In our interview, she cited the fact that these colors "always produce dense color and dissipate beautifully" as the reasons for choosing those particular colors.
It's important for you to experiment and find what colors work best for you, but now you have some color suggestions to get started!
Color smoke bomb photography is certainly beautiful. And while the soft pillows of smoke might look harmless, smoke bombs pose a real danger to you, the models you're working with, and the property around you if you don't bear safety protocols in mind.
As noted above, be sure you have safety gear with you in case you need to put a fire out.
And, as Mina notes, "First and foremost, don’t be dumb with it. Don’t point it at yourself, it’s not fun - it hurts and you’ll get residue all over yourself & your clothes."
Additionally, be smart about where and when you use smoke bombs.
For example, using smoke bombs in a dry forested area is not a good plan, nor is using them in a busy downtown area without getting a permit first, or at the very least communicating with city officials about your intent to do a smoke bomb photoshoot.
Likewise, respect private property. If you've found the perfect spot for your color smoke bomb photography, ensure that you ask permission to do the photoshoot before you put the wheels in motion. Communication goes a long way!
Your safety protocols should include communication with any models you're working with as well.
You need to let them know of the risks of using smoke bombs (e.g., sparks might hit their skin and cause irritation) and explain what they need to do to be safe.
Having an assistant on hand is a lifesaver from a safety standpoint, too. An assistant can help your models deploy the smoke and can act as a "first responder" if a fire is started or the model is injured.
Plan Ahead and Practice
As Mina points out, you can’t always control the smoke like you want it to go. Smoke does it wants. And if you have that as your expectation, then you’re not going to be disappointed when it doesn’t go exactly to plan.
So, if smoke does what it wants, how do you plan your color smoke bomb photography in advance?
The first step is to consider the weather. "The best way to plan for particular shots is choosing a not so windy day and checking your direction of the wind if you are shooting outside," says Mina.
Additionally, have extra smoke. Mina says, "I also buy extra canisters of a dense color (black or purple) for the initial practice shots, mainly because I want my client to get a feel for what the shoot is going to be like, the smell, and to see where the wind is actually blowing."
This is a big part of planning your shoot to the extent that you can. Rather than throwing your client directly into the fire, so to speak, doing a few practice shots to get them comfortable with the smoke can go a long way in helping you plan your photoshoots. Fortunately, you can buy many different types and styles of Peacock Smoke grenades for great prices at Smoke Effect.
Of course, part of the planning process is what was mentioned earlier about ensuring you have the proper safety equipment, permission from property owners, and that you've communicated with city officials as needed about your photoshoot.
If you take these steps to plan ahead, your color smoke bomb photography sessions will go much more smoothly!
Try Smoke Bombs at Golden Hour
An interesting technique you can try with your color smoke bomb photography is shooting your images at golden hour.
It's a favorite time of day of Mina, who says, "I love mixing smoke grenades and golden hours. Watching the smoke dance in the sunlight of the setting of a day well lived, capturing the muse within the smoke - is the type of shoots I enjoy the most."
As you can see below, the beautiful color and texture of the smoke bomb is a nice addition to the soft, warm light of golden hour.
Additionally, golden hour offers beautiful long shadows that extend across the landscape, which serves to add more visual interest and appeal to your images.
The patterns and textures created by the shadows combined with the texture of the smoke is a lovely combination for portraiture.
Be ready to work quickly, though. The light during golden hour changes fast, and depending on where you live, there's a good chance that you'll be dealing with a breeze, if not windy conditions. In this case, you might want to ditch your tripod and shoot handheld for greater mobility.
More About Mina (in Her Own Words)
Below are additional excerpts from our interview with Mina. Give it a read and be inspired by her photographic journey!
PT: What inspired you to get into photography?
MH: I’m not sure there was a time or place that truly inspired me to get into photography. I’ve always been very right-brained, creative individual that it was only a matter of time before I got into the space.
PT: Can you speak to us about your style of photography?
MH: My style of photography is moody and dynamic.
PT: Can you share with us a photo that sticks out as one of your favorites, and share what went into capturing the shot?
From the smoke grenade sessions, I would say my favorite photo (and this is so hard!) is my spooky session with the owner of Sage Green Floral Shop in the open field during the golden hour.
With all my spooky shoots, I am always excited to see what my clients come up with for their sessions. I will help by giving ideas of what they could do, but I really leave the creative freedom to them. That evening, we had very little wind, if anything it was a slight breeze that kinda stayed going one way. I always tell my clients for the spooky sessions to bring a helper or I’ll provide one to either help light the smoke or move it around if it needs it. We carry water with us, in case there is spark and we can put it out right away.
In this case, Erin brought her husband. And I quickly gave him a run down of the dos and don’ts with smoke grenades and we were off to the races. Smoke does what it wants. You can set it down and hope it goes the way you want or you have your muse move with it. I find when your subject dances with the smoke - the photos come out the best.
I did not expect the smoke to give us such amazing form that almost looked like a tornado or a spell conjured by the golden hour. The smoke decided to turn and twist that way. With Erin, I made sure to tell her to move and sway with the smoke and that is what she did, and the photo session came out beautifully.
PT: As part of your artistic approach with your photography, we see you use smoke bombs. Can you expound on how you got started with these?
I got started with using smoke grenades because I wanted to offer more niche photography sessions to my clients - things that aren’t done by everyone, and takes a special skill set to do.
I also wanted to do these fun Halloween sessions but needed an ounce of spice to add to the drama. On Pinterest, I saw photographers using smoke grenades and the photos were moody and everything I wanted to start doing. So, I researched which products were the best to use, did some trial and error with different companies, and eventually it led me to Smoke Effect and their products [like Peacock Smoke].
PT: How has photography changed the way you see the world?
I see it more candidly and in small moments that I can see and do. It makes me stop and just enjoy the beauty around us and open my eyes to the perspective of others and appreciation of other creatives.
PT: What are three must-have items in your camera bag?
My Canon camera - 60D DSLR, a Sigma 35mm lens (I absolutely love this lens and I shoot a majority of my sessions with it), and lastly, stain remover…. because you never know when you’re going to need it!
Photographer Bio - Mina Hami
My name is Mina Hami, I’m a 31-year-old self-taught photographer & designer from Michigan.
I started my photography journey as a small child when my mom signed up for some creative classes during the summer in middle school. I remember going through disposable film Kodak cameras taking photos of nature, animals, movement, and people. The moment my mom bought me my first DSLR, I believe that was when the creative journey took off.
I started in the wedding and engagement scene, and I did that for a while. But I’ve always been an individual who loved fantasy movies, horses & unicorns, grew up on Disney and Harry Potter, loved music and soundtracks. I realized that I needed to feed that drive to create moody and dramatic content that not everyone thinks about.
I had seen on Pinterest these beautiful theme-oriented sessions that played with the fantasy bringing in well-known themes like Alice in Wonderland, Lord of the Rings, Witches, and nature life through photography sessions and I thought to myself, “Wow, I could do that!”
As I explored that realm, I came across this amazing photographer and storyteller, Kirsty Mitchell. Her work takes you deep into her personal journey of loss, growth, and rebirth, and invites you into her mind of imagination and creativity. I knew then that is what I want to portray through my work and I want my audience to feel the emotional connection through my sessions.
I decided to start using smoke grenades as a way to bring the drama, fantasy, and wonder to ordinary shoots. In 2019, I did multiple test shoots with the smoke - convinced nine friends that I thought would be great to test these ideas with and the results were amazing.
These shoots are now known as Spooky Sessions that are offered yearly starting in October, and they sell out every year. I also offer Smoke Show sessions that feature unique cars & their drivers.
When I’m not behind the lens, I am an avid equestrian - enjoying trail riding with my beloved horse Star, hanging with my dogs Kiwi and Buffy, and cats Pistachio and Cashew, and enjoying life to the fullest!