- Why Smoke Bombs are Ideal for Photography
- But…Safety First!
- Get to Know Different Types of Smoke Bombs
- Plan Ahead
- Lighting is Key for Smoke Bomb Photography
- Have Fun With Colors
- Also Experiment with Shutter Speed
- Smoke Bomb Photography is a Great Creative Outlet
- More About Albert (In His Own Words)
- Obscure the background
- Obscure the subject
- Add color and texture
- Give a photo a whimsical feel
- Accentuate movement
Smoke bomb photography is a niche that offers loads of creative potential. After all, with smoke bombs, you can bring shapes, colors, and contrast to the scene.
There’s something about the abstract nature of smoke that lends itself to creating gorgeous, eye-catching photos as well.
But taking high-quality smoke bomb photos is more inovlved than deploying a smoke bomb and clicking the shutter on your camera…
With that said, this tutorial provides guidance for getting started in smoke bomb photography.
Throughout the article are images created by Albert Cain (Instagram, TikTok), an incredible Bay Area photographer that specializes in using smoke bombs in his art. His images will help spark your creativity for your own images.
Likewise, there are excerpts from an interview I did with Albert sprinkled throughout the article. His insights will give more fuel to your fire for leaning how to get started in smoke bomb photography.
Table of Contents
Why Smoke Bombs are Ideal for Photography
As noted above, smoke bombs are excellent photography tools because of their many creative applications. You can use smoke bombs to:
Additionally, smoke bomb photography can be used with many types of subjects. Though you often see this type of photography used for portraiture, you can also use smoke bombs for landscapes, architectural shoots, fashion photography, street photography, and sports photography.
As Albert explains, “My style is all in my name “abstract_0ne.” I like the concept of being an artist that sometimes uses a camera as a tool to create. And the most exciting projects for me are the type of things that are 100% original. It’s hard to label my style really because I shoot so many different styles. A lot of people have extremely specific niches. For me creativity on its own is my niche. And I apply that in all the styles of photography I do. From high shutter speed smoke grenades, fire, or particles of some sort. To cars, astrophotography, portraits, landscapes, product photography. It all calls to me, because creativity and adding a unique twist to things is always rewarding.”
While smoke bomb photography can be extremely fun, it can also be quite dangerous. Smoke bombs shed sparks when they’re lit, which is a major concern if you’re using them in a dry area.
Additionally, if you don’t hold the smoke bombs properly, you or your model could suffer burns.
Naturally, you want to be careful where you use smoke bombs as well. Igniting one in a busy downtown area is probably not the best idea!
That being the case, the first lesson for getting started in smoke bomb photography is to be very careful and check pertinent rules and regulations. If there is any doubt about whether you should ignite a smoke bomb, the best course of action is simply not to do it. When taking part in this type of photography, it’s on you to be sure you’re obeying safety and legal requirements. Also bring safety gear just in case. Water and a blanket to smother sparks that turn to flames are a must!
Smoke Bomb Photography Tips
So, with the safety warning out of the way, let’s get to the fun stuff…
Get to Know Different Types of Smoke Bombs
When you buy new photography gear, it’s incumbent on you to learn how to use it. Of course, prior to purchasing new gear, you should explore the various options and select items that fit in with your workflow and that meet your needs.
The same is true with accessories like smoke bombs. There are various colors and sizes from many different manufacturers. Some come in cans while others are more like grenades. Still others are sticks that emit smoke from one end.
Albert has a few favorites:
“...there’s a specific grenade that’s perfect for different settings/needs. I like the regular single vent grenades because you get a bit more time and overall ease of maneuverability. But the double vent puts out a ton of smoke at once and they also cover more space. And then the minis are great for product photography and adding a nice atmospheric color smoke blanket to an outdoor/semi indoor set.”
For smoke bomb photography, you’ll need bombs that burn at different rates - some quickly and some slowly. Some smoke bombs emit intense smoke while others are much lighter in their smoke output.
Your initial smoke bomb photography will require some experimentation on your part. Try different types and brands to see what works best.
So, how does one get into smoke bomb photography? As Albert points out, his journey started on a minute level:
“It all started with my love for particle photography. I got into it with steel wool photography. Seeing the sparks fly and frozen in time was so sick to me. In the past I’ve been a fan of those small smoke bombs you can get at firework stands. So I did a few shoots with those. And then craved more smoke and longer time to shoot with it. While doing some research on smoke grenades I stumbled across Smoke Effect. Seeing their prices and bundle deals was the reason I was able to give it a try. Before then I had always seen it as a bit too pricey. But as soon as I came across their site I made an order and am so glad that I did. “
Ready to get started in smoke bomb photography? Fulfill all your smoke bomb needs at Peacock Smoke! They have a wide array of smoke bombs, including dual-vent, 90-second, and mini smoke bombs. Stock up with a value pack and save with free shipping!
As with any type of photography, it’s important to plan ahead for your smoke bomb photography shoots.
The weather, for example, can wreak havoc with a smoke bomb photo shoot. Albert notes that “The most important factor to smoke grenade shots is the wind. Little to no wind is ideal but always shoot to where the smoke is being blown away from the camera. Standing in the wrong spot can ultimately end up with a grenade being wasted with no good shots. I always check the direction the wind is going before setting up.”
Of course, you also need to heed local rules and regulations, and be sure to choose a shoot location where smoke bombs are permitted and safe to use. For example, it wouldn’t be wise of me to heat to the dry forests of Southern California and ignite a smoke bomb. I could easily start a wildfire and cause all sorts of destruction.
Also think about the context of the smoke bomb in relation to the background and the setting of the shot.
In some cases, you might use the smoke bomb to mask an unattractive background. In other cases, the smoke might be used to enhance a feature in the foreground or draw attention to a model. You might use smoke in a wide-open space or in an enclosed area like a tunnel to create vastly different looking images.
Lighting is Key for Smoke Bomb Photography
Apart from the wind, the second most important factor to consider in smoke bomb photography is lighting.
Albert notes that “You want to be at a high shutter speed without ramping up your ISO too high. You can push, but be ready for some grain. Some shots depending on the setting may be ok with the grain but for those crystal clear shots of the plumes of smoke perfectly frozen. You want good lighting.”
This might mean shooting outdoors in natural light, indoors with a multi-light setup, or a combination of natural and artificial lighting. By having quality lighting, you’ll get dramatic areas of light and shadow and will be able to highlight the contrast of colors in the image more easily.
Have Fun With Colors
One of the best features that smoke bombs add to your images is color - and lots of it.
Smoke bomb photography can go in one of two directions. First, you can coordinate colors to create a monochromatic scene. The result can be soothing and very pleasing to the eye.
And second, you can use contrasting colors that make elements in the image pop. As you can see in many of Albert’s photos, the contrasting color of the smoke bombs draws your eye to the subject.
Again, this aspect of smoke bomb photography requires a little experimentation on your part. The more you practice, the better you’ll identify which types and colors of smoke to use in which situations.
In our interview, Albert says as much: “Get a good amount of [smoke bombs] to work with. The more you have to work with the better because each time comes with a lesson you can implement on the next grenades shots and with that you’ll be able to really nail some awesome pictures throughout the journey.”
Also Experiment with Shutter Speed
As with any kind of action shots, you can get vastly different looks depending on the shutter speed you use.
As Albert’s images show, freezing the motion of the smoke creates a beautiful result. Notice how the smoke is tack-sharp in each image. Personally, I really like this look because it accentuates each billow of smoke to add incredible depth to the image.
But you might find that slowing the shutter down to create smoother smoke trails is more your vibe. And that’s okay! As you get deeper into smoke bomb photography, you’ll figure out the situations that warrant faster shutters speeds to freeze motion and the situations that are better suited for slower shutters and blurred motion.
Smoke Bomb Photography is a Great Creative Outlet
Getting into this type of photography isn’t much different from any other type of photography. There’s planning and preparation involved, a lot of experimentation, and the need to consider the safety of others.
Happily, you can start photographing with smoke bombs without an output of large sums of money. Spend a few bucks on smoke bombs and practice with your phone. You might get surprising results! The point is to give it a go, see what sparks your creativity, and set about perfecting the process of smoke bomb photography.
More About Albert (In His Own Words)
My Name is Albert Cain, I’m a 30 year old photographer, videographer, and artist from the Bay Area California.
I’ve been doing photography for a little over 10 years now. It all really started about 15 years ago when I started doing photo edits on softwares like Photoshop. I’d take stock photos offline and would merge them all together in my own way. It always felt so rewarding, to turn my imagination into something I could share with the world.
After a bit, I thought to myself how amazing it would feel to do abstract edits with photos that I took myself. And then that’s when I found my true passion. Photography became so much more than just pictures to edit. I became obsessed with getting epic shots. Started with astrophotography. And then light painting.
Soon I discovered steel wool spinning long exposure shots and was immediately fascinated with “particle/fragment photography.” Capturing high shutter speed shots is so exciting and versatile. A plethora of genres, props, and potential ideas to be implemented.
I slowly began to gain a bit of recognition online and at photo meet ups here in the Bay Area for my style. So, I decided to look into even more epic ways to create with high shutter speed shots and introducing more video focusing on slow motion. And that’s where smoke grenades came to mind.
I noticed some creators using them and I was hooked right off the bat. My competitive side was lit and my passion of doing things differently than most was at an all time high.
First couple batches of shipments I focused on the photography side of things. Being able to freeze a moment where you can clearly see all the plumes of colored smoke. It blew my mind and got me so stoked!
I then sent off some of my shots to Smoke Effect and we teamed up! With more grenades coming in, I started trying more of my ideas and using more grenades at one time. And then incorporated video into the mix to keep up with the times of social media.
Soon I fell in love with creating videos just as equally as my photography. I acquired a DJI Mini 2 and am slowly but surely going to be doing more with that as well. Mixing it up with anything from my phone to the GoPro, my Nikon D7500 dslr, and now the DJI Mini 2, more and more doors are opening and I’m more excited than ever to be creating content for this company and they’re smoke grenades.
I’ve got some huge projects coming up. I’m now learning how to do fire breathing as well. So the plan is to get some insane content with the smoke grenades and some fire breathing thrown in! Just one more thing to stand out and stay true to the name.
My favorite photo is the one with the smoke and fire inside of the train tunnel. I just went out a couple days ago for that shot. I originally wanted to get out to the desert. But things kind of fell through the day of and I ended up on a mountain in the snow. Spent the whole day working on shots that just weren’t coming out how I wanted.
With the addition of high winds to the point where even in the tunnels there was no escape from the wind. I just kept working more ideas and attempts. It began to get cold. Fingers began to numb but put in a few more attempts. And then finally after thinking the trip was a bust.
I got something that I felt worked well for the concept in my mind. Did the best I could with the weather conditions and using my tripod so I could be in front of the camera while also taking the photos myself.
To me it just stands for perseverance and making the best out of what you got. Not giving up and pushing through to get the job done or concept imagined into real life.