- Smoke Bomb Photography Ideas Begin With Planning the Model's Poses
- What About Artificial Lighting?
- Pro Tip: Safety First
- Smoke Bomb Photography Ideas: Experiment With Shutter Speed
- Eddie's Preferred Smoke Bombs
- More About Eddie (in His Own Words)
In our first feature in this series, we discussed how to get started in smoke bomb photography. This article builds on that by discussing a few essential smoke bomb photography ideas to get you started.
Using smoke as a prop in your images - like the smoke bombs from Peacock Smoke, which you can buy at Smoke Effect - is a creative way to make images that instantly stand out and have great visual appeal.
But you need to do more than simply pop smoke and fire off the shutter!
You need to consider things like planning the shoot ahead of time, lighting, and the shutter speed you use.
To help illustrate these smoke bomb photography ideas, we've teamed up with noted smoke bomb photographer Eddie Giron. Eddie lives and works in New York City, and has been kind enough to give us some insight into his photographic process. You'll see his incredible smoke bomb photos throughout this article as well.
Table of Contents
Smoke Bomb Photography Ideas Begin With Planning the Model's Poses
As I said in the introduction, creating epic smoke bomb photos like those you see throughout this article requires a lot of work - not just firing off some smoke bombs and hoping things work out.
Of particular importance is planning the poses you want in your smoke bomb photos ahead of time.
You'll likely have a good idea of what you want your models to do well ahead of time, but it's also important to do a dry run before you pull the pin on the smoke.
In other words, get the model where you want them to be and in the pose you want them to be in. Check the lighting (more on that in a minute), finalize the pose, and take some test shots to make sure everything is in order.
Remember that it only takes a couple of seconds for the smoke to start pouring out of a smoke bomb, so you really only have a couple of seconds before things get wild. Practicing what you want the shot to look like ahead of time will ensure that you get the best shots from the very first press of the shutter button to the last. This will also help you ensure that you don't waste a moment of your smoke bomb. Though you can get them for budget-friendly prices from Peacock Smoke, you still want to utilize every minute of smoke that you can!
Of course, your planning also needs to take into account that smoke bomb photography (and any photography, really) is a fluid situation. As the smoke billows out and the wind moves it around, you might need to retool the shoot to adapt to the changing conditions. And that's okay!
The key to making quick changes is communication. Work with your model, give them clear directions, and give anyone else on set clear directions as well. Doing so will keep you all on the same page and make it more likely that you'll get the best shots.
As Eddie points out, "... grenades can last up to 90 seconds depending on which ones you get. They have the single vent which can last up to 90 seconds, and the double vent that can last like 30 seconds. I use both depending on the shot I want."
He goes on to say that "90 seconds sometimes feels like an eternity BUT that's what you need sometimes because the wind changes direction on you and you adjust the model, or move around. You cannot stand still while photographing a smoke session."
Ready to get started in smoke bomb photography? Fulfill all your smoke bomb needs at PEACOCK SMOKE and SMOKE EFFECT! 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!
What About Artificial Lighting?
Smoke bombs obviously have a lot to add to a photo - color and texture being the two biggest contributions. But if you add well-placed lighting to the scene, you can add much more drama to your smoke bomb photography.
By adding an off-camera flash or two, you can create a scene that really amps up the drama. Off-camera lighting can enhance the shapes and texture of the smoke. It can also add areas of highlight and shadow that create a greater feeling of depth and contrast in the image.
Using off-camera lighting is key here - using an on-camera flash will make the billows of smoke appear flat and without definition. You don't need tons of lights, either. Just one or two strobes is all you need to bring your smoke bomb photography ideas to life!
Here's a pro tip from Eddie: have an assistant to help you. With an assistant to be in charge of the lighting, you can both move around as the smoke moves to get the most impactful image.
Pro Tip: Safety first!
No matter if you get your smoke bombs from Peacock Smoke or elsewhere, safety is paramount.
Eddie is quick to point out that you need to "Be extremely careful when pulling that pin. I've burned myself and I have had some models accidentally burn themselves. It’s not like OMG get an extinguisher, but the grenades let out some sparks that can cause a small burn on contact."
Eddie goes on to say that you need to "stay away from dry areas like woods with dry leaves or grass, or clear the area out of any dry debris. Use a gas mask, respirator or face covering if you will be in an enclosed space because smoke in the face makes your eyes burn and induces coughing. That goes to say you are playing with smoke so just be aware that breathing this in is no fun. I normally try to see which way the wind is blowing and make sure the model is facing the wind so the smoke does not come towards the camera and stays behind the model."
It is your responsibility as a photographer to follow all safety protocols and to check pertinent rules and regulations before starting smoke bomb photography. If you're unsure whether smoke bombs are legal or if the area you intend to shoot is safe for smoke bombs, the best option is to not light smoke bombs. Be smart and be safe!
Smoke Bomb Photography Ideas: Experiment With Shutter Speed
Many smoke bomb photos show the smoke frozen in place. Since the smoke billows out quickly and moves around in the wind, freezing its motion requires a fast shutter speed.
A general rule of thumb is to shoot in the 1/800 secs. range at a minimum if you want to freeze motion. As you speed up the shutter, though, you'll need to adjust the aperture and ISO to compensate for the reduced light the camera can capture with a fast shutter. This will require some experimentation and practice!
If you need to brush up on your exposure settings skills, check out this tutorial on the Exposure Triangle.
Once you're comfortable making adjustments to aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, work on speeding up and slowing down the shutter speed to see the effect it has on your images.
While many smoke bomb photography ideas highlight the frozen-in-time nature of smoke, you can certainly slow the shutter down and get a fluid, blurry effect if you want. You might find that a slower shutter speed gets you a more desirable effect no matter which color or type of smoke bomb you get from Peacock Smoke (check out the selection of Peacock Smoke products at Smoke Effect).
Of course, you can also mix and match shutter speeds to create a collection of images, some of which create beautiful blurry movement and others that showcase the billowy details of the smoke. There's nothing wrong with varying the shutter speed over the course of a 30-90 second smoke bomb!
Eddie's Preferred Smoke Bombs
We asked Eddie what smoke bombs he prefers. He noted that it was a bit of a process. "I went online and researched smoke bombs/grenades, and bought some cheap ones to practice on before I decided I wanted to spend a little more. It turns out, it is true what they say: you get what you pay for. At least they were practice bombs and not for paying clients."
Eventually, Eddie found Smoke Effect. As he explains, "I decided, hey, they ship, let me hit them up for some real smoke grenades, and WOW do they have the best product on the market. The right tools make for the perfect job. I ONLY use them now because the smoke grenades last a long time, and when you are trying to get that perfect shot, you need time sometimes, and multiple shots, so you want grenades that last."
More About Eddie (in His Own Words)
We had the chance to interview Eddie recently. Below are a few of the questions we asked and the answers he provided.
PT: What inspired you to get into photography?
EG: When I was in the US NAVY back in 1999-2003 I used to see NAVAL photographers come back from deployments with some amazing photos. I was so hooked, BUT my job in the military was different and not behind a camera, SO when I got out of the service, I purchased my first SONY DSLR and taught myself how to use it by following YouTube tutorials, joining photography groups in my area, and by just photographing anything and everything. Then I taught myself photoshop and that changed my life.
PT: Can you speak to us about your style of photography?
EG: After photographing wild animals, landscapes, and just inanimate objects, I always wanted to photograph people, but I was very shy and in a shell. I decided to join a camera club where it was all about learning how to photograph models. I had a hard time talking to people, so I challenged myself, and now my style is humans, all kinds of humans. I do not shy away from a challenge, and people come to me to bring their ideas to life. I have come to realize that I am a bold, colorful, and bright photographer WITH the occasional black and white photo for drama.
PT: What do you enjoy shooting the most?
EG: I love shooting anything new that I haven’t done before. I love it when models come to me and tell me “HEY I have an Idea…” I’m already hooked on what they have to say, and if it includes smoke, then that's even better. I love to create new and awe-inspiring photos, lots of movement, lots of color, and lots of smoke. I think the reason I love using smoke is because theres nothing BUT movement.
PT: Can you share with us a photo that sticks out as one of your favorites, and share what went into capturing the shot?
EG: I really cannot pick just one. I have so many, and they are all unique and with unique models. I enjoy photographing Cosplayers as every cosplay has its own personality, so recreating what a character does is a lot of fun. As you can see in most of my photos, the majority of smoke photos are with cosplayers. I am now getting into the art of Shibari, the Japanese art of rope bondage. I want to incorporate that and smoke in some upcoming projects.
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?
EG: As a photographer in a competitive world, you cannot stay doing the same thing. As with food, you may go stale, you must expand your portfolio and show your diversity and creativity. So, when I came upon some amazing smoke grenade photos, I was instantly hooked and I said “I MUST TRY THAT NOW!” I have now become sought-after for smoke photography in my area.
PT: How has photography changed the way you see the world?
EG: I see the world like I am seeing it through my camera. I cannot see a landscape without picturing a model and a smoke grenade standing in front of it. I cannot see an abandoned house or building without picturing a model in it and my camera gear. Even when I'm watching a movie, I say to my wife, “WOW that would make an awesome photo.”
PT: What are three must-have items in your camera bag?
EG: Well for one MY CAMERA, a sharp fast lens, and 3-5 smoke grenades, as you never know when one will not work. BUT Smoke Effects has awesome customer service, and when I did have some grenades not work on me on a big shoot, they sent me some replacements for free. That's why I will never use any other product!
My name is Eddie Giron. I am a New York City-based photographer with over 10 years of photography experience under my belt. I do not count the first 5 as I was in the learning process and I taught myself after I purchased my first DSLR. Then I started photographing models and realized that was my niche and all I do now is portrait photography. I love working with people (after I felt comfortable talking to people). The human body is an amazing piece of art!
My portfolio is expansive. I do anything from headshots, children, families, small events, cosplay, boudoir, smoke photography, Shibari art, street, etc.
I love it when models come to me with fresh ideas, and when they see the final product they thank me for making them look and feel amazing, or for bringing their favorite characters to life.
In a competitive field you must keep up to date. Learning new things is my priority so I don't go stale. I have model friends I can call upon to test things out on. I am also fortunate to have an amazing and understanding wife who as an artist understands where my passion comes from.