May 31, 2022

Getting Started With Smoke Bomb Photography

Smoke bombs are also known as smoke grenades which means they are a type of pyrotechnic device or firework. This means they are regulated by the government and, as such, there are many rules on where and when you can use them, as well as buy them.

Before running out and buying your first set of smoke bombs, here are some tips that will help you get started:

Learn About Different Kinds of Smoke Bombs
To start off, you need to read up a bit on what you are getting yourself into. And that means learning about the different types of grenades/smoke bombs.

There are a few types that ignite differently, some have ring pull ignitions and others have wicks that you light. The types vary from amount of smoke released and how long the smoke lasts.

To reiterate, when buying colored smoke, pay attention to the burn time, the density of the smoke, and the activation method.

Be aware of costs
Smoke bombs seem pretty inexpensive. But when you consider that you might need to pick up quite a few of them for a single photo session, the cost can quickly add up.

Consider buying a variety pack, these typically will include free shipping and will give you some extra smoke bombs to practice with before the shoot. You'll usually pay less per smoke bomb in a bulk pack as well.
Since these are considered fireworks, they require a certain kind of shipping.  That being said, they are required by law to ship hazmat, which includes more expensive shipping and a signature to be released. That is another big bonus to buying in bulk, the more you order with a company the more likely they will cover the cost for you.
Companies typically have great sales as well around holidays.
Safety is Key
Remember, Smoke bombs are considered fireworks. And just like fireworks they have to be handled with care.

If you ignite one and it doesn’t put out much smoke after a few seconds, drop it in a bucket and get away from it. Smoke bomb companies have very high quality control, but there will be duds, and there will be bombs that will have a short flame. Be prepared for any situation.

Smoke bombs also give off sparks when lit which means you shouldn’t use them anywhere where there is a significant risk of fire. Anywhere around dry wood, grass, old foliage can easily catch on fire so avoid using them around those things.

Lastly, smoke bombs can leave stains if laid against something. Putting them up against fabric, or even concrete will leave a colored stain.

Finding the right smoke bombs
Each type and brand will work differently, so look at the features of each before you buy:

Method of Activation
Do you need a lighter, or do you just pull a wire? Wick lighted smoke bombs typically don't have as thick or long smoke output.  A wire pull is more straightforward to use, but it can add to the price. The ring pulled wire ignition smoke grenades have a heavier output and longer duration depending on the company you use.  Just make sure you follow the instructions, no matter which type you choose.  

Smoke Density
Decide ahead of time if you want thin coverage for a mist-like effect or fuller, more opaque coverage. The density of the smoke will affect its opacity in your image. Single Vent smoke bombs are great for thin coverage and last up to 90 seconds. For full dense clouds the dual vents are preferred and they can last up to 45 seconds.
Time of Burn
Some smoke bombs will last longer than others. If you are just getting started, find something that will give you close to a minute of active output for each smoke bomb so that you have time to make adjustments. Single Vent Smoke Bombs are great for their length of burn. Lasting approximately 90 seconds each.

Or plan on 2 shorter smoke bombs to make up for the adjusted time. Some of the best smoke bombs to shoot with are Dual Vents. These have a shorter burn time, but have twice the amount of smoke come out at once since it comes out of both ends.  So you can get a massive cloud in a short period of time.

Tips & Tricks!
Avoid Windy Days: smoke acts just like...smoke. It will go with the wind, the quieter the weather the better the smoke effect. You'll be able to control where the smoke collects when the wind is minimal.

Teach your Model: Instruct your model how best to use the smoke bomb. instead of just holding it still, have them move it slowly. Smoke trails look amazing in photography. You can also use a small fan to help the smoke go where you want it to go.

Props are always great: if you want to add more to your scene, consider a prop. We've seen amazing photos using cages, umbrellas, lanterns, even some gas masks have a really impactful effect.

Shutter Speed options: Since the smoke movement depends on the air current, your shutter speed will have a massive impact on the final result. Your shutter speed should be set to 1/800 to help freeze the smoke’s motion and get a clear shot of the smoke’s puffiness. Keep moving and take amazing photos!

If you want more of a wispy look, opt for slower shutter speeds and use a tripod as well.

Still interested and need to be pointed in the right direction?
Here are a few things to consider:
Best Value

5g Smoke Wicks are a cost-efficient option that come in stick form and give you approximately 45 seconds of burn time per stick. We have a lot of colors to choose from, including some really fun color-changing options.  Remember they are not recommended for hand-holding (like most smoke bombs).
Easiest to Use

Smoke Effect is a great option. It's a step above Wicks but still affordable to experiment with and you don't need a lighter to activate them. You get up to 90 seconds of effect on our single vent bombs and with our dual vents smokes you will get up to 45 seconds and those give a large dense cloud pretty immediately.

Top Selling

Enola Gaye has been around the longest in the professional smoke bomb market. They have a lot of features and a price tag to match. You can try and buy in bulk to cut down their price per unit, but ultimately you are paying for the name more than the product.

We’ve discussed a lot of things you’ll need for your smoke bomb shoot, so here’s a quick checklist you can refer back to as you plan:
Smoke Bomb Photography Equipment List
–One or more smoke bombs*
–A lighter, if you are using a type of smoke bomb that does not self-ignite*
–Lighting to make your smoke color pops
–A fan to blow the smoke into position
–A tripod
–A metal bucket with water* (to dispose of all used smoke bombs)

* These items are absolutely necessary *

Now that you have the knowledge, it’s time to get the tools and plan your shoot. Use the right safety measures, keep an eye on your color theory, and enjoy your brand new photography technique.