Have you ever gazed longingly at the multitude of beautiful smoke bomb photos online and wished you could shoot photography like that? Stop wishing and get creating! Read on for need to know photography tips for making the most out of the smoke bomb experience.

smoke bomb photography

Smoke Bomb Shooting Techniques

To use smoke bombs in a shoot, it’s essential that you plan how your shooting style, camera, and the smoke bomb will work together. Here are basic tips to get you started. 

Consider Your Color Choices

The smoke colors can help set the mood of your images. Dark hues like deep purples and blue can produce a shady or gloomy effect. Meanwhile, bright orange and pink can lighten your shots.  

Additionally, consider your subject’s wardrobe. Use complementary hues to avoid the colors from clashing.

Play With Your Shutter Speed

Since the smoke will move around as it flows out of the canister, a fast shutter speed can freeze that motion. Need a refresher on shutter speeds? We’ve got you covered.

Increase your shutter speed to capture the whorls, puffs, and details of the smoke. You need to increase your shutter speed in the range of 1/800 – 1/2500. You’ll need to adjust your ISO and aperture to compensate for the fast shutter speeds.

On the other hand, a slower shutter speed can give the smoke a wispy and smoother look. Leave the shutter open a bit longer, and you can get motion blurs for a mellow effect. However, make sure that your model also moves slower. 

Set the Corresponding Aperture

When using fast shutter speeds, set the aperture between f/4.0 and f/5.6 to maintain focus on the model and the smoke. You can also use this to create some depth of field. 

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Coordinate Poses Before Lighting the Smoke Bomb

Make sure that your wire pull model is standing in the right spot. Finalize your composition, lighting, pose, and everything else before you pull the smoke bomb’s cable or wire. Remember, safety first! 

While photography smoke bombs like Enola Gaye can last for up to 90 seconds, it only takes a few seconds to generate huge puffs of smoke for a dramatic effect. Hence, there would only be a few seconds for the model to move around the smoke. 

Form Smoke Trails

Another tip when controlling the smoke is to move the smoke canister or bomb slower. In effect, it can leave more prominent trails of smoke. The faster the subject moves, the wispier and thinner the trails become. 

Watch Out for the Face

Careful to avoid too many pictures with smoke in front of your client’s face. While we all love artsy photos, you still want your client to be recognizable in most of the images. 

Ask your subject to move towards you and away from the cloud of smoke if you’re starting to lose their face. This way you still keep all the lovely colorful smoke in the background.

Use Props

Another shooting technique is to put the smoke bomb in another object or use props to conceal it. You can use things like an umbrella, lantern, or birdcage. The goal is to make it look that the smoke is billowing out of an ordinary object. 

Since you would only have 90 seconds to capture the smoke, make sure to prepare the props before lighting the canister. 

Have Fun and Experiment!

There are endless possibilities with smoke bombs: subject standing still with the smoke behind them, subjects holding smoke canisters and moving about, or an assistant running around your subject with the smoke bomb. 

You can set your smoke bomb off on the ground and see if your subject moving about within the smoke can create cool swirls within the smoke. Be assertive and direct your subject on what to do so they don’t stand still the whole time.

Smoke Bomb Photography Safety Tips

Keep in mind that a smoke bomb is like a fire in a stick, so there are still risks of flaming and injuries. As long as you follow these safety precautions, you can enjoy using the smoke’s colors for your artistic pictures. Always remember, safety first!

Use the Right Kind of Smoke Bomb

First tip: Look for canisters you can hold by hand. This is commonly a wire pull smoke grenade that’s easier to use than ones that require a lighter. 

While a wire pull canister may cost a bit more, the accessible wire gives photographers a better window in controlling the smoke. It normally creates vivid colors for up to 90 seconds, depending on how windy it is.  

Scout for Locations

This is the most important rule with smoke bomb photography because there are potential hazards surrounding smoke bombs. The riskiest kind of smoke bomb is the one that requires you to light them on fire.

You’re best off using these in a paved area far away from dry kindling like grass and trees. Stay away from dry natural areas in the height of summer and early fall when vegetation is driest. 

Fires can spread very quickly. Many devastating wildfires are unintentionally set by humans. Prepare for the worst case scenario by bringing a bucket of water with you.

Avoid Public Spaces

Smoke canisters are designed to be safe for use around humans, however, the smoke might cause some throat or eye irritation to sensitive people. Most people are fine around smoke bombs but remind your subjects that they can leave the smoke if they feel affected.

Can’t stop worrying about your upcoming session? Read these tips to banish your anxiety.

Coordinate With the Fire Department and Municipality

There may be areas where smoke bombs have been prohibited from use due to fire hazards, so checking with your local fire department ahead of time is best. 

Your municipality might require permits to set a smoke grenade off, so check ahead of time to avoid breaking bylaws and getting fined.

Check the Weather

The wind is a smoke bomb’s worst enemy. A very light breeze should be fine and might accentuate the smoke by blowing it about in slow currents. Anything stronger than a breeze will blow all the smoke before it has a chance to accumulate around your subject. 

Heavy downpours also come with fast breezes. Unless you’re in a sheltered area away from the wind, be prepared to postpone your session if the weather isn’t ideal. Inform your client ahead of time of the possibility of rescheduling due to bad weather to avoid disappointing your client.

Give Your Model a Quick Lesson on Safety

Another tip is to begin your session by reminding your client of the dangers surrounding smoke bomb photography. It may be common sense but warn them not to point the smoke bomb at any family members or strangers passing by.

Canisters can get a little hot. If your client is holding one, tell them to drop it on pavement or bare dirt if it feels too hot to hold. 

You don’t want it to fall on flammable material like dry grass. Don’t throw them out without first dropping it in a metal bucket of water. This prevents it from setting something else on fire.

There is a slight risk of a smoke bomb clogging and bursting under pressure. If your smoke bomb doesn’t spew smoke shortly after ignition, tell your client to set it on the ground and wait a safe distance until it burns out.

Extra Tips on Smoke Bomb Photography

The best smoke bomb photographers combine precautions, knowledge, and techniques to make a photo session with smoke bombs successful. Here are final smoke bombs reminders before doing a shoot. 

Do a Practice Run

If this is your first time using smoke bombs for photography or a smoke canister, you may want to practice using one yourself. In this way, you can gauge how many seconds the smoke actually lasts. Likewise, this gives you a better visualization of how your model or client should move as well as how to move the smoke bomb. 

Bring Spare Canisters

You never know what might happen during your photo session. Your client might not realize how quickly the smoke bomb dissipates, or a stranger might walk into your smoke bombs photos unintentionally. 

There is a slight chance your smoke bomb might be defective and not spout smoke. It is best to bring a couple smoke bomb spares “just in case”. Factor the cost of these smoke bombs for photography into your package costs.

smoke bomb photography

Be Prepared

Smoke grenades don’t last long, so prepare ahead of time with a game plan. Do you know which poses you want your subjects in? It never hurts to do a little research online for pose ideas, especially if you get a little flustered under pressure. 

Save pose ideas on your phone or on the memory card used during your shoot. This way you can discreetly remind yourself of poses if your mind goes blank during your session. Part of preparing is making sure you will have the right lighting during your session.

smoke bomb photography

Bring a Change of Clothes

Colorful smoke canisters are made with water-soluble materials, so they should wash out of clothing, hair, and skin. Warning your clients beforehand will allow them to avoid wearing delicate clothing prone to staining or items that must be dry cleaned.

smoke bomb photography

Where Do You Buy Colored Smoke Bombs for Photography?

You can’t do smoke bomb photography without the smoke bombs, so where can you buy them? Stores differ based on where you live so do a quick online search for locations near you. 

  • Walmart sells many different colors. 
  • In Canada, you’ll have to ship them to your home as Walmart doesn’t have them available in stores. 
  • In the USA, it might be different. Another great source is Amazon. There are dozens of retailers that customize their products for gender reveals, and many other retailers with non-gender reveal colors.
  • Aside from smoke bombs online retailers, you can look for local fireworks manufacturers as there is a good chance they also make smoke canisters. Paintball places might also sell them. 
  • Many photographers swear by Enola Gaye smoke bombs for the highest quality. You can buy some Enola Gaye smoke bombs on the Enola Gaye website. 

Smoke Bomb Pricing

Be prepared to spend $7-15 per some bombs depending on which country you live in. Some colored smoke bombs and smoke grenades may cost more than others.

Sometimes the price depends on the smoke bombs manufacturer and the ignition method. Smoke bombs for photography products can also come in a grenade, pellet, and cake form but bombs and grenades are the best for photography.

smoke bomb photography


Smoke bomb photography is a great way for photographers to diversify their portfolios, as well as attract a different set of clients. Be sure to follow safety protocols and practice your shooting techniques, so that you can make the most out of your photo sessions. 

More ways to get the most out of your portrait session here.

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