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How To Safely Use Smoke Bombs for Photoshoots

1/30/2021 ISO 1200 Magazine 1 Comments

In the past, SLRLounge has covered ways on how to safely use smoke bombs while photographing subjects and you’ll definitely need a refresher before we dive into my creative tips. Remember, smoke bombs are fireworks and there are necessary safety precautions to take and specific areas they are prohibited (dry grass and forest areas). For the majority of our shoots, they use the Enola Gaye WP-40 smoke bomb because it has a 90-second duration which makes it easy to work with for portrait scenarios. Always have your subject hold it away from their face as you don’t want sparks to accidentally fly and burn the skin or hair.

5 Creative Tips for Using Smoke Bombs for Photoshoots 

 An important thing to keep in mind for the entire list of tips they are about to go through is shutter speed. The slower your shutter speed the less impactful the plumes of smoke will come across in camera. You’ll want to be shooting at 1/1000 or higher in order to really freeze the smoke. Here are some of our favorite ways to use smoke bombs for photoshoots:

 1. Use Against Neutral Walls

This first tip is specifically for when you are shooting in a rather boring outdoor space with neutral colored walls. The color from the smoke bomb adds a lot of visual interest to the shot and the plain colored walls really make the smoke pop. You can see that before we added the smoke bomb to this shot, it doesn’t really do anything for the viewer. There is clearly a subject, but no added elements to make the image pop. After we start adding smoke to the image, we get such a great added level of production value.

2. Accentuate Accent Colors

Color theory is one of my favorite things to study while watching movies and TV and one of the most important and frequent lessons I see is regarding color. Whether it’s complimentary, matching, or contrasting, you can use color in your photos to help add more visual interest. One of the easiest ways to incorporate smoke bombs for photoshoots is to use a smoke bomb color that accentuates or contrasts your subject. You can further this effect by tweaking the colors in Lightroom to enhance their vibrancy and saturation. We used Visual Flow Crush pack to really make the colors pop in this photo of Shiv against the asphalt.

3. Add Motion to Your Photos

It’s important to remember that note we mentioned above about shutter speed for this particular tip on using smoke bombs for photoshoots. Instruct your subject to move either jumping, dancing, or have them wave the smoke bombs around. You use that motion to draw lines into your subject from the point of view of the lens, fill up negative space, or act as a secondary subject.

4. Cover Boring Backgrounds

Similar to our first tip, you can use smoke bombs for photoshoots where your background has a ton of negative space or doesn’t provide much visual interest. The plumes of smoke are so captivating to see in photos they are bound to have some type of shock value when you compare them to boring skies or backdrops. Here I was lying on the ground and had Shiv dance in front of the lens. The smoke bomb is out of frame but the plumes are filling up the sky to create visual interest.

5. Add Flash

I really enjoy incorporating smoke in conjunction with flash because you get very interesting looks and effects. This lighting setup comes straight from our Lighting 3 series where we show you how to simulate natural light when you’ve run out of daylight. There is a softbox just out of frame on camera left that is lighting Shiv. You can see that when the flash hits the smoke it creates such interesting depth and shadow, just like it would to a portrait subject. I would highly advise against putting flashes directly behind the smoke because it lights up and it creates this bright halo behind the subject. It ends up looking like a fart explosion and isn’t the best way to incorporate smoke bombs for photoshoots.

About SLR Lounge:

SLR Lounge is a photography community dedicated to providing photography tutorials, Lightroom Tutorials, Photoshop Tutorials, photography news and more! Pye Jirsa is the founder and partner of SLR Lounge and Lin and Jirsa Photography, a boutique Southern California photography studio comprised of an incredible team that shoots over 300 weddings each year, with nearly 1,000 yearly client commissions. Let's Get Connected: |  Twitter | Facebook 

This article was written by
Pye Jirsa, 
originally  published on SLR Lounge and shared with permission.

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Paul Trantow said...

They were trite a couple years ago. If you want to look 2017 cutting edge, go for it.