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Recently, smoke bombs have quite literally been living up to their name. From ethereal, surrealist photography set in the forest to colorful smoke at weddings, these vaporous accessories are the latest, inescapable photography fad. While smoke bombs look fairly easy to use, they can be a little bit dangerous and messy when not used correctly. Here, we’ll go over the basics of how to use smoke bombs to add a colorful, alarming twist to your photos.

via Jovana Rikalo Photography
via Jovana Rikalo Photography

Gear

When shooting with smoke bombs, there are few things to have handy. Obviously, smoke bombs are a necessity. Your best bet is to use the wire pull grenade kind. Additionally, you’ll need a camera and external flash to pull off your stunning shots. Gloves are also a good call, as smoke bombs can cause some staining on your skin and clothing. They can also give off sparks, so just make sure your subjects are prepared for a little firecracker action.

Setup

When scouting a location, make sure that you’re shooting in a super dry environment during the hottest months of summer. Make sure to have some water handy just in case anything lights up. Wind can also be a nemesis to smoke bombs — if it’s a super windy day, it might be worth postponing the shoot to another day.

Before you start shooting the smoke bombs, make sure to set up your camera and flash to have all the right settings. When shooting smoke, it’s better to be slightly underexposed to bring out the highlights in the smoke. For your camera, we would recommend setting the aperture between f/4.0 and f/5.6 and having a fast shutter speed. You want to have some depth of field, while making sure the subject and some of the smoke is focused. Take a few sample shots with the subject to ensure you have the right settings, and then you’re ready to start shooting.

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During the Shoot

If you’re using the wire pull smoke bombs, make sure that the part that expels smoke is facing away from the person holding it. Keep in mind that the smoke grenade runs for about 90 seconds, and may take a few seconds to get going. Now it’s time to get creative! Get some shots where the subject is waving the smoke bomb around, in front and behind them.

via Brian Crippe
via Brian Crippe

Have the subject walk with the smoke bomb so smoke is trailing behind.

stella maxwell by ben morris for numéro tokyo #74 march 2014
Stella Maxwell by Ben Morris for Numéro Tokyo #74 March 2014

If you have an assistant, have the assistant circle the subject with the smoke, creating a more mystical look.

via Jovana Rikalo photography
via Jovana Rikalo Photography

And in this case, the more the merrier. Trying mixing two different contrasting colors.

via Laura Goldenberger
via Laura Goldenberger

Although super trendy, smoke bombs are still relatively new in photography. That means there are endless options to be explored. Move out of your comfort zone when shooting with the smoke to create stunning portraits or surrealist shots. Moreover, the great part about smoke bombs is that they fit any type of photo, whether it’s edgy street photography, romantic wedding photography or captivating portraiture. Get creative and let your imagination run wild.