Smoke grenades, or smoke bombs, are a fun way to take some striking photography.
They’re affordable and colourful, and the subject will usually hold them. You can also place them in a safe location to create vibrant foregrounds and backgrounds.
Using smoke grenades in your photos will take your skills to the next level. You’ll get to work with all kinds of colours while experimenting with surreal photography. And you’ll get better at photographing candid moments.
No matter what photography genre you’re into, you’ll enjoy working with these creative little tools.
Read on for all the tips and tricks to take advantage of smoke grenades.
Smoke Grenades Tricks and Safety Tips
As fun as smoke grenades are, they’re not completely harmless. Not handling a smoke bomb correctly might result in dangerous consequences. These include choking or burning.
To avoid unwanted smoke bomb photography accidents, familiarise yourself with these tips:
- Do not use smoke grenades if you’re planning to photograph children or animals;
- Don’t take photos in places that are very dry;
- Make sure the weather is mild on the day of your shoot. Too much rain or wind will quickly ruin the smoke effect;
- Some colours, like green, might clash with your subject and result in unflattering images. Buy different smoke grenades to avoid this;
- Some coloured smoke bombs will stain everything in their way. Keep this in mind when you choose your outfit;
- Your model shouldn’t hold the smoke grenade too close to their face to avoid staining and burning;
- Don’t take photos in crowded or busy places and avoid flammable objects. Strangers might not appreciate getting covered in smoke stains. And the last thing you want is to create an explosion;
- If you need extra help holding several smoke grenades, bring an assistant with you;
- Last but not least, pour water over your smoke bombs after you use them. This will ensure that they won’t explode once you throw them away.
10 Creative Ideas for Outstanding Smoke Grenade Photos
Once you learn how to handle a smoke grenade, you’ll be able to take all kinds of vibrant photos. These can feature people, objects, or even landscapes.
If the endless possibilities seem overwhelming, start slow. You can find inspiration in these ideas.
10. For a Minimalist Effect, Take Photos in Front of a Black Background
Simple photos like this are ideal for creative self-portraits.
If you take photos in colourful places, your smoke grenade might blend in and not stand out. To avoid this, photograph your subject in front of a neutral-coloured background.
I recommend using a black background to create a fine art photography feel. Black will also emphasise the contrast between your subject and the smoke. All without adding any distractions.
You don’t need to own a professional studio to create a black background. It would be handy, sure, but not necessary. You can paint over a large piece of cardboard, use black fabric, or buy a black poster board.
Your background might be large enough for your subject but not large enough for your entire frame. In this case, you can fill in the empty spaces in Photoshop.
9. Create a Unique Background Out of Smoke Grenades
If you don’t want to use a DIY background, you can create one using your smoke grenades.
For this approach to be successful, you need to use at least two smoke bombs at the same time. Have someone hold a smoke bomb a distance away from your subject to create the background.
Let the smoke disperse a little to create an even background. Use your second smoke grenade a few seconds later.
Coloured smoke backgrounds create interesting textures. And they hide background details that could be distracting.
If you’re shooting in a place with uninspiring backgrounds, you’ll love using this technique.
8. Create Smoke Resources That You Can Use in Future Projects
Smoke grenade photos don’t always have to feature people, places, or things. If you photograph smoke on its own, you’ll get a plethora of unique results that you can use in future projects.
You can use photos of smoke to create double exposures or diptychs. Since smoke looks cool enough on its own, you can even share your raw results online.
Note: if you’re planning to create diptychs, take vertical photos. If you’re going to use your resources in projects that don’t rely on orientation, you can shoot horizontally.
7. Use Your Smoke’s Textures to Create Surreal Images
Coloured smoke looks magical. So it’s not surprising that many photographers use it to create conceptual and surreal images.
Surreal photography revolves around magical realism. Surreal images look like they were taken on other planets. Or like they were heavily Photoshopped (in the best of ways) to create outlandish compositions.
Surrealism does often rely on great Photoshop skills and professional props. But you can take your own surreal photos with the help of a simple smoke grenade.
To create moody atmospheres, take photos in places with atmospheric light. Atmospheric light includes top light, back light, and direct natural light.
6. Capture Smoke Coming Out of an Object
Without the smoke, this photo wouldn’t be as eye-catching as it is with bright red smoke emerging from the suitcase. Even one smoke grenade can significantly enhance an image’s appeal, composition, and meaning.
If you want to create a conceptual image, put your smoke bomb in an object. This will create an effect that’s perfect for photo series and action shots.
It goes without saying that the object you’ll be using should be safe. A suitcase, despite its visual appeal, may not be the best option.
If you want to recreate this look, I highly recommend doing so in post production.
Photograph smoke in all kinds of lighting in front of simple backgrounds, like the sky or a DIY backdrop. Then, add the smoke photos to a variety of photos in Photoshop.
5. Improve Your Action Photography Skills by Photographing Moving Smoke
For the best action photo results, shoot in burst mode. This will allow you to quickly take a series of photos within a short period of time. Your results might end up looking like this photo: eye-catching, sharp, and unique.
Depending on the weather, smoke can be very unpredictable. Even on a calm day, it can move around in various directions.
Coloured smoke is significantly easier to spot than white smoke. Use it as an opportunity to become a better action photographer.
With the wrong camera settings, your results will end up looking blurry and uninteresting.
Knowing what shutter speed, aperture, and ISO to use will help you take sharp photos in all kinds of places, especially busy ones. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different settings.
It also helps that smoke grenades last for around a minute. You don’t have to worry about running out of time. Instead, you can focus on getting the perfect shot.
4. Create Fascinating Portraits Without Revealing Your Subject’s Face
Portrait photographers tend to focus on facial features and expressions. But there are exceptions to this preference.
Faceless portraits don’t need to feature your subject’s face at all. Like the image above, they can be mysterious or even eerie.
To make your anonymous portraits interesting to look at, use smoke grenades during your shoot.
This will not only add a boost of colour to your image, but turn a simple faceless portrait into a haunting work of art.
3. Or Photograph Silhouettes Using Smoke Bomb Photography
If haunting portraits aren’t your thing, combine silhouettes and smoke grenades instead.
To create a silhouette, have your subject stand in front of a bright light source. This could be a professional light, a simple desk lamp, or even a torch.
If you want their face to be unidentifiable, don’t use any other light sources around them.
To make your model’s silhouette visible, use a smoke grenade behind them. This will stop the smoke from hiding their outline. And it will create a vibrant background for you to work with.
2. If You Love Outdoor Light, Photograph Smoke During the Golden Hour
Your choice of smoke grenades heavily depends on your location and the time of day. For golden hour photos, colours like orange, yellow, and red are ideal.
Some photographers don’t like working with dark themes, and that’s okay. You can use smoke grenades to create more than just moody atmospheres.
Are you the kind of photographer who adores natural outdoor light, dreamy atmospheres, and portraits with soft backgrounds? Then you’ll love taking photos during the golden hour.
The golden hour can be found twice a day: right before sunset and shortly after sunrise. Because golden hour is so soft, it can be used as backlight, side light, or even direct light.
This makes it the perfect hour for smoke grenade experiments. If you combine colourful smoke with warm light, you’ll get a lot of interesting photo opportunities.
1. Use Smoke Grenades to Create a Cinematic Feel
The barely visible landscape, silhouette, and yellow smoke look like they belong to a film inspired by Lord of the Rings.
If you like watching films and TV shows, chances are you’re interested in taking cinematic photos. Cinematic images look like film stills.
In addition to being stretched or expanded to fit a certain format, they’re also photographed a certain way.
Mist, smoke grenades, and beautiful landscapes are often used in cinematography.
Even if you just have access to smoke bombs, you can use them to create stunning cinematic compositions.
If you want to take it a step further, re-watch your favourite films. Watch out for themes that might inspire you to use smoke grenades and recreate them.
Experiment with different genres, subjects, and locations.
If you’re a portrait photographer, try taking photos of an object surrounded by smoke. If you’re a landscape photographer, try working with professional models.
Smoke grenades can be used in a rich variety of places and lighting situations.
In addition to being versatile, they’re affordable, and can be found almost anywhere. And are relatively safe to use if you’re aware of the rules.
You don’t need a lot of equipment to take photos that you’re proud of. No matter what photography genre you’re in, you can use smoke grenades to take your photos to the next level.
All you need is your imagination, your camera, a subject, and a colourful smoke bomb. Taking great photos has never been easier!
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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