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Getting Started with Smoke Bomb Photography: Camera Equipment and Tools

Getting Started with Smoke Bomb Photography: Camera Equipment and Tools

The challenge of taking the most fascinating photos in the industry has led photographers to explore different materials and devices. This exploration produced a new genre that is known for its creatively unpredictable and spellbinding effects: smoke bomb photography.

If you want to get started and try smoke bomb photography, this article will help you know more about this photography genre, as well as the needed camera equipment, props, and materials for a successful smoke grenade photoshoot. 

What is Smoke Bomb Photography?

Smoke Bomb Photography is a favorite photography technique that captures colorful smoke clouds and smoke trails. Also known as “smoke grenade photography,” it uses special canisters or smoke grenades to create a more fascinating mood in your images, thanks to this unpredictable and vibrant smoke effect.

Used either as a background or a prop, smoke bomb photography offers a dramatic and sometimes flamboyant atmosphere to a scene.

This method of taking photos is mostly common for fashion photography, wedding photography, a cyberpunk themed birthday shoot, as well as a post-apocalyptic themed photoshoot that can add a wow factor to your photography portfolio.

What Camera Equipment Do You Need for Smoke Bomb Photography?

The good news about getting started on smoke grenade photography is you don’t need to upgrade your camera gear for a successful shoot. Every piece of camera equipment that you need is already included in your regular photography set.

However, take note that some of these devices play a crucial role in creating a smoother, easier shoot. Having the correct camera settings can also make a difference in getting the shot that you want. 

Here is a list of the must-have camera equipment for smoke bomb photography and why they are important for every shoot.

wedding smoke bomb photography

A Good Camera with a Manual Mode

Any type of camera can perform a good smoke bomb photo shoot, but if you want to stand out and deliver unique images, use a digital camera capable of manual mode. DSLRs can produce high-quality images that give you more freedom during post-processing and further image editing.

Manual-capable cameras are also important so that you can adjust your camera settings according to what the technique requires: a fast shutter speed.

What is the importance of shutter speed in smoke grenade photography?

Smoke is an extremely volatile subject and it can be unpredictable. Fast shutter speed cameras can make sure that you will have a very sharp-detailed image. Slower shutters will make your smoke softer, flowing, and a bit wispy.

Don’t miss out on the vibrant effect of your smoke bombs! There’s a reason why they are loved for their colors.

What is the recommended camera setting for smoke bomb photography?

Professional photographers suggest a shutter speed between the range of 1/800-1/2500. You can also go higher if you’re aiming for a specific shot, such as a detailed shot of the whorls and puffs. It’s best for dynamic shots of objects or fast-moving subjects.

Slower shutter speeds for taking smoke bomb photos will give you a more mellow, and smooth, flowing result. This is ideal if you’re taking your photo with other stationary props. If you’re using the smoke as a part of a bigger photoshoot with a moving subject, you need them to move slower.

Based on your shutter speed, adjust your aperture and ISO values. Photographers suggest an aperture range of  f/4.0 to f/5.6, especially for portrait photographs with a model.

A Steady Tripod for smoke bomb photography

A Steady Tripod to Prevent Blurs

Smoke bombs and canisters are not the cheapest camera props but the results are worth it. That’s why you have to make sure that you make the most out of every shot. Using a steady tripod for your shoots will prevent blurry images.

Aside from a trusty tripod, you’re going to need an assistant or two. Handing smoke grenades and canisters can be tricky if you’re doing it alone. You need someone to direct the smoke or assist your models in triggering the canister.

A Remote Camera Trigger with Sensors

With your DSLR camera and a stable tripod, a remote camera trigger will give you the freedom to take high-speed smoke and cloud photos without worrying about blurry or missed shots. 

A remote camera trigger, also known as a wireless camera trigger capable of capturing high-speed events. What’s awesome about this gadget is that it has highly sensitive sensors for a range of triggers. One perfect example of this device is the MIOPS Smart+ Camera Trigger.

What makes MIOPS Smart+ Camera Trigger the best for Smoke Bomb Photography?

Among its range of sensors for high-speed photography, MIOPS Smart+ has two featured and recommended triggers that can upgrade your smoke bomb photography experience: its sound trigger and its laser trigger.

As a remote camera trigger, it signals your camera to capture the quick-changing and high-speed movements and shapes of smoldering smoke, clouds, and smoke trails to create high-definition and blur-free images. 

Want to create a vibrant explosion? Use the Sound Mode to activate MIOPS’ sound sensor to take a shot and capture the creative blast. Want to do a hands-free shoot without missing great photo opportunities?

Activate MIOPS Smart+ and its motion sensors using the Laser Mode. The moment an object or your model breaks the laser, your camera activates its shutter to capture and freeze the scene in milliseconds.

smoke bomb photography equipment

Different Types of Lighting Equipment

Lighting is very important in smoke bomb photography. A good lighting set-up not only enhances the scene. Light also interacts with the ever-changing shape of the smoke cloud and the misty trails that it leaves behind. The resulting image is often characterized by this dramatic, otherworldly, or mystical effect, depending on how you set up your lighting.

Use multicolored or single-colored lights that will blend and interact with your opaque clouds and trails. Direct your light according to a composition that fits your chosen theme.

Is it a wedding scene? Is it a Halloween shoot? How about a product photography shoot?

Some photographers use speedlights, strategically set up flashguns, or even sets of strobes to achieve the effect that they want.

You have to remember that each smoke canister or smoke grenade will only last for an average of 90 seconds with approximately 70 to 80 seconds of usable smoke time.

Make the most out of every second by getting the most interesting image every time you activate your shutter.

A Fan to Control the Direction of the Smoke

To learn how to manipulate the direction of the smoke in your images, it’s important to gain an understanding of what smoke actually is. Smoke is a product of incomplete combustion.

It is composed of tiny unburnt particles and can appear as liquid or gas particles, which are so light that their movement is dependent on the direction of air around them. Controlling the airflow helps you control how your smoke bomb photos will look like.

Aside from moving the smoke bomb cans around to create your smoke trails and clouds, you can also use position your cans or smoke sticks and let the wind from the fan move the smoke or cloud into position. You might also be surprised by unpredictably unique shapes and patterns that they can create.

However, make sure that the fan is not pointed towards your model. Use a low setting, just enough to keep a steady airflow going.

colored smoke bombs

One or Two Smoke Bombs

Of course, the most important items in your smoke bomb photography are your smoke bombs, sticks, tubes, or grenades. Just as how they come in different names, they are also categorized into different types. Each type works differently and each one has varying features.

When choosing a smoke bomb, always read the label and look for their specifications based on the features below:

Smoke Bomb Burn Time/ Smoke Duration

Smoke bomb brands have different smoke duration or burn time. Use this information to time your shots and give you an idea of how much time you have for a photo-usable smoke.

Smoke Bomb Smoke Density

Smoke density is important when setting up your photoshoot. This feature affects a smoke’s opacity and how the smoke will interact with your lighting. Some smoke bombs have a thinner and misty effect while others appear in fuller and thicker clouds.

Smoke Bomb Activation Method

Some smoke bombs need a lighter to activate while smoke cans (also known as smoke grenades), are triggered by just pulling a wire. The former is more affordable than the latter. However, wire pull ignition smoke bombs are more convenient and straightforward.

Smoke Color

Smoke bombs come in a wide spectrum of colors. If you’re unsure of how to choose the best color for your shoot, you have to first decide on a theme and base your choice around it.

smoke bomb high speed photography

Other Set Equipment for Safety

Aside from the equipment from your camera bag, you should also prepare first aid kits and safety equipment, just in case. Some of the equipment and items you need nearby are:

  • A bucket of water or metal can where you can put an overheating or faulty smoke grenade.
  • A fire extinguisher in case you need to put out a fire from a malfunctioning smoke bomb.
  • A first-aid kit in case of burns or damage to the skin.

These are the worst possible scenarios and don’t usually happen if you just use smoke bombs properly. In order to understand the risks involved, you have to understand how smoke bombs work.

How do smoke bombs work?

Smoke bombs are not just your ordinary props. In order to produce smoke, the canister is designed to create sparks to trigger incomplete combustion. While emitting smoke, these cans and sticks can get uncomfortably warm. After 90 minutes or so, it continues to heat up. 

What risks should you expect when using smoke bombs?

You’re dealing with a device that can create sparks and emit smoke, so make sure that you’re away from anything inflammable. On rare occasions, a smoke grenade can malfunction, so having a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher helps you prepare and counter risks.

Smoke bombs can also irritate the eyes and cause your model to tear up. It also has a sulfur smell that you need to get used to. Additionally, it can stain your clothes if it is held too close to your model.

While the stains can easily be washed off, they can create difficulties during a photoshoot, especially if it’s for a wedding or a fashion photoshoot. 

The best and most effective way to prevent all these risks is to angle your can away from the face and the body.  Make sure that your models are aware of these scenarios before doing the shoot. 

smoke bomb photography locations

Where is the best place to shoot smoke bomb photography?

Beginner photographers who tried smoke bomb photography for the first time all learned this same lesson: if you have a small studio, don’t do your smoke grenade photoshoot indoors. The smoke from a single smoke stick is overwhelming and can easily fill a room. 

You can do your smoke bomb photography outdoors. However, make sure to check the weather first before setting your schedule. The wind is your smoke’s worst enemy, so take that into consideration.

Additionally, never shoot out in the field where there is dead grass or a dry environment. Smoke grenades and their sparks can start a fire.

So there you have it: the camera equipment and items that you need for your first successful smoke grenade photography. All these things must already be in your camera bag and home studio.

However, if you’re worried that your camera is not powerful enough to capture these types of photos, you’re in luck: there’s a great device that adds a variety of options to your photography setup. 

MIOPS Smart+ Camera Trigger Can Turn Your Camera into a High-Speed Capturing Device

Aside from its featured sound trigger and laser trigger modes for smoke bomb photography, MIOPS Smart+ Camera Trigger is a versatile tool that turns even the most basic DSLR camera into high-performance, high-speed equipment. As a smart device, it can be connected to your smartphone to give you more freedom and creativity to customize, schedule, and control your shots!



Take impossible photos by turning your camera into a high-speed capture device!


You don’t have to upgrade your camera and spend thousands of dollars on bulky and often complicated equipment. This single, intuitive device can easily up your game in smoke bomb photography and other similar high-speed events, such as lightning photography, water drop photography, and bullet photography, to name a few. 

Let’s help you start your journey into the most awesome high-speed photography genres. Take the first step here!

Blog Credit: Charm Villalon

Charm is a writer and a visual artist. Her drive to share ideas and stories is evident in her background in communication arts and language studies. Years of professional experience in content creation have given her a broad proficiency with the process of engaging online communities. An appreciation for multiple languages and cultures drives her to seek out experiences and capture these moments through her writing, digital art, and photography.

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