Combining fantasy photography with real elements like smoke can create an immersive and magical feeling in your images.
This page contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase after clicking a link, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. These are links to items that I have personally used and recommend. Anything you read in this blog is at your own risk. Please read all instructions and safety guidelines that come with your products. Photographers have been using smoke bombs for as long as I can remember to create unique photographs with beautiful pops of colors. When I started venturing into fantasy photography I like so many other photographers had to give these a try.
The learning curve was not so easy when I first tried these, there were hardly any articles or information available. So I bought a few varieties of smoke bombs and started testing them. I bought the cheapest smoke bombs I could find at first and this was my first mistake.
The fire hazard that these little balls of fire created was something I don't think anyone was prepared for. I look back and cringe at how underprepared I was for this shoot.
Even though I took safety measures these cheaply made smoke bombs were unpredictable and not safe. I did know that I needed to make my box/books/props safer and I did that following the steps below but I don't recommend setting up any shoot using smoke bombs without first practicing on your own and only buying high quality from brands like Enola Gaye.
The truth is a lot of photographers and everyday people are using smoke bombs or grenades without thinking about the health and safety of the people they are using them with or the area they are using them in. I am sure we have all watched the news of the gender reveal smoke bombs starting massive forest fires and other damages. At the end of the day, you need to remember that this is fire. ALWAYS read the safety guidelines that come with your smoke grenades. YOU are responsible for yourself, your clients, and the environment. If you choose to try any part of the information provided in this blog you are doing so at your own risk. Below I am going to discuss how I make my props to be safer while using smoke bombs. This is not a 100% method and you should only use smoke bombs or grenades at your own risk.
When making Pandora's box the first time. (See the picture above and to the left.) I just used a little chest that I found at Hobby Lobby. We don't have access to that store anymore and I checked Amazon and found almost this exact match but in brown. I haven't bought this one though so I cannot speak for the quality of it looks similar to the one I used just in a different color.
You can use just about any container or box as long as you take into consideration the heat and potential to catch fire. In order to cut down on the potential of the container catching fire, I lined mine with aluminum tin foil pans. The thicker the material the better.
I usually buy the long sheet-styled pans so I can bend and fold these to slide into the container to act as a barrier between the container and the smoke grenade. Please note that this is not a 100% guaranteed method of working. This is just the method that I use and if you choose to try this method please test it out first and proceed at your own risk.
I want to include some safety tips that I use in addition to what the label and instructions state for use. ALWAYS read and follow the labels' instructions for health and safety. 1. I try to use high-quality products only. There are a lot of brands on the market but the cheaper the price the cheaper the quality in most cases. The cheapest brand that I used when I first tried this literally burst into flames. This is why you should NEVER hold these in your hand ever. The cheaper ones also have a tendency to spit sparks everywhere. This will leave burn marks in the outfits as well as the potential to land on the ground and start an environmental fire.
Work with extreme caution and safety in mind. Can I repeat - this is at your own risk. 2. Always check with the fire department nearest to where you will be working. Ask if there are any burn bans in place and let them know what you are planning on doing. The last thing you want to do is start a forest fire. Even after a good rain the forest floor could still contain a lot of dead leaves and debris that can catch on fire very easily. You may be thinking to yourself. But I am fast I have a plan. But the fact of the matter is you are not. 3. Clients and models are unpredictable. If the container you are holding starts to catch on fire from a faulty smoke grenade your reaction is to immediately get rid of it. This for some people means they are going to throw it. Throwing a burning prop in the middle of an area that could catch on fire is not going to go well. I always recommend taking a 5-gallon bucket and a few gallons of water jugs with you and pre-filling it up so you can drop anything in it that you need to, this includes the used smoke bombs. 4. A fire extinguisher is always needed on any shoot that is going to use anything with fire. Familiarize yourself with how to use it and make sure it is filled and not expired. Have an assistant in charge of fire safety the entire time. Their only job is to be there holding the fire extinguisher ready to put out any fires. 5. NEVER hold a smoke grenade or bomb no matter how high the quality is in your hand. EVER. I know you see scroll through Pinterest and see people holding them all the time but JUST DON'T do it! I carry tape in my car with me everywhere and if you are trying to fill in the area around your model with smoke you can tape it to a stick and then wave it around to spread the smoke around while not having to hold it in your hand. 6. Let your prop and the used smoke bombs cool completely before properly disposing of them. Do not just toss used smoke grenades into the trash. Do not put them in your car. Dump them into a bucket of water and let them soak. Very cheaply made smoke bombs usually have compressed sawdust in them. So they can continue to burn on the inside even after the bulk of the smoke is released. Always air on the side of caution. 7. Smoke Grenades can stain don't use them around anything that you cannot bear to lose.
Just remember if you are going to attempt to do a photoshoot with smoke grenades/bombs you are doing so at your own risk.