We’ve teamed up with Enola Gaye to create some fun video tutorials showcasing their smoke bombs for photography. In this video, you’ll learn how to spin smoke around your subject to create an incredible effect. Download the exercise files for this tutorial and edit them along with me at the end of the video!
We love using the Enola Gaye WP-40 smoke bomb because it has a 90-second duration which makes it easy to work with for portrait scenarios. For this specific tutorial, you’ll want something that lasts longer than 15 seconds to make sure you get the full circle completed. If you’re interested in checking out their website to see what color options they have or want to re-create these techniques make sure you code SLREG10 at checkout to save 10% off your purchase! Let’s dive into the tutorial!
We’re going to break this tutorial into 3 sections: preparation, shooting, and editing. When I say complete tutorial, I want you to be able to walk away with a full understanding of how to accomplish this technique all by yourself.
You can use any camera to take this photo, even your phone, just as long as you have a tripod. You’ll find out why we need to stabilize the camera a bit later in the post-production portion of this tutorial. Obviously, we will need smoke bomb but the trick here is to attach fishing wire to one end so you can spin the smoke bomb around the subject. Please be cautious of the smoke bomb sparks that may occur and make sure you get a fishing wire that is rated for 20-30 pounds. Attach the wire with some gaff tape or duct tape to ensure that it isn’t going to fly off while spinning. Lastly, you’ll need gloves to prevent from burning your hand with the wire rotation. Now that you’ve got all you need, let’s get into the shooting part of this technique.
Shooting Spinning Smoke
In the past, we’ve discussed using the C.A.M.P Framework as our guide to taking photographs to have a clear intention of what we are shooting. Let’s start out with our intended composition for the photograph. I decided to go for a bullseye-center composition to accentuate the circle of the spinning smoke. Next, I decided on my ambient light exposure to be at 1/2000th of a second, f/2, and ISO 800. By shooting the image a little bit underexposed I am able to eliminate some of the more detracting elements in the frame and also make minor adjustments in post to select portions of the image.
Shutter speed is going to be key here, you want it to be at least 1/1000th or above because the smoke spins at a fast speed and that the smoke coming out of the smoke bomb is also fast. We want to be able to capture detail in the plumes as they come out and it would be nearly impossible to capture that movement at any slower shutter speed. This leads me to why we are using a tripod for this technique. With the variability of each spin, you are unlikely to get one complete circle in the capture time. Therefore, having a tripod and using remote capture allows you to get multiple shots that we can later composite together in Photoshop to create a full circle.
I instructed our model Chelsea to hold a pose for roughly 10 seconds. What I am going to do is shoot 6-10 frames and then say switch so that she knows when to change her position. I stand directly behind her and use the Canon app to see what my camera sees, this way I know if I’m photobombing my own shot. I’m about 6-7 feet behind my subject so that way the sparks don’t fly too close to her and there is some depth in the shot. And that’s it – just start spinning the wire! Here is the final RAW image:
Lightroom Post Production
If you haven’t already, make sure you download the exercise files to edit with me. I’m starting off with our Visual Flow Modern Pack Soft Light preset just to create a good foundation for the rest of our detailed editing within Lightroom. Once we’ve dodged and burned using the Retouching Toolkit we can batch process the two composite images so that they are identical to each other and then open them together in Photoshop.
Photoshop Post Production
Once all three images have been opened in Photoshop, Auto Align Layers. Then create a Layer Mask and paint out the parts of the image you do and don’t want. This is a simple compositing technique that I’ve taught on YouTube several times because anyone can do it, the key is to use a tripod. The tripod helps stabilize the shots so that you save on editing time. And with that, we have come full circle (ha, get it) with this tutorial! Here is the final image:
If you are in the market for smoke bombs for photoshoots and want to check out the WP-40s from Enola Gaye make sure you use code SLREG10 at checkout to save 10% off your purchase. Stay tuned for our next tutorial where we dive a little deeper into using smoke bombs in motion.