Smoke bomb photography has emerged as a vibrant and dynamic way to add a burst of color and excitement to portrait photography. Whether you’re a seasoned photographer or just starting to explore the realms of creative photography, incorporating smoke bombs can transform ordinary photos into extraordinary pieces of art. From selecting the right smoke bombs to mastering the timing and safety aspects, this article will provide essential tips and tricks to help you capture stunning, ethereal portraits that are sure to captivate any audience. 

Video: Smoke Bomb Photography Tips for Capturing Epic Portraits

In this video, I’ll be walking through my smoke bomb photography tips to capture incredible portraits every time.

Smoke bombs not only add bright and vibrant colors, but are visually exciting to see. We can wave them around to create interesting motion or let the smoke create a nice haze. There are a ton of ways we can use them to enhance our images. Enola Gaye is widely known for their smoke bombs which produce beautiful and consistent effects, perfect for photography.

Let’s go through the steps of capturing some epic smoke bomb photography.

  1. Safety Tips
  2. Composition
  3. Gear
  4. Camera Settings
  5. Photograph

Note, this article is about smoke bomb photography.  If you’re looking for tips and ideas for photographing smoke itself, see our article on smoke photography tips and ideas.

Safety First!

smoke bomb photography smoke

The new “TP” models of Enola Gaye’s smoke bombs features a venting system to prevent overheating in your hand. There are also “twin-vent” versions which shoots out the smoke from both ends. Unlike the single-vent, which provides 60 seconds of continuous smoke, the twin-vent lasts about 20 seconds. Due to this, I prefer to use two single-vents rather than one twin-vent.

  1. To set off the smoke bomb, firmly grasp the middle. Then, pull the wire directly out.
  2. When moving with the smoke bomb, be extra careful not to point it directly at yourself or another person.
  3. Keep away from flammable materials.
  4. They can stain clothes if held close enough.

Now that we’ve covered how to safely use the smoke bombs, let’s set up the shot!


My model today is my good friend Kiara, whom you can check out on Instagram here. I chose this spot underneath an overpass to take advantage of the lines leading to the center. The main lights are pouring in from the sides, creating an edgy light to complement Kiara’s outfit.

I kept Kiara framed in the center and angled up to create a feeling of power and dominance.

The Gear

Today, I’m using one of my favorites: The Canon EOS R5 with the RF 15-35mm f/2.8 lens. While you can use any camera for smoke bomb photography, I recommend a wide angle lens to exaggerate everything in the scene.

Dialing in the Camera Settings

smoke bomb photography shutter speed
Shooting at 1/1000 sec keeps the smoke crisp and sharp.

Ideally, the shutter speed for smoke bomb photography should be 1/500 sec or higher to capture all the details. Any slower risks motion blur as the smoke can move pretty quickly. The final settings I used are 1/1000 sec, f/2.8, ISO 800.

Set Off the Smoke & Photograph!

Rehearse the movements and poses with your model without the smoke first. Then, throw in the smoke bombs, set them off, and start photographing!

smoke bomb photography final images

Check out some of my favorites, edited with the Crush Preset Pack from Visual Flow.

More Creative Ways To Use Smoke Bombs for Photoshoots

An important thing to keep in mind for the entire list of tips we are about to go through is shutter speed. The slower your shutter speed the less impactful the plumes of smoke will come across in camera. You’ll want to be shooting at 1/1000 or higher in order to really freeze the smoke. Here are some of our favorite ways to use smoke bombs for photoshoots:

1. Use Against Neutral Walls

1 smoke bomb for photoshootThis first tip is specifically for when you are shooting in a rather boring outdoor space with neutral colored walls. The color from the smoke bomb adds a lot of visual interest to the shot and the plain colored walls really make the smoke pop.  You can see that before we added the smoke bomb to this shot, it doesn’t really do anything for the viewer. There is clearly a subject, but no added elements to make the image pop. After we start adding smoke to the image, we get such a great added level of production value.

2. Accentuate Accent Colors

2 smoke bomb for photoshootColor theory is one of my favorite things to study while watching movies and TV and one of the most important and frequent lessons I see is regarding color. Whether it’s complimentary, matching, or contrasting, you can use color in your photos to help add more visual interest. One of the easiest ways to incorporate smoke bombs for photoshoots is to use a smoke bomb color that accentuates or contrasts your subject. You can further this effect by tweaking the colors in Lightroom to enhance their vibrancy and saturation. We used Visual Flow Crush pack to really make the colors pop in this photo of Shiv against the asphalt.

3. Add Motion to Your Photos

3 smoke bomb for photoshootIt’s important to remember that note we mentioned above about shutter speed for this particular tip on using smoke bombs for photoshoots. Instruct your subject to move either jumping, dancing, or have them wave the smoke bombs around. You use that motion to draw lines into your subject from the point of view of the lens, fill up negative space, or act as a secondary subject.

4. Cover Boring Backgrounds

4 smoke bomb for photoshootSimilar to our first tip, you can use smoke bombs for photoshoots where your background has a ton of negative space or doesn’t provide much visual interest. The plumes of smoke are so captivating to see in photos they are bound to have some type of shock value when you compare them to boring skies or backdrops. Here I was lying on the ground and had Shiv dance in front of the lens. The smoke bomb is out of frame but the plumes are filling up the sky to create visual interest.

5. Add Flash

I really enjoy incorporating smoke in conjunction with flash because you get very interesting looks and effects. This lighting setup comes straight from our Lighting 3 series where we show you how to simulate natural light when you’ve run out of daylight. There is a softbox just out of frame on camera left that is lighting Shiv. You can see that when the flash hits the smoke it creates such interesting depth and shadow, just like it would to a portrait subject.  I would highly advise against putting flashes directly behind the smoke because it lights up and it creates this bright halo behind the subject.  It ends up looking like a fart explosion and isn’t the best way to incorporate smoke bombs for photoshoots.

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.


I hope you enjoyed this tutorial for smoke bomb photography! Smoke bombs are incredibly fun to use and can add so much visual interest to your photographs. Head over to Enola Gaye to get your own for your next photoshoot. You can also spice up your iPhone photography using smoke bombs. To check out how we did, head over to Creative Photography 101 from SLR Lounge Premium.