Tips for Using Smoke Grenades in Photography

Smoke grenades can be useful for more than just producing, well, a lot of smoke. They can be fun props to use for a special type of photography. Rob & Jonas initiate you to the exciting world of smoke grenade photography:

Smoke Grenades

Smoke grenades cost 6-8 dollars each. You need about eight of them for a shoot that will last for two hours.


The group decided on a heavily wooded area for the shoot.


The timing of the shoot was also important. They deliberately attempted it at a time of the day when the sun was closer to the horizon. The sun would create a rim lighting effect around the subject’s head and shoulders while the artificial lights would light up their face.

Smoke grenade photography

The key to selecting the lights was the refresh rates and the fastest shutter speed; they needed high speed sync.


how to use smoke grenades

For props, the crew members brought in a World War I era gas mask, a wedding dress, and a pair of headphones.

Smoke Movement

Flinging the smoke grenade around too fast after popping it won’t work. The movement has to be carefully choreographed.

Start off holding the smoke grenade behind you. Then slowly move it to create a background of smoke, and then bring it to the front. Again, very slow movement creates the best results. Make sure that the smoke really bellows out instead of dispersing in every direction.

adding smoke to photos

Smoke grenades can be extremely hot. Make sure to hold them at the end. Use gloves to avoid burning your hands. Above all, watch out for the sparks when you pop the grenade.

General Guidelines

add smoke to photos

With the ambient light coming in from behind, the smoke will look really textured and crisp. You can have someone else smoke up the background. That way the model can concentrate on the pose while the background (and foreground) smoke is handled by someone else.

Have you tried this out? We’d love to see your results!

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