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Branding Photographers Photography Tips

4 Tips for Taking Creative Portraits Using Smoke Bombs

Two blog posts in one month! Who are we, you guys?!

Today we’re on the blog to share a branding portraits session we did with a local hairstylist here in Charleston, Kaytie Murray. Kaytie is the owner of Do or Dye Hair Studio, and she is super awesome so definitely check her page out!

Kaytie reached out to us looking for some professional images to take her social media for her business to the next level, which we are SO there for. We love when businesses and individuals see the real value in branding and how images can be an excellent way to communicate that brand and how you want people to know you.

Kaytie does a lot of hair coloring and was looking for something with more of an edgy look, so a dynamic location with big, vibrant colors was key. We ended up shooting the first half of the session in Park Circle near Patch Whiskey’s wall mural. Some of our favorite images are below! Let us know what you think!

But let’s get to the reason why you’re here: to talk about smoke bombs!

This was our first time ever using smoke bombs in our photography, but we were super excited to try.

We did the second half of our session near Coastal Coffee Roasters in Summerville because they have an awesome wall mural done by local artists. You might remember us mentioning their business in our Front Porch Project post because their coffee is bomb. We also listed a few of our other favorite local businesses so definitely go back and check out that post.

Before we did our smoke bomb session with Kaytie we borrowed one of the smoke bombs from her pack and practiced with it, just so we could give her some really great tips and lessons learned, and, of course, make sure we got some awesome photos for her.

The smoke bombs, or smoke fountains, we found and recommend are from Sparkle Rock Pop and they come in a 7-pack of different colors (blue, green, orange, purple, yellow, red and white). They also have a smaller 4-pack, packs of pink and blue if you’re needing something for a gender reveal and packs that are color changing, which seem super cool and probably what we’ll try next! Their prices are super on point and shipping was quick, even in the midst of COVID-19.

One thing we wanted to make sure of was that we had smoke bombs that wouldn’t get too hot to hold, so you’d be able to guide the smoke in your hands and these were perfect.

So if you’re a newcomer to smoke bombs like we were, here’s our 4 tips to make your experience a little more seamless:

Have More Than You Think You’ll Need

If you’re going for a wide shot with more of a thick smoke look, you’ll definitely want to use more than just one canister. In fact, you’ll probably want between 2-4 depending on how wide you’re shooting. They do give out a substantial amount of smoke for about the first 20-30 seconds, but the amount of smoke decreases the longer it goes. You could always do some heavy work in Photoshop, but we always try to get things right in camera. Also, you never know when your camera could malfunction or your client might freeze up and get nervous, so having extra to work with is always a good back up plan.

Have a Plan

The smoke bomb lasts for about 60 seconds, which is plenty of time to get the shots you want BUT only if you have a plan. In the grand scheme of time, 60 seconds is nothing, but we found that choosing a couple of poses/looks for each color of smoke bomb for our client to alternate between worked best. If you’re using a tripod like us, you’ll want to practice these before lighting it. This will help your client get comfortable in front of the camera and make sure they’re staying in-frame during the different poses. Having only 2-3 poses to cycle through will keep your client from freezing up and wondering what they should do while precious time and smoke winds down. We also recommend doing a test cycle with one of the colors your client cares least about. If it works out, great, but if not, you haven’t lost anything.

Handle the Smoke Bomb Carefully

This may go without saying, but be careful! These smoke bombs are essentially a firework that give off pretty smoke. It’s not a pull pin; it has to be lit with a lighter. We used one of the larger Comfort Lighters to be safe. There were some sparks when we initially lit it, so you definitely want to make sure you have the canister pointing away from your body. Some other reasons to point it away from your body are it can stain your clothes if you hold it too close and just like any smoke, it can irritate your eyes. Our client, Kaytie, actually got the blue smoke stained on her overalls, but don’t worry! It did wash out. You’ll also want to do slower movements with the canister to ensure you get nice, thick smoke trails.

Know the Weather

If it’s windy, don’t use them! You will be disappointed with the results because the smoke won’t create a cloud, it’ll just blow away. When we did our test run before our shoot, we had this problem, so be sure to check the forecast before you schedule a smoke bomb session.

So there you have it! If you’ve used smoke bombs before, let us know what other tips you have that we didn’t mention! And if you’re getting ready to go on a shoot using them, let us know how it goes and tag us in your photos! You can find us on Instagram @justinandlauren.

Happy shooting!

*This post was written in partnership with Sparkle Rock Pop, but as always, all opinions and ideas are our own.

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