Creating Epic Senior Pictures with Smoke Bombs

High school seniors love it when we create some epic senior pictures with smoke bombs! Learn when and how to use, our favorite smoke bombs for photos, and some awesome examples.

It’s the little things that take an ordinary photoshoot and turn it into something that high schoolers will love. One of the things seniors love is when we create some epic senior pictures with smoke bombs! It never fails to make them feel a little extra awesome.

When To Use Smoke Bombs in Senior Pictures

You definitely don’t want to use smoke bombs in every senior photoshoot, even though they are so much fun!


Well, they honestly don’t “fit” every senior or location, so you want to be smart about when you’re going to pull them out on a shoot.

For instance, if you have someone with a very bubbly personality in a manicured nature location, it’s probably not the best idea to let a smoke bomb lose.

But - if you have someone who’s a little more edgy or you’re in the right location, it’s likely a good time to pull out the smoke bombs!

We like to use smoke bombs in “untamed nature” or “grungy urban” settings, as they’ll enhance the mood of the location and also won’t annoy people with the haze or smell (they have a wonderful sulfur/rotten egg odor).

senior photos with smoke grenade in untamed nature setting

How To Use Smoke Bombs/Grenades During a Photoshoot

Before you pull the fuse, you’re going to want to have a plan of action. Most smoke grenades only last about 25-30 seconds, so you’re going to want to know exactly what’s happening before you release the magic. You can get some that last up to 90 seconds, but even that is a small window of time to shoot.

We actually just led a photowalk at Shutterfest (a huge photo conference in St. Louis) teaching this very subject, so let’s break it down here.

Quick Guidelines/Recommendations for Using Smoke Bombs in Photos Sessions

1) Expose for, and understand, your environment.

First things, first: you need to get to know your environment. Get your exposure set up for the environment you’re in, and maybe even set it a little darker than you normally would if there’s a lot of sun, as it's easy to quickly over-expose a scenario when using smoke bombs. Also - check the direction of the breeze, as the smoke will quickly move that direction and impact your photos.

Isaac teaching a crowd of photographers how to take senior photos with smoke bombs in full sun
Check your environment and get a few test shots before releasing the smoke so you don't wind up with a bad exposure.
perfectly exposed photo with smoke bomb during direct sun conditions
The final results when you've planned your exposure correctly, even in conditions with direct sunlight.

Plan poses before you start.

Make sure you’re ready with about 3-5 different poses. Practice these together to make sure everyone knows what’s going to happen so you can make the most of your time. We like to use powerful or edgy poses to make sure everything fits the right mood that smoke bombs help create.

Isaac teaching poses during a photo walk about taking photos with smoke bombs.
Run through a few poses so you get several different looks before the smoke is gone.
senior model posing during a smoke bomb photoshoot tutorial during shutterfest
Communicating a plan makes your muse feel more relaxed during the actual shoot.

Snap those photos quickly.

As soon as you pull the pin, your clock is ticking. Shoot quickly and run through your pre-planned poses to get the most photos possible out of the smoke bomb. Again, you’ll probably only have about 25-30 seconds to get what you need.

high school senior picture with smoke bomb - pose 1
Pose one - we had her pull the fuse and swing the smoke bomb around to get some smoke all around her.
high school senior photos with smoke bomb - second pose
Pose two - we had her drop the smoke bomb just outside of the photo and turn her body into the light.
high school senior girl in tough pose with smoke bomb - pose 3
Pose three - more of a tough, "Don't mess with me" look.
epic senior picture with green smoke bomb - pose 4
Pose four - one of her favorites, she turned towards the sun and the shadows gave us an incredible example of how cool smoke bombs look in senior photos.

Our Favorite Smoke Bombs for Senior Photos

Not all smoke bombs are good for photos - in fact, many generic brands you can get don’t work well at all.

We like to use Enola Gaye smoke grenades from Pixel Connections for a number of reasons!

  1. They’re non-toxic and have a completely bio-degradable body.
  2. You don’t need matches - they have a pull ring ignition system to make things easy.
  3. They use a variety of robust colors in a thick cloud of smoke so you get that epic effect you’re looking for.
High school senior holding enola gaye wire pull smoke grenade

Quick Note Of Warning with Smoke Bombs

Please be sure to use smoke bombs responsibly. As you’d expect, these things can put off sparks and some significant heat, which can cause fires in dry conditions. If it has rained recently or you're in a damp environment you should be fine, but when in doubt, err on the side of safety and refrain from using this effect. Also - never use smoke bombs indoors, or any other areas that you’ll regret later.

Atmosphere Aerosol Is A Great Indoor Alternative

If you want to have a haze effect but it’s raining or you want to use a studio setting, a good alternative to smoke bombs is Atmosphere Aerosol. It’s another non-toxic way to create some haze, and pared with some colored/gelled flashes, you can create some really amazing photos together.

senior in photo studio with atmosphere aerosol with red and green lights for amazing environment.
Example of colored/gelled lights pairing perfectly with Atmosphere Aerosol to create dramatic, stylish senior pictures in-studio.
Senior girl in halloween costume with atmosphere aerosol creating a moody environment
This shot would have looked significantly boring without atmosphere aerosol providing an epic, enhanced environment.

Get Other Great Gear Tips In Our Photographer’s Toolkit

As photographers, it’s always our goal to give clients an amazing experience. Utilizing tools like Atmosphere Aerosol or smoke bombs can take your senior pictures to another level. To see other tools we use regularly, check out our Photographer’s Toolkit to quickly step up your game.