Summer is upon us, which means fireworks. Previously, we have discussed using alternative methods to get smoke-like effects in your photographs. But using flour can make for a messy clean-up and smoke machines require electricity. Smoke balls, however, are cheap, come in a variety of colors and require nothing more than a lighter.
Now don't get me wrong. These aren't perfect either. They stink like hell, so you have to use them outside. This means you will need to shoot at night, to get the most out of the colors. And they burn fast- you have about five seconds of smoke. Also, don't forget to factor in the wind when shooting outdoors. If there is much wind at all, the smoke will blow to the side, front or behind your subject. But when you get it right, it's worth the effort. The ability to get multiple colors of smoke without gelling and flagging multiple lights is something worth fighting for.
This test shoot I did was my first attempt at using smoke balls. Needless to say, I was under-prepared. I mentioned the two factors you have to deal with are wind as well as a small window of time per smoke ball, I recommend bringing an assistant who can not only light the smoke balls, but also hold them just out of the frame.
I'd love to see your experimentations with smoke balls. Feel free to post your links in the comment section below.
For more lighting diagrams similar to this, check out my new eBook, RGLR: The Run & Gun Lighting Resource.