Smoke bombs for wedding photography
Wedding Photography by Lee Webb
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Wedding Photography by Lee Webb

Smoke bombs for wedding photography

I'll be honest (not that I'm not honest elsewhere on my website) but I used to really hate the idea of wedding photos where you see the couple walking along, holding smoke bombs in their hands. I always thought that I wanted to show a wedding for what it was - a wedding. I wanted to take natural photos of people doing natural things (that their behaviour would be the same if I was there or not) and I just couldn't ever see a couple breaking out some smoke bombs and going for a walk without a photographer being present. Fast forward a couple of years (I'm usually slow to the party. I haven't listened to a newly released non-Queen song for maybe a decade) and I had started using smoke bombs as visual effects in some of my more elaborate, staged photos - the ones you see at night with the off-camera flashes and occasionally rain. This sort of thing:

Back to Chloe and Harry's wedding and the original image. It had already been a fantastic day at Stanbrook Abbey. It was baking hot and we'd just had that really long, dry spell that included several record-setting hot days, but that didn't stop us getting outside and taking some stunning portraits of the newlyweds.

After the wedding breakfast, the videographer and I thought it would be a cracking idea to go and get a few final photos of the couple now that it had cooled down slightly, and the sun was lower in the sky (leading to a more romantic light.) I don't know what made me think that this might be the right time to try the image I started this article by saying I was against, but things just seemed 'right.' The light was good, the wind was in our favour, we had ample space to try the photo the way I saw it in my head and if we set fire to the grass, we were next to a lake. Although when I think about it now, I'm not really sure that would have helped.

I had two smoke grenades left from a previous photoshoot. Pink and blue. I gave the pink smoke bomb to the groom and the blue one to the bride, for 2 reasons. 1) Pink against the blue of the groom's suit just works, and the wedding dress will stand out really nicely against the blue. 2) I'm fed up of seeing women holding pink smoke bombs and the men holding blue. It's 2022. Men can have pink things. Women can have blue things.

Anyway, ranting aside, and back to the image. I asked the couple to walk towards me with the smoke bombs held high. They're non-staining and non-toxic so there's no real danger of damaging any clothing, but it's nice actually being able to see your subjects.

Everything just worked. The light came through the trees and cast long shadows through the top of the smoke, the bride and groom looked happily at each other, the wind kept the smoke behind them but wasn't strong enough to thin the smoke out too much, and we didn't set anything on fire. Just yet, anyway.

^ a brief change in the wind direction yielded some hilarious results.

Having smashed the photoshoot and getting some epic images, the videographer and I escorted the bride and groom back to their guests. It took me a good few minutes to realise that after the shoot, I'd put the now burning hot smoke bombs on the dry grass... on one of the hottest days of the year... when it hadn't rained for weeks... By the time I got back to them, the grass was starting to smoke. Still, nothing actually caught fire, the venue still like me and my insurance company are happy. What's the saying? 'What they don't know...'

Location: Stanbrook Abbey.

Keywords: Photographer-directed image (139). 1/1600; f/2.0; ISO 200; 85.0 mm.