Written by | Artists, Behind The Shot

The sharing of knowledge and techniques is just one aspect that makes our community so engaging and informative and so we are always looking to provide a platform for those who are looking to educate people on Toy Photography Techniques. To that end we present a feature that looks into how you can create explosions for your shots using simple practical effects by photographer Dean Goulder.

How to create explosions using practical effects.
Dean Goulder


To get started making some photos that really “pop” you’re going to need the proper equipment first. You are going to need a DSLR of some sort, I’m using a Pentax k3-ii. It’s ideal to have a lens with a low F-stop in order to create nice bokeh (blur) in the background. Having nice bokeh can aid in making an explosion more life-like. I’m using a 90mm lens with an f-stop of 2.8.

Some other tools you will need for creating an explosion are: remote shutter release, lighter, firework of choice (more details later), your subject, and a tripod.


Once you have all your gear together, it’s time to find a good area for the shoot. The area doesn’t have to be anything special, however it is highly recommended that the area is wet, or made wet, because we are going to be dealing with fire. I just picked a little dirt patch in my backyard. Once you are happy with your location you can set up your subjects. I’m using a Revoltech Boba Fett, NECA Alien, and a few Black Series Stormtroopers.


Overcast days are preferable for taking explosive pictures. In my case, the sun decided to be out and about. In order to get the right lighting I set everything up in the shade and built a blockade between me and the sunny background. Having the blockade between me and the sun made it so my toys would stand out, rather than just becoming silhouettes.

Choosing a good angle is what is going to separate your work from others. I’m using a reversible centre column tripod in order to get really close to my subjects’ eye level. After a few tries, I settled on my angle and my point of focus.


Now it’s time to pick the correct shutter settings. In order to do this you’ll need to try out your firework and adjust from there. I used a fuse in order to test my lighting. The shutter speed that I ended up with was 1/800. Your shutter speed will change depending on the light conditions, but generally you are going to want a fast one.


After getting my angle, shutter speed, and focus correct its time to add my firework. I’m using a combination of different fuse types, the green is a slow burning fuse, and the orange is a crackling fuse. I’m basically creating a homemade crackle-ball. You can use just about any small firework, however I wouldn’t recommend a sparkler, they are too obvious. On a side note, be warned, fireworks can sometimes burn your action figures! I’ve had quite a few troopers walk away with explosive damage.


During the shoot take a lot of photos! Take more than you think you need, because you never know what you will end up with. When the shoot is done, it’s time to sort through the mess and pick the best one.


I eventually picked one that I was happy with.


I like to add a little tension to my photos, so I cropped it down, and adjusted some of the settings to add more drama.


When you’re finished, your photo could look something like this.


A huge thank you to Dean for compiling this tutorial showing us step-by-step how to achieve convincing explosions using really simple techniques. Be sure to head over the Dean’s page to check out his full portfolio of shots @dtg_photos and be sure to leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!


Last modified: February 23, 2017

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