Have photo fun the corrosive chemical way!

804a638.jpgI've been doing a daily photoblog project and have become a fan of Photojojo, a site with an infectiously enthusiastic attitude toward the act of shooting. Like Salt & Fat, the cooking blog I wrote about here a couple of days ago, Photojojo seeks to strip the mystery away from its subject, and to knock down the idea that its practitioners are a kind of priesthood average people can never hope to join. It accomplishes this partly through its newsletter and partly via its store, which sells a wide array of cool and useful tools. Case in point: Smoke drops. A touch of smoke can add mystery to an image, can add visual variety, can even help in constructing a narrative. But where does the average amateur go to get smoke that's dense and long-lasting enough to shoot? Italy, as it turns out. That's where Photojojo sources this useful set of chemical drops. Combine a squirt from Bottle A and a dash from Bottle B, and voila -- Smokiness. The site is also thoughtful enough to provide a FAQ, which includes the helpful advice that "The drops are quite corrosive," so as a general rule you don't want to get them mixed up with your contact lens solution. That caution aside, the drops provide a quick and easy way for any home shooter to add a touch of noir without burning his house down.


  1. Hydrochloric acid and ammonia solutions will do this, and
    fit the bill for “corrosive” to boot. They’re both dirt


  2. Haven’t seen this stuff in years. (I’m an effects guy for tv and films.) It’s more or less, acetic acid and ammonia, in high concentrations. Very dense “smoke”, which turns into hydrochloric acid on contact with water (like in your mucous membranes.) the effect is bigger on a humid day. They used to use it in old war/dogfight films- paint a big stage blue, turn off all the air currents, and walk through slowly, with a spritzer of each solution, making big puffy clouds in the air. Since the vapor has about the same density as air, it would hang for a long time in a discrete cloud. Then OSHA came along… ;)

  3. Why buy this stuff when it’s easy to source the chemicals.

    I’ll give you half of the formula:

    “A” is Acetic Acid 6%-12%

    “B” is a secret? Let’s just say it is a developer for old school Blueprints.

    Both are extremely caustic!!!! Don’t breath the fumes from the starting materials and certainly not the “Smoke”. For best results you don’t actually mix the chemicals just close enough so the vapors from each mix.

  4. When I was a kid, one day I put a petri dish of HCl and one of ammonia next to each other and wafted the vapors together until the basement filled with “smoke.” Then I ran upstairs yelling “Dad! Dad! The house is on fire!” In retrospect, that was a terrible thing to do.

  5. Get back into analog photography. Then you can have more corrosive chemical fun with your photos than you can shake a burnt stick at.

  6. Google acetic acid and ammonia for more details on how this works, including the equation for the reaction. The product is ammonium acetate, a white powder which when heated turns into a carcinogen. Interesting, fairly safe for the careful experimenter but just take proper precautions.

  7. Photojojo does indeed have an “infectiously enthusiastic attitude” toward photography, but their outrageously inflated prices lead me to think they’ve got photo-hipster syndrome (much like the Lomography folks). I love to browse Photojojo, but if I find something cool they’re selling, I’ll go check eBay or B&H to find it cheaper, or better yet go find an Instructable and build my own.

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