When photography was still in its very early days, adding extra light to the images literally meant creating an explosion. These early flashes involved lots of chemistry and measurement. But eventually, photographers and chemists found out that a magnesium flash mixture would be most effective. So the photographers would have a torch type structure in one hand and their camera in the other. Then an electronic current would ignite the flash powder and the extra light would be added to the image.
A while ago, the Tech Photo Blog posted a video on Youtube demonstrating how flash powder is used vs modern day flashes. The show viewers just how explosive the mixture is and encourage them to not try it at home. What you can also see is just how much smoke comes from the magnesium flash powder–which doesn’t make it so ideal to use indoors.
This method isn’t used anymore though. The process of adding a flash to a photo eventually evolved into using flash tubes, then the electronic strobe. The big problem with magnesium powder wasn’t only the danger, but also measuring the right amount for the image you needed to take.
Hit the jump to check out the video.