High speed photography

posted on 10th of march, 2011

About one year ago, I came across a website with beautiful images of splashes. I immediately knew I wanted to do this too! However, I was a macro photographer, withy zero experience of studio and/or flash photography. So, I had no idea what I needed, to create these a pictures. Since it took me about a month of intensive research to figure out what I needed (and why I needed it) I thought I share this information with you!

First thing you'll need are strobes (continues lights and studio flashes won't do the job) that can be set to manual (TTL won't work either). The reason why you need strobes, is that NOT the shutterspeed, but the flash will freeze the action and for highspeed photography, this is exactly what you'll want! Strobes will give a extremely short burst of light, when set on it's lowest power (usually 1/32 sec or 1/64 sec. Of course 1/128 will work too, but you'll likely end up with an underexposed image.

Next thing you'll need is a tripod. Even when you're working with a shutterspeed of, say 1/250 sec, the action (that you want to catch) is SO short, that you won't be able to see it happen, let alone you'll have time to focus.

Which will be the next issue... the focus needs to be set to manual. I always pre focus on something (a pencil, safety pin, etc) Try to visualize where the splash will be and where you would like to focus to be. Focus on the 'pre focus object' and don't touch the camera anymore ;)

As mentioned before, the shutterspeed will not freeze the action, so if you end up with underexposed images, you might want to try and lower the shutterspeed. I usually use 1/100 sec. However, make sure to work in a completely dark room, or the action won't be frozen!

Of course, if you're working with shutterspeeds lower then 1/250 sec, you'll need a cable release and if your camera has miror lock up, then use it!

In addition to all the above, you'll need towels (loads of them!) and garbage bags to keep that beautiful carpet stain free AND you'll need patients! Loads of that is needed as well! ;)
When you just start out, you'll likely fail to catch the moment the first few times, but after you gained some experience, it'll get better and better! I can now say that I'm able to catch the moment 95% of the time. This, of course however does not guarantee great looking images. I usually end up with 25-35 images before I have one that I think looks good! And don't forget you'll need to clean up the mess inbetween all those 25-35 images! (remember I said you'll need patients, loads of patients? ;) ) BUT for myself, I can really say that these splashes images are the ones I enjoy doing most. Every image gives another result and it's really exciting to do! Just try it!

Here are a few of my highspeed images:

Comments (22)

Posted by Joezachs on December 10, 2011
sigh...... the year is coming to a close and I have yet to try this :-(
Posted by Anhong on March 17, 2011
Beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing, I wish you good luck!
Posted by Diavata on March 16, 2011
Your welcome!
Good luck (and don't forget to post the results! :) )
Posted by Nikittta on March 16, 2011
Oh my God, now I really need to try this :) Thank you, great explanation.
Posted by Diavata on March 16, 2011
@Nikittta: yes, I indeed dropped the tomato in a aquarium!
The trick here is to make sure the glass is absolutely clean. Before I started, I made sure there were no stains on it. And ofcourse I cleaned it really well after dropping the tomato.

As for the sharpness... I builded some sort of construction for it!
First I put two tripods on each side of the aquarium with part of a picture frame on it (you know, these things that hold the frame together). On this frame part, I attached a toilet paper roll and on the front of this role, I attached some yarn with a safety pin on it, in order to pre-focus.

Then I kept trowing the tomato through this toilet paper roll, so that it would always come down on the exact same spot. Not all images were tack sharp, but probably 8 out of 10 were!
Posted by smartview27 on March 16, 2011
Congrats! Great images!
Posted by Nikittta on March 16, 2011
Can you explain me what about picture with tomato, is it behind of some kind of glass (aquarium?). How can it be so sharp, without any stains, water bubbles etc ? Thank you :)
Posted by Trottola on March 16, 2011
Great images, thanks for sharing!
Posted by Diavata on March 16, 2011
Thanks for the nice words!
I really appreciate that!

@Joezachs: you SHOULD try it, it's SO much fun (and addictive), really! :)
Posted by Joezachs on March 15, 2011
That was informative. Not that I will be doing this, but at least now I know how it is done.
Thanks for sharing.
Posted by Kaththea on March 15, 2011
Thanks for the article! Great shots!:)
Posted by Diavata on March 15, 2011
Thank you Twwphoto!
I had a look at your martini shots and I really like them!
Posted by Twwphoto on March 14, 2011
Great images. I've done this with martini and olive, but they are not as good as yours
Posted by Diavata on March 10, 2011
Thanks a lot for the nice comments everyone! :)
Posted by Leahmae on March 10, 2011
very interesting and very nice shots. Thanks for sharing.
Posted by Yuritz on March 10, 2011
Thanks for sharing and all nice pictures!
Posted by Egomezta on March 10, 2011
Great images, thanks for sharing...
Posted by Diavata on March 10, 2011
Thanks for the replies!

@Hskoken: a laser/sound trigger indeed is an option, but they are quite expensive and for me, the excitement (will or won't I catch the moment) is the biggest fun of it all :)

Edit: thanks a lot Tamara (your post wasn't yet there when I replied!)
Posted by Tamarabauer on March 10, 2011
Very helpful article, thanks for taking the time to post this. Your results are fabulous, by the way, very impressive.
Posted by Ozmedia on March 10, 2011
Laser trigger is the best solution. Nice pics.
Posted by Meryll on March 10, 2011
Beautiful pictures, I like most the tomato with its splash!
Posted by lzf on March 10, 2011
great pic and nice share

Comments (22)

This article has been read 2648 times. 6 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Diavata.

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