High-speed photography tips!


Cover photo by Phil Durkin.

High-speed photography is really good fun, but can also be pretty complicated. Here at Triggertrap we believe that high-speed photography doesn’t have to be so intimidating. That’s why we made the Triggertrap Flash Adapter - and why we’ve put together a few tips to help you get started.

Top tips

1. Darkness is key

It’s crucial that you have a totally dark room. With high speed photography, the shutter speed is pretty irrelevant because we use the flash to freeze the action. If there is any light in the room, there will be some exposure on the frame already which can appear as blur in your final image. Paint it black, people!

2. Low is fast, high is slow

When setting up your flash, consider how high you turn your flash power. To get more power out of a flash gun at the higher power settings, a longer pulse of light will be emitted. This can have a huge effect on your photography because a longer pulse of light will result in less motion being frozen.

To get the best results, use your flash on the lowest power. If you need more power, add another flash. After all, this is why the Triggertrap Flash Adapter has two hot shoes!

3. The speed of sound is your friend - and your enemy

Using the sound sensor to trigger the flash? One of your biggest considerations should be how far from the sound source your sound sensor device is. The closer to the sound, the sooner the sound hits the device and the faster the flash can fire.

Want to add a slight delay before the flash fires? Move the device away from the sound a little. Moving it away means the sound will take longer to hit the device and increase your delay.

How to capture really great high speed photos

What you will need:

  • A camera with manual controls available
  • A device running Triggertrap Mobile  (available on both iOS and Android)
  • A Triggertrap Mobile Dongle
  • A Triggertrap Flash Adapter - Plug this neat adapter into the mobile dongle and you have flash triggering power at your fingertips.
  • Flash gun with manual controls - TTL is of no use here! Switch the flash over to manual and stick it on the lowest output.
  • A dark room - this bit is crucial! Working outside in the dark works too, just make sure there’s very little light.

Things that you MAY need:

  • Light Stand with Umbrella Adapter - This lets you attach your flash adapter to a stand for easy positioning.
  • Light Modifiers - As with any lighting, these let you change the shape of your light, e.g. using an umbrella or a soft box to change the look of the light.
  • A torch. Let's not trip on any tripods in the dark...

Camera settings

  • Camera on Manual
  • Shutter Speed: Bulb / long exposure (enough time to make the action happen)
  • Aperture: f/8 or above - high speed photos are awesome, so you want to make sure it’s all in focus and you have enough depth of field to show the action.
  • ISO: Start at ISO 200 and increase if the image is too dark, try and keep this nice and low to prevent noise.
  • Manual focus - auto-focus is fairly slow, so make sure you’re on manual focus!

Flash settings

Set the flash to manual and as low power as possible. The lower the flash power, the shorter the flash duration.

Photo by Alex Molick.

Photo by Alex Molick.

Photo idea: Water balloon bursting

So that’s the fundamentals of high-speed photography with Triggertrap Mobile. Now let's apply it to a fun and easy idea! You will need all of the above, including the camera settings.

You will also need:

  • A way of suspending the water balloon.
  • Something to pop the water balloon.

The set up:

The above diagram should give you a good idea of the kind of set up you need. Place your camera on a tripod. Beware of the balloon splash zone. Place your flash on a stand with Triggertrap Mobile attached (you'll probably want to find some way of attaching your phone to your tripod in order to stop it pulling on the cable too much). Try experimenting with the position of the flash, but be careful not to soak your flash or the device you're using to run Triggertrap Mobile!

Triggertrap Mobile settings

Go into the Triggertrap settings and select the pulse length menu. Here, set the pulse length to 30ms (flash). Set the sensor reset delay to 5 seconds to avoid any extra flashing.

When this is done, open up the sound sensor mode, press the red button and set the threshold to a point where it is not triggering with ambient sound but will trigger with a loud enough pop.

Taking the photos

Once you’ve got everything set up, it’s time to take the photos.

  1. Check your focus using a torch. An extra pair of hands can be useful as shiny balloons are hard to focus on.
  2. Once the camera is focused and you’re ready to take the photo, press the start button on the sound trigger. Make a loud noise to check the flash fires. If it does you’re ready to go.
  3. Open the shutter, then pop the water balloon.
  4. If you’re using bulb, close the shutter as soon as possible after.

The flash should fire the instant the balloon pops. If you’re having issues with this, try blowing the balloon up slightly after adding the water. The air will help to create a more substantial pop.

Experiment by changing the distance between the device and the water balloon; this will add a delay and the results will differ! The closer to the balloon, the quicker the flash will fire; the further away, the slower the flash will fire.

Photo by Peter Erlanger.

Photo by Peter Erlanger.

Want to dive straight into some high speed photography?

Check out our handy high speed tutorials below!

Having trouble using Triggertrap Flash Adapter?

Fret not! Check out our über handy manual here instead. If that still doesn't get you up and running or if you have any project-specific questions for us, drop us an email on hello@triggertrap.com.

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