Highspeed photography 101 – Lesson 1

Highspeed Photography 101

Table of contents

Lesson 1: Freeze the motion with your shutter
Lesson 2: Freeze the motion with your shutter II
Lesson 3: Freeze the motion with your flash
Lesson 4: A small but powerful helper: Arduino
Lesson 5: Trigger your camera with an Arduino
Lesson 6: Trigger your flash with an Arduino
Lektion 7: Working with sensors: Light barrier
Lektion 8: Working with sensors: Sound trigger

Lesson 1: Freeze the motion with your shutter

I’ll show you the easiest variant of highspeed photography. In this tutorial you really need no additional equipment.

Style Session 2010 XII

Highspeed photography example

Stuff needed
– Camera
– Good weather (preferable)

According to Wikipedia highspeed photography is:
“…In common usage, high speed photography may refer to either or both of the following meanings. The first is that the photograph itself may be taken in a way as to appear to freeze the motion, especially to reduce motion blur. The second is that a series of photographs may be taken at a high sampling frequency or frame rate…”

We’re looking at the first meaning. I’ll show different ways to freeze the motion. The easiest way to achieve this is with the shutter speed. In general you should try to use a very short shutter speed. Modern cameras may take pictures with shutter speeds up to 1/8000s.

If we look at the following illustration:

Illustration: Freeze the motion with your shutter

These are the images I captured for the collage shown at the top. Those images were taken with a shutter speed of 1/1000s, this means that we froze exactly one millisecond of the movement of the skier. The red rectangle shall illustrate the time elapsed during the creation of one photo. Depending on the speed of the object you’re photographing, one millisecond may already be enough to create motion blur, but in our case it seems to be okay. In my eyes, this is a very easy variant of highspeed photography.
Even if it is not necessary, highspeed images of this kind are often combined in a sequence. The sequence helps the viewer to understand the whole event captured. I was photographing with 5 frames per second, which means, that the one millisecond slices I created, are captured in an interval of about 200 milliseconds. The grey bar between the start of two images shall illustrate this.

Camera Settings
The most important setting with this method is the shutter speed. It should be as fast as possible. This is mostly limited by the amount of light, but more on this in limitations.
Factors as aperture or ISO are not that important in this method.
If you’re just taking one shot and not a sequence, you can use the ‘shutter speed priority’ mode of your cam. If you’re shooting for a sequence I’d suggest not to use ‘shutter speed priority’ mode, since you want to have all images with the same settings, therefore better use ‘manual’ mode.

As already mentioned, it is important to have enough light to use the shutter method. If you’re outside on a sunny day, this is often the case. But if its already later in the afternoon on a cloudy winter day, then you can clearly see the limitations of this method.

King Of Rail - Frontflip

Limitations of shutter speed method

The images for this sequence had to be taken with 1/500s (as I was already on maximum aperture and I don’t like raising ISO). You can see that, there is already a little motion blur on his skis with 1/500s.

Its the same in the studio, you seldom have the required amount of light to use such shutter speeds, without using additional lights or flashes. But I’ll cover the use of flashes for highspeed photography in the next tutorials.

When to use
Before writing this tutorial I though which example I could use and I really had to think hard to find a good example. I guess I used this method just once for my studio work.

Light Bulb II - Final seconds

Shutter speed method in studio

I think this is a perfect example, where you have something really bright and therefore have enough light to use this method.
Another usage that makes sense if for capturing action sport photos on sunny days as shown on top.

This method is very successful for events that last some seconds. Then you’re able to take several pictures during the event and can later choose the best one and it doesn’t matter if you start 50 milliseconds earlier or later. If the event is really short (as the bursting of a balloon), then you’re only able to capture few images and its much more difficult to capture an interesting image.

The main advantage of this method is surely that its really easy and it doesn’t need any extra stuff. On the other hand, we’re very limited, just because we often haven’t enough light for this method.

As already mentioned, I’d really like to get feedback about this tutorial or if you have questions, please feel free to ask.

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16 Responses to Highspeed photography 101 – Lesson 1

  1. Pingback: Highspeed photography 101 – Introduction | pascalbovet.com

  2. chrigu says:

    Looking forward to the more advanced stuff!

  3. ramun says:

    hey, das hesch super schön gmacht! ig fröie mi uf d’fortsetzig! 🙂

  4. Simon says:

    Saw your link to this on flickr, so far so good. Really impressed with examples and detail so far, look forward to the next lesson.

  5. Great article and very informative.

    But another thing that your diagram illustrates is that ‘burst mode’ (when your camera fires off the shots) isn’t necessarily the best way of capturing the peak of the action in sports photography. Look at all that time between the shots!

  6. Pascal Bovet says:

    Exactly, I definitely agree with you. F.ex. when you try to catch exactly the moment when a baseball player hits the ball, this is surely not the best method. But if you wanna catch the motion sequence of the baseball player, then this is a good method.

  7. Pingback: Highspeed photography 101 – Lesson 3 | pascalbovet.com

  8. Pingback: Highspeed photography 101 – Lesson 5 | pascalbovet.com

  9. Pingback: Highspeed photography 101 – Lesson 4 | pascalbovet.com

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  13. Pingback: Highspeed photography 101 – Lesson 2 | pascalbovet.com

  14. Srinivas says:

    Excellent tutorials.. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing.

  15. dabuhh says:

    hey just wondering how did you get that sequence photo of the skier under “limitations”?
    I’m assuming there is a bit of photoshop magic involved in that

  16. Pascal Bovet says:

    Yes this was done on computer..

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