One of the most frequently asked questions I get by email and social media that of ‘what setup are you using to take high speed photos.’ Can I see some pictures. My usual response is sure, here are a few pictures, with a brief explanation. The work that went into taking the original pictures and the text didn’t take long and they weren’t very good either. So, to save time having to set up my equipment, photograph it and then write about it time and time again, I’ve created a post here with all of the information you could (should) ever need!?
- 1 x Yongnuo YN-560 II (I used to use two, but one broke and I haven’t got around to replacing it yet)
- 4 x Wex Photographic Light Stands (sometimes I use a fifth light stand)
- Hobbycraft paper rolls (Black, White, Red, Blue, Yellow and Green)
- 1 x CO2 Air Pistol
- 1 x tin of BSA Interceptor .177 pellets
- 1 x Plastic pipe
- 1 x Workmans table
- 1 x Plank of wood
- 20 x Golf tees
- 1 x Invisible thread reel
- 1 x Drawing pin
- 1 x Crocodile clip
With an equipment list as big as the one above, where on earth do I start with the setup.
NOTE: In some pictures your imagination will be needed as there isn’t a camera on the tripod or it has been replaced with my old Minolta XG-1. I only have one digital camera, and I needed it to take the pictures of the setup.
Here is a quick diagram, powered by LightingDiagrams of my single light, high speed photography setup.
The very first thing I do is seal of my bedroom from all light. I use black gaffa tape to block the light entering my room by taping my blinds to the window. I also keep my bedroom door closed to stop light entering, and also to make sure my Mother or Sister don’t walk in while I’m taking photos or firing the air pistol.
First up, the target itself. I’ve shot at loads of different things, some work really well like soft fruit including raspberries and blackberries, some not so well like apples and pears. I currently have two methods for securing the target before shooting them. First up, when I shoot subjects like baubles and dandelions I suspend them from the ceiling or a light stand using clear sewing thread. If you don’t have any then fishing line works just as well, and is probably stronger. The other method I use is a variation of something that Tom over at Triggertrap developed. I use a piece of wood, a old cupboard shelf support if you must know, with a hole it. I then place a golf tee in the hole to hold up the raspberry, or other target.
Next I use one of my light stands, combined with two Manfrotto Super Clamps and a straight joining stud. Then I clamp in my CO2 air pistol and line it up with the target for said destruction. My ammo of choice for maximum fruit juicing and total carnage are currently BSA .177 Interceptor pellets. They come in a tin of 500 for £5, which makes them cheap, but they are also good at penetrating targets.
Next up, the background. Here I use two light stands and an old piece of plastic piping to hold up a roll of black, white or coloured paper. The paper I use comes on 10m rolls from my local hobbycraft store. They work exactly the same as the background paper you would get from the likes of Calumet, but at a fraction of the cost. The low cost also means that when the background gets covered in fruit or a pellet makes a hole in it, I can just pull some more paper off the roll and carry on.
Now, onto the camera and lighting setup. 95% of the time I use my Sigma 105mm macro lens for my high speed shots. It’s the perfect focal length as it allows me to position the camera just far enough away from the target so that it doesn’t get covered in gunk from whatever I’m shooting at. Next I position my flash, a YN560 mk II from Yongnuo, slightly to the left or right of my camera on a tripod and check that the power is on 1/128.
Next we need a way to trigger the flash and the camera. This is where my handy Triggertrap kit comes in. Firstly I connect the Triggertrap v1 I have to a micro USB charger to power it. I set it to ‘sound mode’, usually with a 0.00 second delay. Next I connect it to my flash via a Triggertrap mobile dongle and check that I can fire the flash via sound by clapping my hands. Next I connect my mobile phone to my Triggertrap mobile kit and then connect the other end to my camera. This allows me to open and close the shutter on my camera. I attach the phone to the bottom of the light stand that is holding the air pistol using another super clamp, a friction arm and a Triggertrap Phonetrap. Depending on the battery level of my phone and how long I plan to be shooting, sometimes I connect my phone to a USB charger or a battery pack to stop it from dying before I’m done.
Finally I do a quick test shot to make sure the air pistol fires a pellet and that the Triggertrap kit fires my camera and flash. Once I know everything is working fine I move onto the serious business of shooting things. With a bit of trial and error with for timing, I end up with images like this:
My camera settings!
Usually my camera settings are as follows:
- Manual focus
- 1 to 2 second exposure
- ISO 100 to 400
- Aperture of f/10 to f/16
- Flash power of 1/128
These don’t really need links, but I’ll explain why I use them.
- Lens cleaner
- Fruit, paint and other bits of debris hit the lens filter on a regular basis. I use a lens cleaner and a cloth to remove them.
- Gaffa tape
- I use this to black out my window blinds and any other gaps where light enters my bedroom.
- Vacuum cleaner
- To clean up the mess. Shooting Raspberries, chalk and paint causes a hell of a mess.
- A bin
- Helps to clean up with the mess. I also put the shot objects here to avoid treading them into my carpet.
- HINT If you have a room with a carpet, use a plastic sheet on the floor. I have raspberries permanently smushed into my carpet and I can’t get them out.
If you would like extra details on my high speed photography setup, hit me up in the comments or contact me here and I’ll get back to you.