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High Speed Photography Tips

Updated on July 17, 2015
LuisEGonzalez profile image

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years.

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High speed applications

High speed photography is an exciting genre in the photographic field, but to take high speed photographs you need some specialized equipment such as high speed light strobes/flash units, fast film and a high speed camera.

In most cases the photographer will also require some sort of trigger mechanism, sound activated triggers, like microphones, work well in high speed photography applications.

Laser pointers will also be quite effective although one needs to be certain to aim them at the right spot.

The action is frozen by a fast shutter speed and the fast illumination provided by the high speed strobe of around 1/6000 of a second in studio work or by fast film and fast camera in other situations.

The photographs taken at high speed show motion that are otherwise not visible by the human eye, such as the bursting of a balloon or the shatter of a glass, water drops as well as other actions that occur too fast for the human eye to focus.

For 35mm film you need at film canister with around 1,200 feet of film. The film speed/rating should be of about 400. This film is very grainy but it does the job of capturing high speed action. Remember the slower the film is rated the more light that you need.

So a film rated at 100 ASA/ISO needs more light (almost double) than a film rated at 400 ASA/ISO. With a digital format most cameras allow you to manually pre-set the "ISO' to high speeds.

If you intend to take high speed photos in daytime, then a fast camera and fast film is really all you need, otherwise you will need the aforementioned equipment.

However the results may not equal those taken in a studio setting in which the subjects are illuminated by a strove.

If you don't want the expenses associated with specialized film then slower films (ISO 100 or 200) can be used but require the action to be shot in a darkened environment and with a slow shutter speed.

The burst of light provides all that is needed to freeze the action and since no light enters the camera the slow shutter speed has no bearing on the final product. But the effect with this technique mirrors a "freeze" action rather than a true high speed shot.

The shutter speed in this case should be approximately 1 to 2 seconds or set the shutter to the "B" for bulb position. This is the same concept as that used for night photography, like photographing bursts from fireworks.

The camera must be able to take about 480fps or 480 frames per second.

Commercial applications for high speed photography are in product demonstrations, advertising campaigns, poster and greeting card industries, health applications, sports and the scientific community.

High speed photography is designed for the studio where the photographer has the total control of the equipment, lightning conditions, available electrical power, and in some cases for safety measures.

But even when the photographer has total control there is no guarantee that you will get satisfactory results in the first attempt. It usually takes several attempts to obtain the right photograph.

The equipment has to be calibrated to work well together. That means calibrating the flash unit to the camera and for the film speed and calibrating the camera to the microphone or trigger mechanism, if using one.

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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 4 years ago from Miami, Florida

      jainismus: Thanks. Glad you can draw some inspiration from the piece.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 4 years ago from Miami, Florida

      rajan jolly: Thanks

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      High speed photography gives mesmerizing pictures. Love them. Useful and interesting hub and voted as such, Luis.

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 4 years ago from Pune, India

      Great photographs, great video with great information. This has inspired me to do some experiments.

      Shared with my Hub followers.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 4 years ago from Miami, Florida

      John: Thank you, BTW:Great video, I will put it on this hub if you don't mind.

    • profile image

      John 4 years ago

      Great stuff check out my High speed videos/pictures here

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 6 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      This is fscinating! Your "feeazing the action" photos are a marvel; I love how they reveal what we cannot truly see.