What is High Speed Photography? How to Take Photos of Fast Phenomena
If you’re new to photography, you’ve probably heard of more common genres like landscape and portraiture. But have you ever thought about high-speed photography? Even if you don’t recognize the name, you’ve almost certainly seen examples.
High-speed photography is one of the hardest genres to master, but once you do, you can achieve stunning results. This article will explain what it is, while giving you tips for taking better photos of fast-moving phenomena, whether you have a mirrorless camera or a DSLR.
What is High Speed Photography?
As you might have guessed from the name, high-speed photography is all about capturing images of things moving very quickly. Generally speaking, you will need to significantly reduce your shutter speed to capture these objects.
High-speed photography is used in several scenarios. If you want to capture water droplets as they fall, for example, you would use this form of image capture, and the same goes for capturing powder flying through the air.
You can also use high-speed photography in some product photography cases. For example, dropping objects, such as food, into liquid.
Now let’s see how to take those high-speed photos. The tips below will help you capture snaps that will wow your followers or clients.
1. Use a faster shutter speed
Even if you don’t take any other tips from this list, you should make sure you use a faster shutter speed for high-speed photography. If objects are moving fast and you don’t shorten your shutter speed, you’ll end up with a blurry image; solving this problem in post-production is often difficult.
Not allowing your shutter speed to go faster than the focal length of your lens is a good rule of thumb for general photography. But for high-speed photography, you’ll still need to raise the bar. We recommend using at least 1/1000th of a second and if possible you might want to lower it further.
When using a faster shutter speed, you need to remember that the exposure triangle comes into play. To make sure your image isn’t too dark, you’ll need to adjust your aperture and ISO accordingly.
The only exception to this rule is if you want to use blur to show how fast the object is moving. In this case, choose a longer shutter speed.
2. Change your camera’s shooting mode continuously
Regardless of your skill level, capturing photos of fast-moving objects is often a game of luck. Even if you get the perfect frame, you may find that your image is blurry. if you only take single images, you can probably see how quickly this becomes a problem.
Instead of shooting a single image, you should set your camera’s shooting mode to continuous. You’ll probably find that most of the images aren’t great, but at the same time, you’ll get a few that deserve further development in Lightroom or Capture One.
3. Pay attention to lighting
We’ve already mentioned that you’ll need to use a shorter shutter speed for high-speed photography, but that poses another potential challenge. You also let less light into your camera when you use a faster shutter speed. And without light, impossible to have a photo.
Fortunately, you still have some control. You can change the amount of light entering your photo outdoors by using light rings or other artificial lighting.
When setting up your scene for high-speed photography, consider how many lights you will need. You will also need to consider the background colors when setting up the lights.
4. Use macro mode on your camera
Looking at the objects in many high speed frames, you will often notice that they are not particularly large. As such, you’ll need to think of a way to get close to the subject and ensure you capture it in all detail.
Using a wider aperture tends not to work, as we’ll see in a moment, but enabling macro mode will help you get everything in focus. Activating Macro mode isn’t too difficult; most modern cameras have a button, dial, or switch that lets you turn it on.
5. Don’t use a large aperture
When they need more light in their cameras, many photographers widen their lens aperture as a starting point. This will work in many cases, but for high speed photography it’s not the best option.
If you’re capturing high-speed moving objects, you’ll want to get maximum focus. Therefore, lowering your aperture is counterproductive. You’ll want to use something wider than you normally would, and we recommend going above f/9.
6. Consider using bright colors
High-speed photography is exhilarating and you should try to represent it in the images you capture. Using bright colors is one of the best ways to add a little more excitement to your photos.
Consider using bright objects as contrast against the dark background. Fruit is a popular choice; lemons, strawberries and oranges will all do. Also, consider adding coloring to liquids and powders before playing with them.
If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, learning a bit about color theory before your photo shoot will help.
7. Test your settings before shooting
We’ve provided lots of tips on how you can improve your high-speed photography, but you have to remember that every scenario is different. Although you will gain experience by taking more high-speed shots, you should try each situation before taking the shot to make sure it works.
Before you get started, set everything up and do some testing. This way you will warm up and eliminate errors from your system.
High-speed photography is tough, but worth it
Taking high-speed photos of objects is a lot of fun, and you’re sure to have a nice weekend afternoon if you want to try it out as a hobby. And if you take photos for clients, you may need to do something like fast-paced freak photos in the future. So it’s worth having at least a basic understanding of how to get the most out of it.
After reading this article, you should have enough to at least get started. All you have to do is grab your camera and try this genre for yourself!