Playing with lighting and a fast shutter speed

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There are two elements of photography I have rarely experimented with: Lighting and a fast shutter speed. This week I combined the two to take this image of coloured water splashing out of a glass. By my own admission, it is a little rough and ready, but I don’t think it’s too bad for a first attempt.

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Firstly, let me explain exactly what is going on in this image. That’s a Champagne flute filled with water. I timed the image so it was taken as I fired a syringe full of blue food colouring into the flute.

The camera was in manual mode. The shutter speed was set to 1/1000 of a second, aperture f5 and ISO 100.

This image was very simple to take. Nonetheless, there is a little more to it than meets the eye and I did watch a few YouTube tutorials first.

The water in the Champagne flute has been mixed with some Xantham gum. This is a food additive widely available in many supermarkets in the ‘free from’ section. The gum makes the water a little more viscous so you get better shapes and bubbles.

Lighting is the other essential element, primarily the backlighting. In the background is a simple, white sheet and behind that are two powerful studio lights (although I have seen this done with a simple angle poise light). Without the backlighting, you wouldn’t be able to highlight the drops. Although you can’t see it in the image, the flute was sat on laminated pieces of white, A4 paper that reflected the light upwards.

As I said, this was my first attempt at taking such an image. I think the backlighting is the weak point. The sheet was possibly a little too thick preventing some of the light from getting through. The whole thing was propped up using a chair and that created some unhelpful shadows. I thought I’d be able to crop the shadows out in the editing process, but some them have proven to be quite stubborn.

Oh, I should mention the syringe was one used for giving Calpol to children. I mean come on, while I do share photography on this blog it is primarily a dad blog, right? I simply used what was available to me in my family’s medicine cabinet!

This was a fun experiment. I’m well versed in long exposure photography but doing the reverse was an interesting challenge.

Do you like the effect? Is it something you might be tempted to have a go at yourself? Maybe you’ve already done this yourself? Please do leave a comment below.


17 thoughts on “Playing with lighting and a fast shutter speed”

  1. Hi John, I love this photo! Maybe a whiter background would have made for more clarity, but this is still an excellent photo. I love that you share the secrets too, It wouldn’t have occurred to me that the water had been thickened… Don’t you just love YouTube? It’s now my go-to place for tutorials too.



    1. Yes, a whiter background would have been better. I wouldn’t use a sheet next time. And yes, YouTube is great for this kind of thing!

    1. Not as much work as you might think. I think I had this done in about an hour. Go on Sarah, give it a go. Just don’t spray blue food colouring over the wall like I did!

    1. Yes Darren, I spent ages trying to figure out the best way to crop this. It was very difficult because of the shadows caused by the chair. This, I felt, was the best option.

    1. Ah, you may need a different camera. In fact I need a different camera! Kinda wearing my one out! Glad you like the pic though.

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