Photography Tips

How to freeze the movement in simple steps

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In order to immortalize the most imperceptible moments in sight of the human eye, we not only have the help of high quality professional flashes that have HSS functions, but there are other ways to freeze the movement in simple steps.

So if you are looking to get into the fascinating world of high-speed photography and achieve impressive and creative results, mixing colours and shapes in movement, you will only need to follow the following tips.

How to freeze the movement in simple steps

  1. Introduction: what is HSS?

For those who are not clear about what HSS means or what high-speed photography is, you can check out this post about What HSS high-speed synchronization is and why you need it, in which it explains what HSS high-speed synchronization is and why you need it, a detailed explanation where we develop in which cases, apart from this, you can put it into practice.

As a summary, I would define it as the possibility offered by your camera combined with a flash or a flash with any light, to immortalize an object (freeze the movement) in a specific moment. It is not always achieved in the same way, since there are adequate flashes with HSS functions (usually studio and professional), but not all have this possibility.

So, is it necessary to acquire a high-speed sync flash? I would recommend yes, if you are going to dedicate yourself to this, you want to develop your ability as a photographer and you want to improve the quality of your photos or even better work in disciplines where the use of high speed will be essential, this type of flashes will be fundamental.

  1. Method to freeze movement

If at the moment you do not have a flash HSS do not fear, there are some formulas to freeze the movement. One of the simplest is based on leaving the shutter open and performing a controlled flash at the exact moment when the movement is taking place.

This, of course, must be done in a totally controlled environment, in which there is no natural light to get a fixed image and without movements at the moment of the flash and with a specific background, the scenario must be as I say fully controlled and that can make us lose a lot of work time, because if it were so easy, high-speed flashes would not do anything to freeze the movement.

Another difference that occurs when working with a high-speed flash and the use of this technique is the type of lighting that is achieved, with a HSS flash the scene will be fully illuminated, as we would have fill light and a main light, for thus entering light everywhere.

First photograph taken without HSS (Mike Nelson) and the second taken with HSS (Jake Guild)

Otherwise the light will be concentrated in a specific point, because as we discussed earlier, there will be no light other than the flash, this can spoil our result, creating double impressions, although of course, this will depend on the result you want to achieve with each shot, there will be situations in which that result may be useful (artistic photo), but to freeze the movement will not be optimal.

As I commented, this will depend on what you want to express with each shot, because if necessary, you can shoot more than one external flash to the camera at a time and fill in the part that has been dark.

  1. Elements necessary to freeze movement

As with almost any photographic discipline, to capture the movement of an object it will be necessary to have specific and adapted equipment that allows us to achieve the best result.

In addition to our camera, which you must always use in manual mode to adapt it to our circumstances, what will help us the most when freezing the movement in an image, will be the following accessories:

3.1. Tripod

It may seem strange to need a tripod, because if the photograph is of great speed, why should we need support if there is no trepidation? Mainly because whenever you have a tripod, it is better to use it than camera in hand, at least when the photograph that is going to be taken is thought of before, it is better to get home with the photographs you had in mind, than to have to perform again a session of photographs because a vibration appeared where and when you least expected it.

But also, it has to do more with the organization and having your hands free, because to get the movement freeze you will need to have absolute control over many elements at once, and leaving the camera with the desired framing, will save us time and help us to work more comfortably.

Do not forget those who use a flash without HSS mode. For them it will be more necessary if possible, given that by leaving your camera with the shutter open for a longer period of time, and regardless of whether the flash is faster or slower, your results will not be what you expect because they will appear trepidated.

3.2. Flash

As I said throughout this article, another essential element to be able to photograph at high speeds is lighting. As I mentioned above, it will always be better to have a flash with HSS mode, either studio or shoe, it does not matter, that is more related to the work you’re going to do and where you’re going to do it.

The high speed synchronization flashes or HSS (High Speed ​​Sync) will allow us to work in a much easier way and without needing so much trial and error, to get the movement to freeze optimally, since normally, they have speeds up to 1 / 8000s of synchronization, being able to capture an instant of 1 / 8000s.

In addition these speeds can be combined with bursts, very useful when you are doing sports photography, being able to get in a moment, dozens of photographs. You have to take into account to be able to combine this, the recycling time, since this controls the amount of photographs you can make in a burst (preferably always the shortest time).

Although if we do not have an HSS flash, do not worry, because with the shutter technique open, you can freeze the movement without problems (although more tedious), because even if your camera and flash do not synchronize, the movement is captured, at the moment of the flash, thanks to the fact that light “captures the moment”.

This must be done in total darkness , because it is achieved because the camera sensor, no matter how open and exposed, does not capture light and therefore does not immortalize anything, but when you make the flash, the camera recognizes that moment of light and is reflected in your photograph.

So if you already have flash without the HSS mode, you can try to make your photos in this way and when you get hooked get a flash that allows you to take pictures at high speed and freeze the movement without great artifice.

If you are looking for a new flash, here are two ideal options to immortalize movements, without scratching your pocket.

For study, the Pulse Pro X Quadralite, highly recommended, given that it has HSS and short recycling time, in addition to other very attractive features.

See Press Pro X 400

If you are looking for a shoe flash, the best option will be the Gloxy GX-F1000, with HSS mode and a very noticeable power.

Wireless flash

See flash GX-F1000

3.3. Trigger

Of camera and flash, to be able to be, since to realize these photographs one need, not only enough precision (that also) but rather help. If we use a flash with HSS mode, it is recommended a trigger with which to control the flash from the camera and another that controls the camera, being able to operate the camera and flash without touching them. This second is not so necessary but will give more precision.

If we use the flash without HSS mode, the trigger for camera and flash will be even more necessary , since the camera, having a slow shutter speed, can capture any movement and our hands tremble too (more if you have to have precision).

As for the trigger for your flash, it should be independent of the camera , since the flash will not have the same duration as your shutter open, for that reason it is not as necessary this trigger as the other or in other flashes, if not You can activate it yourself, depending on the accuracy you want to achieve .

As for the precision with which you trigger the trigger, there are also triggers that are adapted to this, since our hands and brain have a very slow reaction time. Therefore, there are many triggers that have motion, vibration, sound and other types of sensors that make your camera or flash jump when they have to jump, not a thousandth before or after.

See Miops Triggers

3.4. An assistant

Many of the photographs taken at these speeds try to break, explode or put together different objects and immortalize them the moment they come together, like two paintings of different colour or capture the moment when a glass is broken.

The problem is that how do you shoot your camera and flash, throw an object and also throw the other from another side? Unless you are Flash (the superhero, not a flash), you cannot do all this by yourself, so it will always be better to have an assistant or even two , depending on what you want to do.

In addition, they will also help you to clean up afterwards all the damages that entail breaking, throwing and exploding. This is another point in favour to always have an assistant by your side.

  1. Adjust your study or workplace

Whether you are going to photograph a model making some movement or go experimenting with the photo creative, gathering objects by breaking or mixing them, you will have to do it in a secluded place that can not bother you or you anyone. The ideal is a study, if you do not have it, you can always find a corner at home, as in your storage room.

On the other hand, this space must be adapted to the necessary elements, such as a background, preferably black, since it does not reflect the light and the colours and lights come out more contrasted. It is also ideal for taking pictures with the shutter open and without HSS mode, since it does not reflect light or colour, it will be much more contrasted, without parasitic lights.

Protect your material, first of all, because if you are going to take photographs exploding or crashing for example two cans of paint, you will need to do so while maintaining a safe distance, where you will not damage your equipment, or anyone else.

It is therefore advisable to use telephoto lenses, since it is only to freeze the movement of a model or something more dangerous, as mentioned, you can always maintain a key distance, getting to compose with greater freedom , something very important to give your image more strength and attractive.

Although if you need to get closer yes or yes, because photography is a detail and you are going to use a macro lens to give it more strength, or simply do not have a telephoto lens, there are also options to protect yourself, such as waterproof cases or more home remedies, like a plastic bag with a hole for your lens (although it is clear that it will be what protects you the most).

See waterproof case

The most used for this are crystals, since it is the only thing that protects you from breaking or staining your camera and material, as well as allowing you to capture the image. For splashing and small-sized items, there are many photographers who use fish tanks to have the splash more controlled. It’s the best thing to start trying to freeze the movement.

Another option could be to get behind a more resistant material and make a hole where your lens comes out, although this is not so necessary, unless you are going to use more dangerous elements, such as to freeze the movement of a shot or pointy elements that will go through others.

  1. Make your photograph and experiment with the materials

The time has come! After so much preparation and adapting everything look for assistants and devise everything that will understand your capture, your frozen image, it is time to take the photograph.

But what picture? If you have no idea what to photograph, do not worry, because this creative mode allows you to combine and create new forms, inspiring you in others already created. To explode a balloon, to immortalize a dance movement, to crash an egg, to mix paintings in the air with a model or without a model, a drop falling into a glass.

If you want to find inspiration you can enter Flickr or 500px, and browse the work of other photographers in this style.

As soon as we have our idea, material and everything ready, we must remember to place your camera in manual mode , in order to get a fast or slow shutter speed, depending on whether we use HSS flash or not, and then, adjust your other parameters so that the photograph is well exposed and clearly.

Another very important aspect is the focus, it must be very well calculated so that at the very least moment of the capture, all your elements are very clear and the frozen effect is greater, since the blur inspires movement.

It is highly recommended to use closed diaphragms, to have most of your image focused and the effect of freezing the movement is greater. Another personal recommendation is the use of bursts whenever you can (of course, in Bulb mode you will not be able to, it will have to be in HSS), since you will have more options to capture the moment you want. If you want to know what Blub mode is, you cannot miss this article.

  1. Processing your frozen image

These images do not have processed different from other photographs, only that in order for the movement to have an immortalized effect, we will have to “clean the image”, that is, achieve a greater contrast between background and object, besides eliminating any detail out of focus or that can distract us.

The most general recommendation that I can give you, since each photograph needs a specific processing depending on errors or colours would be, get your background is black, if it is not black enough or the light has given reflection, adjusting the levels reaching a purer black; intensify colours, giving it more vividness and contrast; and finally eliminate unwanted elements, such as spots or defocused elements.

With these tips and patience, as well as wanting to do new things, you will freeze the movement with fascinating results, since this type of photography gives you a much greater use than others, to be able to exploit your creativity, mixing whatever you can think of. Do not hesitate to show us your results or ask any questions on our social networks.

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