People often ask me what the hardest food to shoot is? I usually don’t have a very good answer, so instead, I opt for a funny anecdote about some major disaster I had when I first started out. But after some thought, I would now say that splash photography is probably one of the more technical aspects of food photography I get to shoot.
Splash photography is a great way to add an element of movement and drama to a subject. It can completely transform a product that would have been relatively static and make it dynamic and impactful.
To do it well requires a lot of trial and error, patience, technical know-how and cleaning up! Here are some of my best splash photography tips:
Tip 1. You’ll need a fast flash!
The speed of the flash duration makes all the difference when freezing motion in midair. Simply put, the flash duration is the time it takes for the flash to reach full power and off. So in a dark room with no ambient light, you could set a 10-second exposure, and the camera sensor will pick up nothing. Do the same, but this time trigger a flash, and the duration of that flash will determine the time the sensor will be exposed to that light. Slower flash durations result in the moving liquid looking blurry. A faster flash duration results in a more crisp and ‘frozen’ image.
In the photo above, I use the Profoto d2s, which have a dedicated freeze mode and deliver a flash duration of 1/19000, which is super fast!
Tip 2. Protect you gear:
Working with liquids is really really messy. A simple splash can spread liquid across your whole set. Ways to contain this is to use a paddling pool and build your tabletop setup in the paddling pool, that way the liquid doesn’t go onto the studio floor but is collected in the pool. Use polythene dust sheets to place in front of the flashes and camera, but just leaving a hole for the lens to stick through.
Working with splashes can be challenging, but understanding how to control the liquid and how it behaves when thrown is vital.
In this shot, we needed the splash to spray out in all directions to give that sense that the can had just been opened. We tried shaking the can and pulling the pull ring to get a spray, but nothing was really working. We were on a busy schedule and didn’t have time to rig something more elaborate. So I decided the best approach on this occasion was to do this shot in two. One shot for the can and a second shot for the spray. The spray shot was created by pouring beer from a height onto the back of a spoon, which splashed the liquid in all directions. I then combined the two images in photoshop to make the final image.
Tip 3. Experiment with different vessels for throwing your liquid.
One thing I have found over the years is the type of vessel you use to throw the liquid makes all the difference to the shape of liquid when it’s being thrown. I tend to use a plastic funnel with the spout cut off and the hole filled in. It’s great because it can sit in my hand with my fingers supporting the sides (like you would holding a tennis ball), which gives it more stability when you throw the liquid out of it. It takes a lot of practice to understand how the liquid moves out of the vessel and through the air. So before you attempt anything too complicated, start by setting up a single flash with the camera and spend time just throwing liquid into a paddling pool or large tank/tray and capturing it. You’ll soon see what works and what doesn’t. Also, your timing between the camera remote trigger and the throw will improve.
Client: Byron Burgers;
Photography: Ryan Ball
Food Stylist: Amber De Florio