Level: Beginner

Liquid photography masterclass: water, apple and flash duration test

Again water and apples.. (got a nice collection of them for stock:-)

But this time, thanks to some good questions from participants, we got some interesting results, comparing canon speedlights lights and Paul C Buff lights. I’ll get back on this later.

Technical Stuff:

I was using three Canon speedlights, set to be slaves on manual mode,  ST-E2 Speedlite Transmitter mounted on a camera to trigger strobes.Why speedlights, not Alienbees or White-lighting monolights? This was one of the questions I’ve got from the class attendants.

The answer is simple: because of short flash duration. Speedlites at 1/8 -1/4 power will produce a flash something around 1/10000 sec (may be even shorter), while the shortest flash from the Paul C. Buff monolights is 1/2000 (according to CyberCommander) on AB400 at full power.

We need a very short duration when working with water splash. You’ll see the difference between 1/10000 and 1/2000 later in this article.

BTW, 1/2000 for a AB400 does not seem to be correct number for me. Looking at the images, I feel it is more like 1/800 sec. May be 1/2000 on t.5 method? Not sure.

Also, must say that CyberCommander (at least mine version of it) is  really giving me hard time. Even working with lithium batteries (they said it may be due to luck of current), it lose flashes, lose setup, reboot itself, all this several time per photo-session.  I like Paul’s products, but this one seems to be a beta version.

The lighting Setup:

lighting setup water photography masterclass alex koloskov atlanta photographer

Lighting setup for water photography masterclass by alex koloskov

3 Canon speedlight were used:

Number 3 (see below), Canon 580 EX II,  from behind through white diffuser reflector panel and 10º grid with color gel, creating spot on a 2 stop translucent white background. 1/8 power.

The strobe form the right,  Canon 580 EX was used with Paul C Buff beauty dish with 30º grid ( grid was needed to reduce lights spill on a backdrop diffuser panel: it should be black around the spot). 1/16 power.

I was using DIY adapters (recipe was originally found here) Watch the video, you’ll see what i am talking about here

Left strobe (Canon 430 EX) was on 80mm zoom at 1/64 power.

The same setup:

Akelstudio live masterclass working with water splash photography lighting setup

Akelstudio live masterclass: working with water splash photography lighting setup

As you’ll see on the video below, we were throwing water from below and behind so that the apple created the splashes.

How to throw and what to use for is something you should figure out yourself. I can only tell that the shape of that little cup does make a difference.

The same setup was used for only water splashes:

Workshop - water splash photography

Workshop - water splash photography

Thanks to Louis Dina, who raised a question about a difference in duration between Paul C Buff lights and speedlights, we did a quick shot with the same setup using Alienbees and WL monolights.

Will the difference be really visible and can we still use Paul C Buff monolights for such type of photography?. I did not plan to do such a test, but now I am glad we did. We got predictable, but quite impressive results.

First, I replicated the same setup using 3 monolights: 1xAB400, 1xAB800 and 1xWL1600. See the whole and 100% crops:

photigy water splash masterclass long flash duration example

Long duration strobe: Paul c buff lighting (old)

100% crop:

photigy water splash masterclass long flash duration example 100% crop

Long duration strobe: Paul c buff lighting (old), 100% crop

As you see result is far – far away from acceptable. That thing is too slow for such photography.

Then we tried to use the shortest Paul C Buff strobe (I did not receive my Einstein units, so this is not an option for me for now), AlienBees AB 400, set at full power alone. According to CyberCommander it has 1/2000 duration of the flash impulse.

The Result:

photigy water splash masterclass long flash duration example ab400 full power

long flash duration example: ab400 at full power

80% crop:

photigy water splash masterclass long flash duration ab400 full power 100% crop

long flash duration ab400 full power 100% crop

This is a little bit better, photo has less motion blur. But still, is not acceptable (at least for me) to use such images anywhere…

Just for comparison, full and 100% crop of one of the best images from the class:

water splash masterclass atlanta ga short flash duration canon speedlite

hort flash duration, canon speedlites

90% crop of the same image:

Akelstudio water splash masterclass short flash duration speedlite 100% crop

short flash duration with canon speedlites 100% crop

Hope this is a self-explainable test:-)

A full length video from a masterclass. Please enjoy:-) This is our first and last free video from the masterclasses. I am planing to keep LIVE masterclasses as I want everyone who is interested to watch them.

However, a compiled full-length video will cost some a reasonable amount of money. (Here is the raw, version from the masterclass for those who can digest it:)


This will help us to keep  LIVE masterclasses free, offsetting the cost associated with broadcast and video production.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III DSLRCamera gear:

Lighting, light modifiers and accessories:

Exposure specification: shutter speed 1/250 sec, F7.1, ISO 250

Many thanks to all who helped us to make this class happen. It will be more like this in the near future.

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About The Author: Alex Koloskov

The lighting magician, owner of AKELstudio, Inc.

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