In this post, you’re going to learn how to take high-speed photographs of flour being thrown up into the air. Like this one:
Or this one:
What You’ll Need:
- Regular flour
- Holi powder
- Plastic Ziploc bags
- An Einstein E640 Strobe with a beauty dish on it
- 2 bare portable Speedlites
- Light stands
- Wireless trigger
- Broom to clean up the mess (that’s right!)
You can get by with just one front-lit Speedlite, but having 3-4 lights would be best.
Let’s get started!
Step 1: Get The Flour.
You can find regular flour at any grocery store:
Step 2: Prepare The Holi Powder.
Hoil Powder is a pigmented powder that you’ll use to color the flour – you can get it in many different hues.
A bit of warning: the Holi powder is extremely saturated, so if you rub it against your skin, it will bleed into your skin and stain it. So try not to touch it.
Step 3: Mix The Flour With The Holi Powder.
You’ll be using the flour to extend the Holi powder and increase its volume and power. So, just take an empty Ziploc plastic bag, add the Holi powder and then add the flour incrementally, until you get the saturation you want. You can mix this at home or just prepare it when you get to the location.
Here’s the green Holi powder mixed with flour – you’ll notice that it’s not as saturated or strong as the original hue:
Step 4: Spread The Colored Mix Onto A Dustpan.
Now, take the Ziploc bags with the colored flour and scatter the different piles of color all over the dustpan.
Step 5: Prepare For The Shooting
Here is the setup for this tutorial:
OK, so you’ve prepared the dustpan with the colored flour and your model is ready for the burst… Cool!
This is a pretty typical photo shooting setting:
- You’ll need a light hooked up to a wireless trigger – a good choice is the Einstein E640 strobe on a battery, but you can use any Speedlite.
- Put the beauty dish on a stand and aim the light toward the model.
- Next, place the backlight aiming toward the model from behind.
- The strobes should also be on the wireless triggers, but if you don’t have a whole ton of wireless triggers, you can set those up to be slaves.
- You’ll need an assistant to throw the flower from the dustpan onto the model.
- You can also have the assistant stay behind the model, down low throwing upward – you can try out all sorts of things and see what works best.
Click here to check out my favorite photo tricks!
Don’t throw the flower from the front, that’s a bad idea because it’ll get in your model’s face and will make everything messy. Throwing it behind is the best way to go.
If you have two or more assistants, you can place one assistant to the right and another one to the left of the model (see the above diagram) and throw the flour from both angles. This way, you’ll get double the color, double the flour and strike from multiple directions.
The key is to backlight everything. If you only have one backlight, I would recommend placing it in the exact opposite location from your main light. If you have two Speedlites, that’s even better.
The backlight makes everything look better, so you can really see the powder. The backlighting also works very well with smoke, rain, snow and powder.
In this example, the model kept her head down, and the assistant just tossed the red flour on her hair. She then raised her head up and the picture was snapped at precisely the right moment:
This is a really cool shot, but you can make it even better by changing the color a little bit.
Here’s what you can do:
1) Open the image in Photoshop and create a new Layer (Layer – > New Layer).
2) Go to the Gradient tool (G).
3) Apply an Angle Gradient Rainbow:
4) Set the blending mode to Color or Hue:
5) Make a gradient like the one below and tone it down by reducing the Opacity:
6) Delete the part where it’s not in the Rainbow, so it’s on the original color:
Here’s another example. This one is also cool because the red flour makes it look like her hair is just fading into the powder, as it’s all the same color:
Check out the next one! With this one, notice the downward angle and how the powder seems like it crashed up against her head. You can take that angle and use it to create a parallel to the ground:
Next, use the Polygon Selection tool to delete most of the ground and just keep this triangle formed at the bottom:
Next, you can turn the middle rectangle into blue, so it looks like an inner frame inside the outer black area, with the powder bursting out of the frame. You can also make some tonal adjustments, add some stars in the background, and now you get this picture:
Now, here’s a little bit about the shadows: notice the difference between the two shadows right there?
- The Speedlite produced the shadow on the right, which was behind the model.
- The shadow on the left is where the beauty dish was – you can see how the shadow is more faded.
So, that’s the difference of the quality of light, but you can use any type of light, an umbrella or a soft box.
Watch the video version below:
Ideally, you should try this out on your own private property. But, if you don’t have much space, you can go to a public place and take the photos there at nighttime.
You don’t want to try this when it’s humid, foggy or wet outside because it will make things more difficult. (Imagine the flour mixing with water and turning into dough.) It’ll be challenging enough to sweep up the mess, so try doing this on a dry night, instead of a damp one.
So this is my way of having colored flour explode on people’s heads! Now it’s your turn. How will you make it better? I’d love to see your results, so leave a comment in the section below.
Go check out my favorite photography techniques now.