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Building a Crash Photography Set

Lesson 11 from: Capturing Food in Motion

Steve Hansen

Building a Crash Photography Set

Lesson 11 from: Capturing Food in Motion

Steve Hansen

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Lesson Info

11. Building a Crash Photography Set

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The topic of the lesson is capturing food in motion and building a crash photography set.


  1. How is a crash photography set different from a liquid photography set?

    A crash photography set involves creating the effect of a plate breaking, while a liquid photography set involves capturing the movement of liquid.

  2. Why is it important to have the background close in a crash photography set?

    Having the background close allows for the light from the strip lights to be utilized effectively.

  3. Why is the set positioned lower?

    The set is positioned lower to allow for the food stylist to drop the items with force and create a nice crash effect.

  4. How many tries do they have to capture the shot?

    They have ten tries, so they need to ensure that the plate is in the frame each time.

  5. What will they do with the broken pieces of the plate after the shot?

    They will pick up the pieces with tweezers and move them around to showcase or use them later.

  6. How do they capture the shot right after the impact?

    They need to pull the trigger right when the plate hits, as there is a slight lag in the camera.

  7. Why does the instructor use auto pulls for the background?

    Auto pulls hold up the background and can be adjusted to create a natural angle for the surface.

  8. Where does the instructor recommend purchasing tiles and other gear?

    The instructor recommends Home Depot as a good resource for purchasing tiles, A clamps, and other gear.

  9. Why does the instructor create sketches for each shoot?

    Sketches help communicate the vision to the team and allow for planning the placement of items on the set.

  10. How does the instructor recommend creating impactful images in crash photography?

    The instructor suggests stewing over the concept, thinking about colors and visual impact, and possibly working with a creative director or art director.

Lesson Info

Building a Crash Photography Set

We're gonna build, so a crash photography set is different from a liquid photography set unless you're doing both. If you're doing both, get ready for a mess. It is brutal 'cause you have, what you have is a puddle of milk at the end of it with broken glass in it and I've gone over this, rolling that tarp up is a delicate process and anything can puncture it and all of sudden you have, you're just running around basically with a bag with, you know, faucets of milk spraying everywhere all over the studio and you're going whoa! So I have the background very close to take advantage of the light that the two strip lights are providing. This is a very similar setup to what I had before except we're lower and the reason we're lower is not because I love getting on my knees to shoot. It's just the fact that I'm gonna be dropping, you have to think about your food stylist too and also yourself as far as how high to put a set because if I want to drop something I'm gonna need a little space. If...

I were trying to smash it at a higher level shooting would be much easier and moving the lights around. The whole set would be easier for a lot of people but the person dropping it would really have a hard time creating a nice crash, you know, so this is gonna take a little bit of force to make happen. So we're gonna, we only have ten tries. I bought ten plates, so none of this not getting in the frame business. We have to start and start good and then what we're gonna do is, after at the end when we're getting the pieces of plate we're gonna actually pick pieces up that we find are really nice and we're gonna place them, I'm gonna use tweezers and we're gonna move them around to showcase or to at least have pieces that we can work with later. What we're trying to achieve though really has to happen in one shot so I hope we get this. This is kind of like nervous time for me because we really have to make this shot happen because what you want to see is a plate right after impact so when we're triggering that's gonna be our goal. So I don't know who's triggering but, I might, I'll trigger. (laughs) but if you drop it with some force, I have to capture it right after the impact and this is much faster. I don't have the leeway that I had with liquids where I could just feel the moment and wait for it to unfold right before my eyes. I have to capture it right after it hits which means pulling the trigger right when it hits because you do have a little bit of a lag so when it's going that fast you have to kind of just guess and see what happens. And this is where you really wouldn't be able to put on multiple shots and just hope you get it because, you might, you might not so you have to be really close. So let's, let's talk about the set here. So I've got two auto pulls, I don't know if I've gone over auto pulls yet in the class but I love them. I think I have, but they're there to hold up the background and I actually have them, they use friction to stay vertical but I actually have them backed off a little bit because I am putting a surface in there so they're at an angle so that the surface naturally lays back. We usually have A clamps on there but it's really stable and sturdy right now so I'm not worried about it at all. So we have the strip lights lowered, the same strip lights, the 12 by 50's and they're just, from the bottom to the top and they're angled in a little bit so that the spill from this side of the light will come over and hit that side and the spill from the left side of that light will come over and cross and it's actually lighted in the background very evenly. If it were perfectly straight on there would be a little bit of a dip on the sides. There'd be a little bit of a vignette that I might not want or it might be the opposite, I'm not sure how it would look but I feel like we have a really nice, I'm looking for a very pastel, just kind of a bland place for this to occur so it can just happen and it can be the star of the show. There's no competing elements that I have to worry about. So the set, I've got two apple boxes, I've got tile that I purchased at Home Depot. Home Depot is a really good resource. You get all your A clamps there and you get all of your, I get a lot of my tiles there. They actually have tiles that look like wood that we used on a shoot and they have a wood grain to them but they have a nice reflectivity and a kind of vibrance but you can't tell that they're not wood on camera unless the light's hitting them a funky way so they're actually heavier than wood so it's kind of the opposite of what we should be looking for but they're also durable and you can actually pour liquids on them and you don't have to worry about denting the wood or breaking it. So you can actually break something on the surface and make it look like it's breaking against wood whereas if I dropped this on one of my wood, if I dropped a plate on a wood surface it may or may not break, especially with these thick plates. So it's kind of a handy thing. Home Depot is a really good resource. They have a lot of the gear that I get, like hoses and so I kind of recommend, I actually will go around Home Depot looking for creative ways to use things that are there that may not be used, it's just kind of a place to look around and see what's going on. So what is, what else do we have going on? There's a pancake on the ground that I threw earlier. I'm not sure, we were testing, we were testing for pancakes for sharpness earlier but let's do that again. Do you want to take a, this is the image that we're gonna be pursuing, right here. We're gonna be creating an image that has a plate that is breaking on the bottom. We want to capture it right after it shatters so that it actually still resembles a plate but with breaks in it. So this is gonna be a challenge to capture. It might just be that we have to create it in post production. We've seen several of your sketches throughout the couple of days that we've been here. Do you typically do sketches for each of the shoots that you do and how do you use them to communicate to your team? So when I do, when I'm testing I'll create a sketch. When I'm just playing around and creating stuff I'll create a sketch because you can put it on social media. It's a good thing to have. It's also good practice to know where things will be so if you're working with a team or just yourself, where to put stuff because I'm gonna be placing the bacon where I want it. I'm not gonna drop stuff, I'm not just gonna let it go. But we will try that too. We're even gonna, stack of this all ready to go and we're just gonna drop the whole thing probably on the last shot to see how it falls and show you how difficult it is to make this happen for real. It's a challenge so I'm gonna show that. But I like the drawings because they tell you the story, 'cause you'll look at the drawing and say well you're just in pre production so you're not on set messing around and trying to figure out you don't want to be in actual production second guessing yourself saying is this good. You want to stew over it for a while. So I keep a notebook next to my bed or I use my phone or iPad, I have a thing I can draw on the iPad. I have one everywhere that I go so if I have an idea I can write it down if it's a cool idea 'cause I'm thinking about not just, oh it would be pretty to throw, although I'll do that, just throw something at something, something could come out of that, but I want to start, as you progress in your career you want to start making images that are meant to possibly sell something, express an idea in a real 'cause a lot of crash images are meant to express something very dramatic happening and so you have to think about that. You have to go through a full pre production. You have to be the creative director, the art director, the client, all in one at the same time. So that's a lot of work to do and you can't be amazing at either one of those so you can always work with people. Maybe you actually are friends maybe already with an art director and you can get some pointers or, but you just have to have a concept that you've stewed over for a while I feel like to have an image that works. 'cause you can have a drawing but you still have to think about what colors are in that drawing, will they go together? That's the thing about pencil drawings, I love pencil drawings 'cause it leaves a lot to the imagination but at the same time you can't see it until it's on set sometimes so you really, we did a job where there were two companies involved that they switched companies mid shoot, they switched design agencies and one of them produced layouts that were more mockups of existing photography and the other created one that was a pencil drawing by a professional pencil artist. Totally different approaches and they worked equally well but they were completely different to work off of because we had this, as far as positioning went, we knew exactly where to put everything and there was no debate on that 'cause they sent that image to that and the perspectives were generally right 'cause they understood it as artists, whereas the comp one the perspectives were all off but at least the color relationships were there, whereas the other one we had the placement right but it was hard to tell how those colors would feel visually so we ended up replacing apples with different colors or different, whereas the other one was more about moving the position of stuff so if you can do a colored pencil sketch I would go that route.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with RSVP

Food In Motion Lighting Setups

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Capturing Food In Motion Gear List

Ratings and Reviews


This course is so fun to watch! I love how hands-on this course is even while watching it 3000 miles away on the other side of the country. I love how Steve Hansen is like a mad scientist just throwing food everywhere just to capture the "right moment". It's great to watch a professional at work especially the behind-the-scenes that we normally won't ever know just by look at the final product. It's amazing how much work goes into this and actually gets me excited to try my hands on capturing food in motion as well - first need to find a place that allows me to get it messy :D I do prefer this type of course set up than the lecture-style some of the other courses are.

Christy cwood56

This course will NOT disappoint! So much quality info that can really help a photographer move to the next level. To see the actual shoots with food flying everywhere and how to capture all of it and turn it into an incredibly stunning image is worth every penny of the price tag. To spend an afternoon with Steve on a one to one basis would cost more than most of us could afford but that is exactly what this class offers! We see into the mind of an incredible artist and his creative process. This class has been invaluable to my personal education as a photographer. There is so much here and I will continually come back to it again and again to learn and refine my techniques and images. You opened up a world of possibilities to me with this class! Thanks Steve!!!

a Creativelive Student

I attended this class in person and I found it to be wonderful. Steve is awesome at what he does and he is great at explaining what he is doing and why he is doing it. This course will lay out all the steps needed to help you create awesome splash and crash photography. I highly recommend it.

Student Work