Building a Splash Photography Set


Capturing Food in Motion


Lesson Info

Building a Splash Photography Set

All right, so we're gonna get started. I'm gonna do a little bit of pre-production, kind of go over what we're gonna do and then we're gonna execute it. And we're going to make the mistakes. We're gonna recover from the mistakes. We're gonna see how things look because if there's any type of photography where you don't get it on the first shot, it's this kind. So once we get that first shot, we have to really start to work to capture that first play, the perfect shot of all the, we're gonna be shooting a New England clam bake and we're gonna be shooting it being thrown from the kettle onto this copper surface that we have, so I'll kind of go in, I've described in detail what splash photography is, but it's really all about capturing liquids in action using really short flash durations with the flash. And just to kind of go into that a little bit more, when I say flash duration versus shutter speed, I almost talk about the flash duration of a flash as the shutter speed of that flash. Wh...

en the light begins to when it ends. So when you have flash duration of eight-thousandth of a second, it's eight-thousandths of a second between when the light starts, peaks, and then tails off. And a lot of flashes have peaks and then they tail off much longer, so that it allows the motion to happen in front of the flash a lot more. So that's why I say, you know, when you do want to capture action outside, you can get away with eight-thousandths of a second on your camera with no flash because it's the same effect, it really is. So we're gonna get started. I'm gonna kind of go over the set and what we have here. So one of the most important things is when you have this layout here is to know that you're eventually gonna have to walk out of it. Unless the camera is within the circle of trust, you have to have at least something to wipe your feet on when you go in and out. Otherwise, you have just stickiness everywhere in a heartbeat. And you'll probably hear me for the rest of the day when I go out here just making all these crazy noises with my feet. So to at least control, it's gonna be helpful so we don't have this massive mop job at the end of it. So to look over our set here, I've got two sets of apple boxes underneath this acrylic tray right here. So this tray will capture any liquids that happen to come off. It's not gonna be a whole lot, I don't believe, but you never know. So we could run into a lot of extra liquid coming off the side. So we have this, this is just copper dibond. I love this product. It's light and you can buy it at Tap Plastics, I believe, locally. They do have dibond. But it's just, they have different colors. They have stainless steel, they've got nickel. I believe they have bronze and this is copper. So you can have surfaces that appear to be metal without paying all the money that you would need to actually get a copper surface, which would be a lot of money. They look almost identical on camera. They have a little bit of a flex to 'em, so you can't just use it as your base 'cause there will be a little bit of a dip. Now, if you're going to actually have the, I believe we are gonna include the surface in our shot. This isn't an instance where I would really need to level it, but occasionally you do need to make sure that your surface is completely level. With flashes, it's not as crucial because you'll have liquid flowing over it. You can adjust, it's not as crucial, in a sense. We're gonna go ahead and not do it. I've got the dibond set so there's a little bit of gap between, and this might not always be the case, but there's a little bit of a gap between the surface and the acrylic, so it allows some of the drips to go into the acrylic and not onto the floor. So I'm gonna be holding, we're gonna be shooting, I'm gonna be holding the kettle full of shrimp, full of just tons of stuff. Malena is actually gonna be styling the stockpot that we're gonna be throwing. And when she styles for splashes, she has to know that when we throw it, the way she styled it and the placement that she has everything in the kettle is going to be flying out in that order. So there is a thought process to how we actually stack stuff. It's not just willy-nilly. We actually know that we're gonna want some things. We want lobster to be in different places and those, when you fling it, they're gonna come out in order, generally speaking. Now where the liquid is actually gonna fling out and at what time, we're not 100% sure, but we're gonna give it a lot of force. It depends how hard you throw it. It depends what angle you throw it in, so a lot of this is trial and error. So we're gonna get it going on the actual shoot and if you'll join me in the kitchen, I'll kind of show you what our thought process is as far as styling the stockpot. So, hopefully, I know at home you'll be able to see, but I'll at least explain to you in the audience what we're up to. So right here, we have in the stockpot, we've got corn, we've got a liquid that's meant to look like the steaming liquid that you would have and a little bit of oil. I love mixing oil and liquid because when it comes out of the kettle, the oil and water don't mix and it creates two different liquids in your scene. A little bit of a dynamic look whereas if you just had liquid, it wouldn't have these droplets of oil in it. It kind of creates this really nice, sparkly look. So everything in here was styled individually by Malena. The corn was cut and we actually grilled, we seared the lemons on a skillet on a gas burner. And the potatoes, we only partially cooked because when I'm throwing this, we are usingl unless there's a huge budget, and if you're at home, you need to think about this. We're gonna reuse this pot over and over again. We have some extra, but there's a finite amount of potatoes and lobster and prawns. These are fairly expensive ingredients, so we want to be frugal with how we do this unless there's a big budget for the food. So she assembled this in order of how we want this to be thrown. There's some corn. I'm gonna actually bring one of the lobsters to the top. But we kind of arrange this how we foresee this happening, so its kind of a really nice-looking pot. There's a little bit of butter in there, even, which is cool. So we're gonna be throwing this and we're gonna be capturing this. What will invariably happen is the liquid will come out at a very specific time, whether or not it's on the left or the right, if it comes out fast or slow, I'm not 100% sure yet. So it's part of the excitement, but we'll eventually have to take control of the scene and start to tell it what we want it to do, regardless of how bad I am at throwing it. So when we get to the final stages, when we get a shot where the placement of the items is really good and the liquid doesn't get in the way and it looks really nice, I'll actually be taking some of this liquid using the containers I mentioned earlier and I'll be flinging those separately and we'll be blending those in in Photoshop. If, for some reason, we can't get it, if we get it on the first try, this is gonna be a very short segment, (audience laughing) and I'm gonna have to somehow fill time. But I'll make sure that doesn't happen. I'll dig into my early years and just fling stuff into the air and see what happens. But everything is appearing to be cooked. I noticed some of that food was sitting in that pot for just a bit and things like potatoes and stuff, they set when they've been sitting for a while. Are you afraid that some of it's gonna clump and stick together and it's not loose enough 'cause there's not a lot of liquid or broth? No, qnd one of the things you see with food styling is that you'll, if need be, you'll under cook stuff a lot. Especially peas or green beans. Those are almost raw. They're blanched for just a few seconds, 'cause your only concern is you do not concern if it's, it doesn't matter if it's edible. It's truly a matter of does it look the way the client wants it to look. Not even what you think is right, it's what they want it to be. So in this instance, I was thinking in my head, there's gonna be some crashing going on and splashing going on. Potatoes, if they're fully cooked, will just disintegrate. They're a mess, so we blanch the potatoes for just a minute or two to give the outward appearance that it's had some cooking or some steaming going on, but they'll still retain their shape. If we took it far enough, so a lot of this is trial and error, but generally speaking we under cook everything because when you throw it, they'll disintegrate. That would be a huge mess if you had fully-cooked potatoes in this pot, so you need to think about each component exactly how you want that component to look and also think about what's gonna happen when you throw it. So the potatoes I would have cooked further. I know Malena probably would have liked to take them further as far as cooking goes and as far as the ideal thing. But logistically speaking, if we actually throw that, so I'll let her know at least on my end what is logistically possible and then we'll collaborate and see what the best thing is for the potatoes. And that's kind of where we ended up. Another question that had come in from some folks, could you explain again what that surface is that you're going to be using over on the scene? Yeah and I'll explain the background, too, I'll explain. And I'll explain the surface. We have the surface elevated and we've allowed a gap for any liquid that hits the surface to drain off. So it keeps it off the floor even though we have plastic on the floor, we don't want to make a mess on the floor. That's only there for safety, but the actual material is dibond. D-I-B-O-N-D. And it is a composite material that is, I think, really thin sheets of the actual metallic, or some sort of fake metallic surface sandwiched between PVC to give it more strength. And actually, that's what I use when I create fine art prints and I do a matted print where it's not a matted print, but a glazed print where it has acrylic over the front and it's sandwiched. Dibond is the backing of that process, so it's used in fine art prints and I just happened to have more on hand 'cause I do fine art prints. So I just started using it and now I can't get enough of it. I love it as a surface 'cause you can have a stainless steel counter, which looks really cool with ice cream product shots, and you can frost it up and it just looks amazing. But buying a copper surface that big is expensive. So you just want to avoid doing that and be resourceful and you can have any plastic shop or any shop that specializes in dibonds and plastics and acrylic cut that to any specification that you want.

Class Description

The food in an image is quite another thing from food on a plate in front of you. Food photographers have the challenging task of recreating the many sensations that draw us to a good meal - its aroma, warmth, the anticipation of taste - using only one of the senses. To bring foods to life in pixels and on paper, Steve Hansen liberates them from the stationary plate. He captures them in motion, crashing and splashing into each other.

Join veteran photographer Steve Hansen for this course, and you’ll learn:

  • How to capture your food in action by using the right flashes and strobes.
  • Which lenses and settings to use to capture your food and liquids in vivid motion.
  • The basics of post-processing for images of frozen motion, and how to enhance the image you take in-camera.

It will be fun and messy - the audience will be wearing slickers to protect their clothes from flying food and liquid. In addition to learning about the technical requirements for capturing food in motion, you’ll learn how to sell your images to editors, websites and magazines. Develop the confidence to bring more advanced techniques into your food photography practice, and make your photos stand out in the crowd.



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.

a Creativelive Student

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.