While the cake was baking, what did we do? We played with flour! 🙂 And then made a video of us playing with the flour. Then decided to take some action shots with flour. And NOW, here we are! Sharing some behind-the-scenes information about the action photography with flour! Try it! It is fun!
Well, until, you realize you have to clean up! :).
No, seriously, try some action shots today! It is super fun!
This is our first in a series of behind-the-scenes photo/video shoots.
Scroll down to see the not-so-glamorous make-shift studio we set up in our kitchen.
Set Up The Mood
It is important to plan your photographs in advance. Think of what mood you want to create.
We chose a farm table feel for the pictures in this series. Once we knew this was the mood we wanted to create, it was easy to pick the backdrops and other accessories to go with the theme/mood.
Choose A Suitable Backdrop
Since we decided to go with a farm table setup, it was easy to decide on the backdrop. We wanted a rustic feel to the pictures. We decided to use the same backdrop we used for our chicken roast pictures.
When I say backdrop, it is nothing fancy. We have a few pieces of wood, which are stained with a dark brown color.
The patterns on the wood along with the brown stain gave it a rustic charm.
Decide On The Props
We wanted to use some props, but nothing overwhelming. Again, here we had to keep in mind the story we were trying to portray.
We decided to keep it simple.
In our minds, it was about baking - a farm table, flour flying, and a few eggs to convey the theme. The brown eggs we picked also kinda settled into the overall mood of the picture.
Pick props that fit into the mood/story you are trying to create.
Additional Things To Keep In Mind
We have white walls at home and we wanted to create a dark environment to create the photo. We hung a black-ish (very dark purple) sheet on the wall/pantry door to darken the wall.
Since I knew some part of me will be seen in the picture, I also wore a dark blouse to kind of blend in with the background.
These two ensured that the viewer's eye is drawn to the areas of the image that was brighter.
Make sure the environment you are creating for your photo is cohesive and viewers' attention is drawn to your subject.
How To Make The Flour Fly/Create A Flour Cloud?
We are getting into the nitty-gritty of the fun part! YES! the fun part!
This did take us a few tries to figure out the best way to get the flour flying. We knew right from the start the "feel" or the mood we wanted to create.
What we wanted was small, flying dust of flour. We experimented with a couple of ways to achieve this.
Here is what worked for us the best to create the mood we wanted:
When I started off, I rubbed flour on my palm and the back of the palm too (hoping that we will get it right the first time. Nah! - we had to try a few times to get it right. By the end of it, I was fully covered in flour 🙂 ) to give it a natural feel.
What worked best for us to get the flour flying around was to grab some in both hands. Clench the fists gently. Hold the palm shoulder-width apart and clap. This gave us the most natural-looking flour around the hand.
Of course, even with this technique, we had to do this a few times to get it the way we wanted.
Most of the time, it is trial and error, especially with action photography. Try a few different approaches to get it right. When you try a few times, you will realize what works and what technique gives it the most natural feel.
Lighting & Setting The Scene
Lighting is a very important (if not the most important) part of any picture.
For this image, we wanted to highlight the flour and the cloud it creates. Of course, flour being the brightest element in the scene definitely helps. And we had already created a darker background by wearing dark clothes and covering the wall with a dark sheet. That provided a nice backdrop for the flour to stand out.
We wanted to make sure that we freeze the flying flour. This meant that we had to use a faster shutter speed in the camera. We chose around 1/320 of a second as the shutter speed to freeze any movement in the image. We also wanted to make sure there is enough depth of field in the image. So, we chose an aperture of f/5.6. And based on what we wanted to cover in the scene, we used a focal length of 50mm. And we wanted to minimum possible ISO, so we chose ISO 100.
With the ISO chosen and the fast shutter speed, it was not possible to use natural light to properly light the scene. So, we had to use a flash. Since we wanted soft light, we attached a softbox to the flash.
We lit the scene from one side. So, we placed the flash (and the softbox) on one side (around 90˚ from where the camera was placed). This helped light the flour from a side (rather than head-on) and also ensured there was no light falling on to the background of the scene. We also added a grid to control the spill of the light coming from the softbox. The grid ensured that the light was falling on the flour and eggs and not on the background.
We also wanted good contrast (difference between the light and dark parts) in the image. The side lighting ensured that only one side of the hand is bright (the side where we kept the flash) and the other side is relatively dark. If you want some light on that darker side, you could always add a reflector on that side to have some light reflected back. But make sure there is some contrast in the image to make it interesting. Otherwise, the image will look flat.
With everything set, we were ready to take the pictures. From then on it was just trial and error :). We took a few shots to experiment (as mentioned above) and see what looked natural.
After a few shots, it became clear that it takes a small delay, after clapping the hands together, for the flour to fly and form the clouds.
So, we ensured that we were clicking the camera's shutter button, a fraction of a second after the hand clap. This gave enough time for the flour to fly and form those clouds. We also experimented with the flash power (set to manual) to get the proper exposure we were looking for.
And of course, we shot several pictures to see which one looked better. We also shot it from a slightly higher angle to see if that looked better. That gave the image a slightly different look, with more of the props visible in the image. Do let us know which one you liked more.
We usually shoot in RAW mode and process the photos we take using LightRoom and Photoshop.
To paraphrase Hélène Dujardin: Think of your pictures in RAW mode as Negatives from the olden days. Processing them using Lightroom and Photoshop, bring out their beautiful characters just like developing a film.
Do let us know in the comments if you would like us to detail how we processed these pictures.
Equipment We used
Interested in knowing more about the photography gear/equipment we used? We have listed them for you. The amazon links are affiliate links which means, we get a commission when you buy using the links we have provided at NO EXTRA cost to you.
Phew! We did it!
YAAAAY! We got the picture we both liked. It was prefect, it was dreamy! It was exactly the way we imagined.
I looked around and saw a ton of flour around me. On the backdrop, kitchen counter, my clothes, my hair - it was EVERYWHERE!
It was time to pack up the photography gear and get the cleaning caddy and vacuum cleaner out! 🙂
Let Us Know What You Think
If you find this behind the scenes article useful, let us know. That would make our day!
If you used this tutorial to create an action shot for yourself, tag us and show us your proud creations.
If you know of someone who will benefit from this tutorial, do share and spread the word. It would mean the world to us!
Co-authored by Sree & Anup 🙂