Photographing Liquid Art and Motion

Freezing motion, especially liquids, can be a tricky and time consuming process. In this Liquid Art and Motion photography workshop Karl shows you how, with careful planning and the right techniques, you can improve your chances of getting a great shot.

He discusses and explains important concepts such as flash duration, sync speed and mirror lock-up and how each of these are important to getting the final shot.

Working with two Siros lights, Karl explains his lighting setup and offers solutions for those wanting to recreate the setup with speedlites. He also shows you how and why it’s better to time your shots manually, rather than use sound or motion trigger devices.

This live show is as informative as it is entertaining and a must-watch for any photographer wanting to learn how to freeze movement and create artistic imagery.

In this live photography workshop we cover the following:

  • Liquid photography: How to photograph splash shots
  • Fast flash duration and why it’s important
  • Using mirror lock-up mode for motion photography
  • Camera settings for splash photography
  • Creative liquid photography techniques and ideas

If you have any questions about this show, please use the comment section below ?


  1. At this point, I only own one strobe with high sync capabilities. Would using a second light behind the plexiglass to lighten up the edges (that does not have hss/freeze mode) cause motion blur?

    1. Hi Shana, yes the second light will cause blur if it doesn’t have fast flash duration, unless the exposure level of that light is so low that it doesn’t contribute to the lighting of the fast moving object.

      1. Do the frosted acrylic sheets usually create a blue/cool temperature cast? Or do some of them also create warmer tones? In any case, if the desired result was a more neutral looking backdrop gradient (e.g. approx 5000 kelvin), I suppose that would be easy to adjust in post?

        1. Hi Jidoe, I’ve heard of other people source frosted acrylic without any cast and I’ve had some too that have been slightly warmer. I think it all depends on the brand as acrylic comes from many different manufacturers and it may be that they are all slightly different. You can order samples though to check before you commit to bigger sheets. To be honest I’m OK with the slight blue tint as it was effective against flying whisky shot and it’s also easy to correct if necessary.

  2. Hi Karl, I have the Siros L 800, do you use them on Highspeed mode for this shot or just “Normal”?

    1. Hi Leoyabarai, you don’t need to use them in HSS mode if that’s what you mean but you do need to use them in speed mode, also the very fastest flash durations are only achievable when the unit is on power 5 or less.

  3. Dear Karl.
    thank you for your fine explanations.
    i learn so much from you.
    if i don’t have power pack or my studio flashes doen’t show the duration time.
    is there a way or Measuring Tools that can indicate the duration time ?, so i will able to know if it’s enough freeze liquids motion.

    1. Hi, I’m not aware of any measuring device but my guess is there is something scientific somewhere. However I would just give it a go and check the results you get. Most flash operate at least at 1/1000 which is quick enough for many things.

        I use Godox Ad600 Pro
        – Flash Duration: 1/220-1/10,100 sec
        what duration is good for freeze liquids ?

  4. Just joined your courses today. Loved watching this video. You are so methodical Karl. Wish I had the space and equipment you have. I understand when you say you could keep going with it forever, as each shot is so different, like snowflakes. I have done splash photography with wireless speedlights so understand all of your methods. It also excites me like it does you.

    Please can you tell me which software you are using to tether the camera?

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Tracey, thanks for joining us and your comments. I was using Phocus by Hasselblad which is their own tethering software unfortunately it doesn’t work with other cameras. When using Canon or Sony tethered I use either Lightroom or Capture One.

  5. hello Karl…
    i have glossy opal sheet and satin as well..but not frosted which i am thinking to order–
    unless..if i use either the satin or opal glossy and i put a sheet of diffusion paper on the surface of those sheets that i hv u think it will work?…
    i know i could just try..but i am getting all the material to start my adventure into studio photography and artificial light…
    also i see that the background turned out to be blue in this vid..i see u neutralise it in post..but is the blue due to the frosted material?..i actually like out blue anyway if that’s so
    i love your tutorials..u are my only teacher in my new type of photography..
    thx a lot

    1. Hi Fabrizio, you might find the satin or opal work fine if you are only backlightiing. The glossy can be a problem if you are also lighting the subject and that light then reflects off the background. I’m not sure on the satin as I’ve not seen that one. The frosted I use for some reason has a slight blue tint, not sure why, it may different from different manufacturers.

      1. yes what i meant is that it might work to put some diffusion paper..i think u call it scrim in front of the glossy opal sheet to avoid reflection..and yes its possible that a substance used by the manufacture. .blocks the frequency of red colour refracted from the light of the flash …but i really like that effect..i will try πŸ™‚
        thank you

  6. Hello Karl,
    Thank you for another great tutorial.
    I’m trying to shoot Liquid with a Sony A7R at F11 – 1/125 with a Hensel EHT Pro 3000 Watt Second Flash ( ) and a generator. Even at minimum power I still have blur in the liquid. I see in the specs of the generator that the fastest flash duration is 1/3,300 s (t 0.5) but only with a special EH Mini i Speed Head, do you think it’s possible to reach your result with this setup even if I can’t manage the speed and only the power in the generator ?
    Thank you very much and congrats to you and the team

    1. Hi, 1/3300th at t0.5 is only about 1/1500th at t0.1 which isn’t fast enough. The question of what speed is fast enough to freeze liquid often comes up but I’m afraid it’s too ambiguous simply because not all liquid moves at the same speed or scale. For example if you are shooting a wider area then the amount of movement across the frame is less than it would be if you were close in etc etc. But as a rule I’d say I’d want about 1/3000th at t0.1 as a minimum.

  7. In fact just to add…. this shoot was so much fun as I got my entire family involved in the shoot … throw water, take photographs… the kids loved it…. and later on even got my kids in front of the camera and got lovely shots with water falling on them…… This was fun….. πŸ™‚

  8. Thanks a lot Karl….. I believe I got great results with this technique……. I also tried it with the Coloured water and with Coloured Gels on the backdrop too……
    I used the Savage Translum medium for the shoot and it worked great too…..

  9. Hi Karl, I’m thinking about the Siros 800 L for most of my work but liquid photography really interests me. I see your using the ‘S’ one that has fair bit faster flash duration. Would the ‘L’ model have fast enough T0.1 or is the ‘S’ one or better needed for this type of shoot?

    1. Hi Cameron, the L is still relatively fast by comparison to many other flash systems but if you really want to do lots of different high speed work then it has to be the ‘S’ model. Remember the speed needed is relative to the amount of movement in the frame which is also determined by how close you are to the subject and how much is in frame

      1. Hi Karl, thanks for the quick response! I’ve been flipping between the 800L and move pack since do need battery 50/50 of the time so don’t want to be locked in to studio only lights so think I’ll go for the move kit since it seems to be plenty fast enough πŸ™‚ Is a bit more than intended to spend but in the long term think the investment will be worth it (especially with all that I’ve been learning from you!)

  10. Hey Karl,

    I have a quite private question: How did you start your business and getting this big companies to work with you? I guess you didn’t have such a big studio in your early attempts and works.

  11. Thanks for the great videos and instruction.
    I’m about to upgrade my studio flash (not Broncolor unfortunately, a little out of budget for now), but what would be good minimum flash duration to capture liquid in motion.

    Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Dave, everything depends on the scale, magnification etc and how far the object is moving relative to the size of the scene. For example if you have a splash of liquid close up then it’s apparent movement will look more. Different types of splashes, crashes etc and the speed they are thrown all have a bearing on the amount of movement created. Generally speaking though I’d expect t0.1 1/3000th to be a base starting point.

  12. This was unbelievable. Getting some frosted acrylic tomorrow. lol. Thanks. This is my fav place to be. I was such a happy wedding photographer, until I started watching this channel. Now I want to change to products.

  13. how far distance is the liquid throwing by ashley from the baground, so get the great gradient in the water.

  14. I love liquid photography. Just finished watching this tutorial – thanks very much for a great 1.5 hrs of pure pleasure.
    As usual, thanks for sharing Karl πŸ™‚

  15. I have some great result with using Translum by Savage Universal.
    It’s perhaps a bit cheaper than the frosted acrylic and a bit more versatile (you can make some small panels with it as well. They even have three different thicknesses. I haven’t found any competitors yet, let me know if you know one that’s better or cheaper.

    These I mean (just trying to help, I don’t work for them):

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