Paint Explosion

This shoot is nothing short of spectacular, but it’s not for the faint-hearted! This shoot created some mind-boggling complications, but by applying logic and knowledge you’ll see that there is always a way to make an image work.

Karl reveals each little detail that it took to bring this image to life — from manually capturing the paint splash to ensuring beautiful lighting throughout. You’ll find out why Karl opted to manually capture the image, rather than using a trigger device, what lighting setup he used, and how he combined studio light and speedlites to get the fastest flash duration.

Class objectives:

  • Demonstrate creative splash photography ideas
  • Problem-solving as an important skill for photographers
  • Speedlite product photography with studio flash
  • How to freeze motion
  • Understand fast flash duration

You can also find the post-production class for this in our ‘Paint explosion review’ class.

Further splash photography classes that you may enjoy include:

If you have any questions about this class please post in the comment section below.

NOTE: This class is available with English subtitles and automatic translations.


  1. I’ve watched this one a few of times, I love it, incredible work and skill Karl. It actually gave me an idea for an image, and I will certainly give you the credit for the inspiration. Thank you !!!

  2. I know this is a relatively old course – but I’m interested in trying out the paint explosion.

    Do you happen to recall the type of paint you used? I guess it’s water based?

    It appears it is mixed with water to increase viscosity – any insight on that mix ratio would be terrific. I will experiment myself but I’m finding your modules fantastic as a starting point.

    Many thanks

    1. Scratch that question – just noticed you have it listed on the right side (watered down emulsion paint)

  3. I have following you since last five years and have notice one thing in you work that is your unique concept of shoots so I really wanted to know that how did you get the idea or concept for any kind of shoot.In simple words how do you think out of box. Whats makes you so inspired to reach that level.

    1. Hi Mohit, I’d say it comes down to several things including observational skills, inspiration and passion. I’m constantly trying to think of ideas and sometimes I get inspired from movies, a certain look of light, the shape of an object, the emotion from a book, art etc etc – then when I have an idea I usually sketch it out on paper, this is called pre-visualising and this helps you figure out how you can make it happen.

      1. Thank you so much for your great response . I am from Mumbai India and really try to meet you from last 5 years as am following you since long time, but for now it’s not possible also due to covide19 . So what should I can do to talk to you personally I have some interesting queries and good questions . Please let me know how it’s possible to stay in touch with you personally.

    1. Hi Adrian, I felt the trigger would give only the same result (unless I adjusted the delay time for each shot). On this one I quite fancied the anticipation of the unknown!

  4. Amazing one Karl!!! Just wanted to ask you, since you are using speedlights for the faster flash duration at low power, do you bump up the ISO and open the aperture a bit for such splash shots? Also, can the elinchrom master 600s freeze at lower power and does the distance between the lights and the subject also make a difference ? Thank you Karl.

    1. Hi Kartik, I used more speedlites to compensate for the lower power, these days cameras have better high ISOs so that would also be an option. Opening up the aperture will of course let more light in but it will also reduce depth of field. I’m afraid I don’t know the lights you are talking about so I can’t comment on them, you would need to check the spec sheets and look for the t0.1 time spec (not a t0.5) if the time is 1/5000th or faster then they should be good for this sort of shot.

  5. Great job Karl! What shutter speed did you use? I wonder how you synchronized the Nissin flash and timing of the spill and shutter? Apart from equipment list it, would be better if you add EXIF data like the camera model, lens, shutter speed, aperture, etc. to all your shoots.

    1. Hi Waris, on a medium format camera you can sync at any speed, if I was using a 35mm camera then I would have been limited to the 1/250th sync speed, but as you would have understood from the video it is the flash that is freezing the subject not the shutter. I was connecting to the flashes with a wireless trigger on the camera and receivers on the flashes. Please check the first 15 chapters on this page to really understand studio lighting, synchronisation and flash duration.

  6. i just joined your website just in half an hour you changed my mindset that work should be done smartly. its fun to watch broncolor sponsor photographer using pocket flashes back then. i am loving every minute of this.

  7. Great ideas and superb shots! Karl, can you tell us which kind of paint are you using for these shots? I can just imagine they are water based.

    1. Hi, if the paint is not hitting a person then we use water based emulsion that you paint interior walls with. If it’s hitting a model we use kids paint from nursery schools and water it down.

  8. Hi Karl.
    you used scrim sheets at both the sides. Shouldn’t you have used another material instead. scrim sheets would have soaked the paint, had the liquid spilled on them.

    1. Hi Ayen, the scrim sheeting is just paper on a roll and is probably the least expensive thing to replace. The type of lighting the scrim reveals is also best for glossy surfaces so my first objective is for the best lighting and result. I’ve sold the picture for much more than the cost of the scrim paper.

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