How I Captured These Amazing Paint Splash Images

I photographed these vivid paint splash images for the launch campaign of the Hasselblad H6D, using bright orange paint to match the distinctive orange shutter button on the camera. 

People always want to know how I did it – well, here’s how!

In this video, I take you through how I planned, prepped, set up, lit and executed the shoot. I explain exactly how we sent those paint cans spinning through the air – plus why I had to use hand signals to communicate with my assistants as we worked.

Ramping it up

A shoot like this requires extensive planning. It began with pre-visualising and sketching, as well as choosing the paint. While the orange had to match that of the H6D’s shutter button, we picked this particular blue for the background to give maximum contrast between the two colours.
Planning the shoot
Planning the shoot
We designed the ramps carefully to make sure the cans would achieve precisely the right trajectories. We then had them custom-built out of clear acrylic and positioned them to guarantee the mid-air collisions we needed.
Karl working with an acrylic ramp
The clear acrylic ramps were custom-built to our precise specifications

The right light

As you can see in the diagram, I used a Flooter (protected by a foam board) to illuminate the blue backdrop and draw attention to the centre of the image. I also used two bare bulbs behind a scrim overhead to create a radiating gradient glow on the paint.
The lighting diagram for this shoot
The lighting diagram
Underneath the hit zone was a silver reflector made of polished stainless steel, which bounced some of the gradient light back up onto the underside of the paint splashes.

Not waving, signalling

Because we were using a sound-activated trigger to activate the camera each time the paint cans collided, we had to work in silence. That meant I couldn’t communicate verbally with my assistants when I wanted them to release the next set of cans. Instead, I used a simple hand signal to let them know when to let them go!
Karl giving a hand signal
Karl giving the signal

Six appeal

To create the floating ‘6’, I had to swirl the orange paint out of a glass over and over again, trying to get the loops of paint I needed. 

Needless to say, producing a perfect 6 in a single throw was impossible even for me! So I opted to combine three different shots in post-production to achieve the desired result.

Karl throwing orange paint
Throwing paint out of a glass in a perfect circle is harder than it looks

Messy – but worth it

I was chuffed with the final results, which were definitely worth all that effort – and mess! What do you think?
The final paint can image
© Karl Taylor
The final 6 image
© Karl Taylor

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