David Lund is a commercial photographer who specializes in shooting liquids. He works on many high profile campaigns for an array of clients. His portfolio includes images for Grant’s whisky, Shell, Disaronno and Fosters to name a few.

He is represented internationally by Beth Wightman Represents.

Describe the set-up for this frozen paint experiment.

Behind the Scenes: Exploding Paint Photography with David LundThe setup is simple – hang a balloon from some thin fishing line and pour paint over it. I recommend water based kid’s paint, slightly watered down by 20%. You then pop the balloon with a thin, long stick with a pin attached to the end.

The key is to capture the image at the precise moment of the implosion, right before the paint bounces outwards.

collageequipmentTo achieve this I don’t rely on my razor sharp reactions! Rather I use a sound triggering device. The one I use is not the cheapest, but I find it extremely precise.

However you can now use your iPhone to trigger your camera with a sound!

What camera settings do you use to capture such tact-sharp, frozen paint?

ZOOMED-M-and-M's-copyAs with all high speed photography, the key is not the shutter speed; this often throws people off. It has little to do with shutter speed, but rather the speed of the flash lighting is what makes the paint appear frozen.

collageI recently invested heavily in updating more of our lighting, with a new Broncolour kit, including Scoro S packs.

The Scoro S is capable of shooting at 1/10,000th of a second.

The camera used was the Hasselblad, but a decent Canon or Nikon would work well. I like the Hasselblad for its quality and resolution.

Is it required that you protect your camera from paint damage?

The answer to this is yes and no. The reality is, exploding paint goes everywhere. We do contain it with a plastic tent, which has to be rebuilt each time.

The bottom line is, you don’t want anything in between your lens and the image, so occasionally paint will find its way to the lens.

However, water-based paint simply wipes away.I have recently invested in some very exciting liquid called Ultra Dry. It’s a nano technology that stops paint from sticking to any surface.

We are about to do some tests with Ultra Dry, coating the inside of an acrylic cube to see if the explosions simply drop off the inside walls.

About how many images do you take in a given photo-shoot and how do you go about deciding on your favorite(s)?

I’ve come to learn that many factors will affect the outcome, so I will always take more images than I need, especially when shooting for a client to cover every possible outcome.

Rr_c7NUT--Mq6GqO8vlN7U6Mfr3jIA0mXl0uhDMj58E6L4Jt2QZIL2op85zTY7uqncDwGRkQ_X__RAXQptM3kLlnRRZgSyM7TJjq0NL487JtEzdr3wsM6GptkcerXvFBOkUE9lZfKOkL4jw96RK9lNTz8p3oiKV3-LsjkBRPbuUvSK_j21mEI6YSO7Apk6WVRR729dd-_23UDZMHTo0PbzBOG-c_HVOn a shoot like this, when you’re trying something new, there is a learning curve. The amount of pressure in the balloon, the shape of the balloon, the thickness of the paint, how the paint is distributed over the balloon…these are all tasks to combat.

Capturing many images allows me to develop my approach through learning and understanding the science involved.

What post-processing is required (if any)?

The post for these images is simple. Draw out the clarity to make the paint look silky-smooth. For this I always use my favorite filter, Topaz DeNoise.

Specializing in liquids, Topaz DeNoise is essential for smoothing out liquids. I will often create various layers of denoise intensities, with one being set at a extremely high setting, which I will then mask into the image in the areas I want to give a pure, silky-smooth finish.

For a beginner, on a budget, what are some essential tips you can offer for this type of photography? 

The great thing about photography is that these days the quality of the kit is amazing for the price. You can certainly achieve amazing results with just a normal SLR camera and one or two flash guns off camera.

Flash guns have a very fast flash action, especially when set to a low power level. Again, the camera shutter speed is not key, but the flash is.

If you have just one flash gun, that’s fine, just get a little closer and use a large mirror or white board as a reflector on the other side.

My mirrors are all plastic (safer and lighter). I like to bend them a little for the lighting effect they produce.

What inspired you to try this sort of photography?

A great source of continual inspiration comes from my good friend Karl Taylor. He’s a phenomenal teacher of all things photography. His greatest skill is his knowledge about lighting, and teaching it with such simplicity.

One idea I have is to string five long, thin balloons next to each other vertically and pour paint over each one, then trigger them to explode all at the same time. I recently purchased a powerful air gun to achieve this; a pellet shot from the side shoots through all five balloons fast enough.

To-much-pressure-in-a-balloon
WARNING! Avoid over filling the balloons with air, they can explode in your face.

The key with creative photography is to have fun and push the idea. Try things out and don’t be afraid of making mistakes.

You’ll might have also noticed that with some of the images, the balloons were filled with colored powder and glitter before exploding. On one test we filled a balloon with M&M’s! Experiment and have fun.

View more of David’s work at davidlund.co.uk

Related article: Behind the Scenes: Liquid Commercial Photography with David Lund

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