Stroboscopic Flash Techniques

In this photography workshop, recorded LIVE, Karl explains the stroboscopic effect and demonstrates how you can use it to create some striking and unusual images.

Working in a dark studio with a badminton racket and a shuttlecock, Karl experiments with a range of different setups and settings as he tries to capture the perfect shot.

As he works, Karl answers members’ questions, clarifying the concepts and techniques on display.

As you watch a professional work in real time, you’ll pick up a host of tips and tricks to get you inspired.

In this class:

  • Stroboscopic flash photography techniques 
  • Sporting equipment photography
  • Capturing movement
  • Angles of incidence and reflection
  • Flash duration

If you enjoy this class, check out Tennis Racket Photoshoot and Creative Moving Bodies Photoshoot.

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


  1. In regards to the questions I have just asked, would a laser trigger device with its beam in close proximity and parallel to the area of the racket net help reduce the shutter speed and the opening of the shutter (mirror already locked up on DSLR) when the shuttle cork interrupts the beam path? Thank you.

    1. Hi, see this class to see a laser used for breaking the beam at the correct timing: but this has no impact on reducing the shutter speed? The shutter speed is always set to the fastest possible sync speed to eliminate any ambient light and only leave me with the flash lighting. The mirror already locked up is only to reduce the delay time in the actual exposure activating because the mirror doesn’t have to move first.

      1. Sorry,
        What I meant was more reducing the recording time of the whole event and since I do not have special equipment such as a Phantom Flex camera with high FPS I am trying to do the best I can with a digital camera and employing a good flash system with high flash duration since the digital camera itself does not have recording capabilities and shutter speeds that would allow a proper exposure at those speeds.

  2. Hi Karl,
    I have a few questions that I would like to ask you regarding the multiple exposures you explained very clearly at 1:02:42.
    Provided the flash system emits enough power when using very fast flash duration bursts would it be feasible to achieve a clear and distinct exposure of each vibration of the badminton racket when the shuttle cork strikes it?
    Perhaps having a much shorter shutter speed to isolate that specific event of the vibrations on the racket instead of the whole path of the shuttle cork? I am trying to understand the physics and potential limitations behind achieving this goal. If the goal was not to see the path of the shuttle cork but instead the travel path of the net on the racket when it’s hit, what should be done differently to isolate that event instead?
    My main question would be how to avoid overlapping exposures given by the flash since the vibration of the net on the racket should be a much faster event than the travel path and speed of the shuttle cork in this scenario.

    1. Hi, sure no problem.
      1. Yes but why would you want a very clear and distinct exposure of each vibration position of the racket? Aesthetically I think it would look a mess because many of the positions will overlap each other and if each was correctly exposed then the build up in the same position would cause over exposure.
      2. If your camera was capable of 1/40,0000th of a second shutter speed then you could do this with continous light (if it was bright enough) but that would only give you one image of the racket and one position of the shuttle cock. But you could also do that with just one burst of flash instead.
      3. The travel path of the racket net is so small that it would be very difficult to do, other than set up a specialist slowmotion camera that such as the Phantom Flex (see our advance filmmaking classes) and film the whole sequence at 1000fps in video and then analyse the video frame by frame to mark the position of the movement. This type of high speed videography is widely used in scientific fields for such purposes and they also have cameras that can film at much faster too.

      1. Karl,
        What I’m trying to do here is to establish and get a couple or three images of a very similar situation where a client is asking to establish and visually assess the extent of the stretch of a specific material. This is more of a scientific project I have on hand and need to deliver a visual assessment of the event. True, I do not need the whole travel path of the material but more like the furthest points at each end especially when the projectile object is hitting the material. A precision measurement tool would be used along with the materials so as to have a visual and measurable reference of the event. Thank you.

  3. Hi Karl,
    When dealing with stray-light suppression I was wondering what materials you would recommend to absorb light most efficiently besides black velvet and velour. I have recently learned that new materials made of carbon nanotubes have been produced in the aerospace industry with the potential to absorb up to 99.95 of stray light. This will probably cost a fortune therefore my question would be what is your take when it comes to controlling stray light in a budget-friendly fashion? Also, at 1:30 :00 you are talking about moving the camera even slightly so as to reposition the camera sensor and “reset” the bayer array so to avoid collecting excessive light on the same photosite. Do you think this could increase the chance of artifacts such as moire? Thanks for any input.

    1. Hi, yes the material you mention is Vanta black but is very expensive or almost impossible to get hold of. There are also some third party paints in matt black that absorb more light than others but your best budget option is a good black velvet. Also distance plays a big part due to the inverse square law so if your black is going to be far away you can almost get away with any old black material. What I was talking about at 1:30 was this shoot that we did for broncolor. You may also be interested in this one too:

  4. Question, if I setup the flash to fire let’s say 5 flashes per second but the recycling time of the flash is 1 second, how can 5 flashes then be fired when the flash does not recycle fast enough?

  5. jeahn

    Thank you Karl for another amazing show. I’ve been looking into stroboscopic solutions for Profoto lights but can’t seem to find any. Are you aware of any solutions for Profoto systems? Thanks again

    1. Hi Jeahn, I would be very surprised if Profoto didn’t have strobeoscopic options on their top end flash or packs, especially the packs? I don’t know the profoto range well enough I’m afraid. Most Speedlites also have strobeoscopic flash.

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