How to Photograph Shattering Glass

Okay this one’s going to a bit messy, and it’s highly recommended that you do not try this at home without safety glasses and other protective gear. In this video, photographer Karl Taylor shows you how to freeze and capture the moment when a wine glass shatters on impact:

The key to the setup is the fast lighting. Breaking glass and spilling wine require super quick exposure times. This is facilitated by the Broncolor Scoro Packs. It can trigger flash at lighting quick speeds of 1/10,000 of a second—enough to freeze breaking glass and drops of wine in mid-air for that dramatic effect.

Broncolor scoro packs

Broncolor Scoro Pack set at 1/10,000 of a second exposure

Shutter Release

The second key element of the setup is the shutter release trigger. There are no prizes for guessing that this shot is impossible to capture by manually triggering the shutter release. Instead, Taylor uses the TriggerSmart system for activating the shutter . This is a sound activated system that detects the sound of the breaking glass via a sensor and immediately sends a signal to the camera. The camera in turn signals the flash to fire and the image is captured.

how to photograph breaking wine glass

Lighting arrangement for the shoot


A total of three softboxes light the scene. One is positioned hanging overhead and serves as the key light. One is immediately behind the table where the glass breaks on impact. The third softbox, pointed toward the backdrop, serves as the background light, creating a graduated transition of grey color for that punchy effect. The first and the second light together appear as a sort of clamshell lighting arrangement with the back light illuminating the backdrop.

Mirror Lock Up

One final thing that Taylor does is to lock the mirror up. This is to ensure that the reaction time for the camera is sped up by that much. When it comes to high speed photography every millisecond counts. An assistant drops another wine glass from a previously marked height and Newton’s law does the rest.

Here are some of the results from the shoot:

photographing a breaking wine glass scene

Breaking glass

breaking glass

Another image from the shoot

One last piece of advice: It would certainly help if you can have one of your friends lend you his or her studio to replicate this. That helps with the cleaning bit after the shoot…

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