How to Trigger Strobes with Sound for High Speed Photography

Breaking glass and taking pictures—sounds like a really punk way to make photos. This video by Jay P. Morgan shows you exactly to how to do it:

Using a Trigger

The key to Morgan’s technique is the MIOPS Trigger. The MIOPS trigger is connected to the camera and fires the shutter when a sound is heard. The camera in turn fires the strobes via the PocketWizard. Sounds simple? Well, theoretically it is!

triggering strobes using sound

In practice, however, things are not that simple. As it turns out, after the first few test shots, the triggering loop is much too slow. The flash fires quite some time after Morgan breaks the glass. The trigger is further away from the event, and the loop is longer.

triggering strobes using sound

Change of plans – The MIOPS trigger is now connected to the PocketWizard

So, change of technique. Instead of connecting the MIOPS trigger to the camera, Morgan connects the PocketWizard to the MIOPS trigger. Additionally, the trigger was placed closer to the action. Now, when the MIOPS trigger hears the sound, it immediately triggers the strobe.

But wait, how is the exposure made? The camera isn’t connected to anything now. So, how does it know when to fire? The answer is that it doesn’t have to know when to fire. Morgan turns off all the lights in the studio and sets the camera to bulb mode.

Using cable release, how to photograph breaking glass

The camera is triggered using a cable release.

The exposure is initiated using a remote trigger even before the action starts. Once the exposure starts, Morgan throws the ball toward the glass and breaks it. The MIOPS trigger hears the sound, triggers the strobe, and the action is recorded by the camera. Then Morgan releases the remote trigger to close the shutter.

Gear Used

Morgan uses the following gear for the shoot:

Camera Settings

The camera settings are simple. Aperture is set to f/11, for maximum depth of field. ISO is set to 400. Shutter speed is set to bulb mode. This means the shutter stays open for as long as the remote trigger is pressed down.

Lighting Setup

Studio lighting arrangement for high speed shoot

Above is the diagram for the lighting setup. The Baja B4 at the back is the main light. This is the light that illuminates everything in the shot.

using reflectors on studio strobes

Baja B4 with a reflector

Morgan used a Narrow Degree reflector with this it to make sure that the light didn’t spill around the studio. The second Baja B4 at the front worked as the fill light. It had a grid for that purpose.

Setting Up the MIOPS Trigger

Setting up the MIOPS trigger required a bit of trial and error. At 99 percent the trigger was way too sensitive. Even if someone coughed or moved on the broken glass the trigger picked it up. At 86 percent, however, the trigger sensitivity was just about right. It allowed for the crew to move around (and cough) without setting off the trigger. Yet, when the ball hit the glass it worked perfectly.

A thing about the MIOPS trigger… When you set it up on sound you get about 3 milliseconds of delay (in firing the strobes) for every meter of gap between where the action is and where the MIOPS trigger is positioned. This is useful to know when you’re setting up so that you know exactly what to expect.

photographing shattering glass

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Further training on high speed photography: Trick Photography & Special Effects

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One response to “How to Trigger Strobes with Sound for High Speed Photography”

  1. Russ says:

    Any idea why the MIOPS would cause my studio light to flicker/strobe when it fires?

    I’m using the Sound Sensor in the MIOPS app to trigger my flash. I’m also using Yongnuo triggers and a Paul C. Buff Einstein Studio light.

    With my MIOPS attached to the set up, my Einstein will flash two times, very quickly – something I’ve never seen it do. If I disconnect the MIOPS, the light flashes just one time as you would expect.

    I do have the “one shot” setting to On. Any ideas?

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