Shooting Muay Thai with Powder Explosions

A quick little 60 second how-to/behind the scenes video for you from a recent Forever Sports Shoot. I’ve kept it so short to get it on Instagram, plus it’s quite a good challenge to try and get lots of information across in a short space of time. Here’s a quick breakdown of how to make an image like this:

  • Make flour bombs by wrapping a few spoonfuls of flour (only use Waitrose Organic gluten free, it makes a huge difference….) in a wet paper towel.  Twist this up into a package, and suspend it from a pole over your set.
  • Erect a black backdrop behind the bombs, as that way you’ll be able to cut the white of the flour out really easily in photoshop.
  • Have someone smash the bombs open.  You may be able to get your talent to do this, but we found it quicker and easier to hand a monopod to the journalist, and let him take a swing.  It’s a bit hit and miss though, if you’ll pardon the pun.
  • Shoot the bombs exploding – remembering the golden rule of action photography with a DSLR “if you saw it, you missed it”.  What this means is that not only will there be a slight delay between you seeing something, reacting, and then pressing the shutter, but the fact that the mirror will be blocking the sensor whilst you’re looking through the viewfinder stops you and the sensor from seeing the same thing at the same time.  Get in the habit of very slightly pre-empting the action.
  • Have someone (in this case our art director) throw sprays of flour in from the sides so you’ll have extra abstract pieces to assemble with.
  • Bring your talent in, and shoot them under the same lighting as you shot the powder bombs.  Ideally make sure all the kit has been delivered at the start of the shoot, so you don’t end up having to re-shoot him inside on white when you’ve broken the set down, thus creating much more work for yourself in photoshop.
  • Assemble the pieces in photoshop.  Select the powder explosions, using your preferred method (I just used the lasso) and then drop them onto the background image.  Switch the layer blend mode of the powder layers to “screen” and pretty much all the black will drop away, allowing you to blend them together very easily.  Add several different explosions, resize and rotate them, until you’ve got the flour shaped the way you want.  For convenience you may want to group a set of explosions together in a layer group.
  • If you want to add colour to the explosions, add whatever adjustment layers you like, and then clip them to the explosion layer groups.  The clip tool is the little box with an arrow pointing left and down from it at the bottom of the adjustment layer properties palette.
  • Do whatever finishing work or treatment you need to do to the image.
  • Use the remaining flour to bake cookies.

Job done.  I’d also suggest getting someone else to clean up after you, as you WILL make a mess!

Have fun!

Not understood any of the technical stuff in this post?  My course on technical fundamentals can help.

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