If you've ever been in a dark room while a strobe light was flashing, you've probably noticed the phenomenon that light creates at each flash: Objects in the room seem frozen in time at each flash, and each image created is slightly different from the next when those objects are in motion.
According to professional photographer Chris Williams, using flash is a great way to start out exploring high-speed photography. "The bright and really short burst of a flash will stop just about anything in its tracks at any shutter speed," Williams says. A flash of light could be an effective alternative to using fast shutter speeds, too, especially if your camera has limited high-speed capabilities.
Williams goes on to point out that the distance you are from a subject makes a difference in whether the flash is effective. "Light from flash doesn't have a great range," he explains, "so it is used for subjects close-by. For example, water dripping, or an insect buzzing around."
Your camera will likely adjust your flash speed and output level automatically. Once you're comfortable using your flash for high-speed shots, though, you might consider adjusting these manually. For example, the editor of Popular Photography magazine, Miriam Leuchter, recommends a very fast duration (about 1/8000 of a second) to catch quick, darting motions. Leuchter combines this with a lower flash output (1/16 power or less). Williams, however, points out that a lower output means less light for the photograph.
Besides tweaking shutter and flash settings manually, letting your camera make some automatic adjustments could also improve your high-speed shots. Let's take a look at one of those next.