Stroboscopic Techniques

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Stroboscope photography is a technique used to express motion whereby a moving subject against a dark background is lit by flashes of light, often by a strobe light. The camera shutter, the curtain or set of metal blades that determines how long light exposes the film or digital sensor, remains open during this time, creating a series of movements by the subject in a single photograph.

  1. Moving the Camera during Exposure

    • During exposure, the camera moves parallel to the subject while he stays in one place performing some form of stationary movement. Each of his individual movements are recorded across the entire length of the camera frame, even though he has not physically moved across the frame. For example, a baseball player stays mostly stationary as he swings the bat. By moving the camera during exposure, the photographer can capture each individual movement of the ball player's swing on a single frame.

    Moving the Subject during Exposure

    • The subject can also move across the frame to accomplish the stroboscopic effect. During the long exposure, the camera stays stationary while the subject moves from one edge of the frame to the other. For example, a ballet dancer may perform a series of dance steps while moving parallel to the camera. As the strobe lights fire, each of her movements are individually recorded on a single frame.

    Moving the Film in a Camera

    • This technique is specifically for film cameras. Place your lens cap on your lens. Fire your camera as if you're taking a photograph, until your roll of film is all "exposed." Your subject and camera will stay stationary, however, during the exposure, you will rewind your film back into its canister thereby exposing the film. This is similar to how a motion picture camera works. Be careful when you rewind your film during the exposure as "some cameras do not allow rewinding the film while the shutter is locked in the open position," says Rochester Institute of Technology Professor Andrew Davidhazy. You will also need to inform whoever develops your film not to cut your into strips, as this will ruin the stroboscopic effect.

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