Vol. 04: Homemade Strobe Photography

Take pictures of popping balloons, breaking glass, and water droplets.

+ Downloads & Extras:

Get a kit!
Goli popping the MAKE balloon.
MAKE's copy chief, Goli Mohammadi, pops a balloon. Click for larger view. Photo by Tom Anderson and Wendell Anderson.
Capturing a the beauty of a splash. Click for larger view. Photo by Tom Anderson and Wendell Anderson.
Material list for Flash Controller
DescriptionQtyReference Designators
9V battery1B1
1000pF radial ceramic4C15, C19, C2, C12
0.01uF radial ceramic4C17, C16, C5, C4
0.1uF radial ceramic10C7, C6, C21, C22, C10, C11, C1, C20, C9, C3
10uF 25V radial electrolytic3C18, C14, C13
0.1u 250VAC1C8
SJ1-42514 2.5mm phone conn1CONN1
161-3504 3.5mm phone conn1CONN2
16PJ509 1/4" phone conn1CONN3
604-L132XGD green LED1D1
1N4007 diode3D3, D4, D2
1N4148 diode2D5, D6
PN2222A transistor1Q1
QSE114 phototransistor1Q2
X0402 SCR1Q3
47K 1/4W1R10
10K 1/4W5R12, R15, R14, R19, R17
10 1/4W1R16
4.7K 1/4W4R18, R22, R1, R11
270K 1/4W1R21
1K 1/4W4R25, R24, R20, R23
100 1/4W1R5
100K 1/4W8R9, R13, R2, R3, R6, R8, R4, R7
MC33201 opamp1U1
LM393 comparator1U2
NE555 timer4U5, U3, U7, U6
1N4731A zener diode1Z1

Schematic for Flash Controller
Click to get schematic - pdf. Download PDF schematic of flash controller

If you don't want to build the controller yourself, you can buy a High Speed Photography Kit that was developed by the authors.

+ Discharging the Capacitor

Before you take apart a single-use camera, you need to know that there is a large electrolytic capacitor inside the camera. See the instructions in MAKE 04, pages 109 and 110, for how to disassemble the camera. This video shows you what to expect.

+ Industrial Strobe Demonstration

Industrial strobe lights are used for inspection of machinery because they can freeze moving parts.


Additional content for this article, available only online.

More High-Speed Photos

With so many great photos to choose from, we had a hard time deciding which ones to put in MAKE 04. Here's some more that we loved, but couldn't fit into the magazine.
November 02, 2005 | Technorati | del.icio.us


Advanced projects in physics--high-speed flash photography projects at Noble and Greenough School in Massachusetts.

A Flickr photo pool of MAKE strobe photography afficianados.

Site to order printed circuit boards and parts.

Site to order printed circuit boards and parts.

Place to send the output from PCB.

A CAD tool.

A CAD tool.

The SnapShot II strobe lights that were mentioned in the article.

The Kodak website. Here, you can find out about their recycling policies for disposable cameras.

Strobe photographs.

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