enter image description here

I can see the blurry movement, certainly achieved by setting the shutter speed low. But wouldn't this cause the guy to be blurry too?

Is it possible to take this picture only using the camera? Or these are two pictures (a sharp one of the guy and other one with a tripod and only the cookies falling to get the movement effect) that were merged using Photoshop?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the fortune cookies were tossed down from the top by someone else on a ladder and hiding behind the packages, and the photo was taken with a slow shutter speed with the subject standing still with some fortune cookies in his hand to begin with. \$\endgroup\$
    – user32819
    Oct 5, 2014 at 22:58

3 Answers 3


This was done using a long exposure (possibly 1/4 second) with a flash at the start of the shot, this illuminates and freezes the cookies and then you see them drop too.

Most DSLR's offer this as "rear flash" (flash at the end) or "front flash" (flash first)

This does appear to have been done with an off-camera flash/strobe, so could either be the result of specifically using the "front flash" setting (for example on a good flash gun that can directly talk to the camera), or a "dumb" studio strobe that fires as soon as the shutter opens.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I agree that the flash probably came at the beginning of the shot since there are cookies in the man's hands. It's interesting to notice that syncing with the first curtain (flash at the beginning) can seem to reverse the direction of movement. I think most people would assume that the cookies are moving upward and that the blur trails the cookies. Second curtain sync (flash at the end of the exposure) would give a more intuitive representation of the true direction of motion. \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleb
    Dec 19, 2013 at 17:43
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Calab It's just a guess, but I think the photographer intentionally used first-curtain sync to try and fool us into thinking the man had tossed the cookies up. Notice that as you move higher in the frame there are more cookies spread over a wider path, almost as if they were trying to make it look like all the cookies are moving from the mans hands and expanding outward as they rise. The dead giveaway are the trails that show the movement is exactly vertical, rather than angled. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Dec 20, 2013 at 4:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I quite like it as-is to be honest, its a bit different. Im not convinced its done on purpose to fool people. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 20, 2013 at 10:21

Just a guess, but this is probably done with a strobe and a slow shutter speed. The strobe illuminates for a very short time, so everything appears stop-motion for the duration of the strobe. The rest of the time the shutter is open, much less light comes from the scene, but will have motion blur.

The tricky in this is to balance the continuous lighting and shutter speed to provide the exposure you want for the motion blur part with the contribution from the strobe. The exposure of the strobe-illuminated part is a function of the strobe strength, aperture, and sensitivity. It is NOT a function of the shutter speed or the ambient lighting since that is very weak compared to the strobe when the strobe is on.

Therefore strobe brightness (which includes distance) effects only the strobe component, and ambient lighting and shutter speed only effect the non-strobe parts. By balancing these, you can create effects with the desired mixture of the two. In this case, shutter speed is dictated by how much motion blur you want, so the parameters you get to trade off to balance the fixed and motion-blurred are the strobe brightness and the ambient brightness.


The technique, sometimes referred to as dragging the shutter, is used to combine a short burst of strobe light with a moderately long shutter speed. The strong light of the strobe "freezes" the movement of items that also appear as blur trails due to the long shutter speed and the weaker ambient light. Front or first-curtain sync fires the flash as soon as the first shutter curtain is completely open. Rear or second-curtain sync waits until just before the second curtain begins to close to fire the flash. The effect is that first-curtain sync freezes the moving items at the beginning of their movement, while second curtain sync freezes them at the end of the exposure. For objects such as cars with headlights or taillights, second-curtain appears more natural to our eyes as the trails follow the object and show us where it was before the flash was fired.

This was a case of using front-curtain sync flash with a slower shutter speed to fool our eyes into thinking the cookies had been tossed up by the man (whose hands were motionless during the entire exposure) when in fact they were falling down from above.


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