Shoot the Pig

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1/8000 Sec F/5.6 ISO 400 - Photo by Mark A. Philbrick/BYU

Recently we were asked to shoot an illustration for a story on bankruptcy (check out the story and the video). They wanted something simple like a broken piggy bank with coins laying everywhere, but I thought that it would be a lot more fun to get a shot of a piggy bank as it was hitting the ground and breaking up into pieces. This turned out to be the perfect opportunity to use our new Pocket Wizard Mini TT1’s and Flex TT5’s which allowed us to achieve TTL and High Speed Sync with at 1/8000 a second.

The hardest part of the shoot was actually getting the piggy banks; for some reason when you don’t need a piggy bank, they are everywhere including dollar stores, but when you need one they can only be found online. Sixty bucks later we were the proud owners of ten piggy banks, which of course our assistants started naming individually. A bit of advice, never name a pig that is on its way to the slaughter.


2 580EX II's with FlexTT5s per Photographer
4 580EX II's attached to Pocket Wizard FlexTT5s - Photo by Mark A. Philbrick/BYU

We set up a small studio in a parking garage that included four Canon 580EX II’s attached to the Flex TT5s. Our 1D Mark III’s were triggering the TT5s with Mini TT1s. For the pig drops, we had two photographers shooting with two 580s each, in order to maximize the chances of getting the perfect moment when the pig was shattering into pieces.  This turned out to be a smart move because from the 10 pigs we destroyed, we only got about 5 shots that we really liked.  A lot of people have asked me if we used laser or sound triggers to capture the perfect moment. Unfortunately those things were not in the budget, all we could afford was an index trigger, specifically the one on my right hand. It took a few pig drops to get warmed up, but after that we were getting pretty consistent results triggering the cameras.

We had one of our assistants drop the pigs full of coins from about 4 feet. There are two tricks we learned during the shoot. First of all, try and have the pigs land on their hind legs, that way the body shatters nicely but the head stays intact for the most part and then it pops off the body. This way you can still identify it as a pig while seeing it break apart. Second, it helps to have the pig dropper hold a few coins on top of the pig when they drop it to make it look like they jumped out of the shattered pig. Of course we saved a couple of pigs for the hammer, which turned out better than we expected.


1/8000 Sec  F/7.1   ISO 400  -  Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU
1/8000 Sec F/7.1 ISO 400 - Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU
1/8000 Sec F/8  ISO 400           Photo by Mark A. Philbrick/BYU
1/8000 Sec F/8 ISO 400 - Photo by Mark A. Philbrick/BYU

The Pocket Wizards worked great, and at 1/8000 of a second you can really see the detail as the pigs break apart and create pink shrapnel and clouds of white dust. I love the ability to sync our strobes at that speed yet still retain TTL control.  It is a blast do something both creative and destructive at the same time.  Check out the video see the carnage:

"Break the Bank" how to video
"Break the Bank" Behind the Scenes Video - Copyright BYU Photo 2009

Click here for the Behind the Scenes Video

Click here for the Bankruptcy Story




This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. real nice, that is pretty sweet, the second to last frame is the one i think.

  2. also thanks again for the help with the cross country contacts few weeks ago.

  3. The video is great. The timing of the shot when the pig hits looked pretty tricky. Would be fun to shoot with the Epson camera that does 1200 frames a second. But I guess you’d have to do that shot outside in the sunlight to really freeze it. Thanks for sharing.

  4. My daughter would have nightmares from watching this. Ten perfectly good porcelain pigs had to die. Oh, the horror!!!

  5. Too bad we can’t give this post any coins…

    Badda Bing.

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