Saturday, October 15, 2005

_nod's tossing guide for beginners

Disclaimer : _nod accepts no responsibility for any injuries to photographers or damage to photographic equipment sustained during the tossing process!

First of all I'd just like to say that camera tossing is a relatively new phenomenon (or so it seems)and as such there are probably plenty of tossing methods, tips and tricks that I am unaware of or in fact have never even been tried before, therefore this how-to should simply be seen as a guide simply to point you in the right direction.

Basic tossing tips:

1. Be careful - Yes it sounds obvious, but I don't think this point can be over stated. Your photographic equipment is important to you and is probably quite expensive, so think before you toss! For example dramatic lighting conditions give good results, but will also make it hard to catch the camera if you loose sight of it.

2. Have fun - In my eyes the process of taking the shots should be as enjoyable as viewing the results, there is a certain feeling I get when I launch hundreds of pounds worth of camera equipment in to the air and although it probably shouldn't be it is a good feeling. I think this is one of the main factors that keeps me coming back for more.

3. Experiment - As aforementioned the camera tossing phenomenon is very new so there is no such thing as an expert, no official guidelines as such, nobody has done it all and camera tossing seems to mean different things to different people, so do what feels right for you and explore the photographic opportunities which present themselves. However please be aware that there are some fundamental rules for the flickr camera toss group to try and maintain a level of camera tossing integrity, however shots that don't meet these rules can always be posted in the forums.

Camera tossing in low light.

My best tip is to start indoors, although there are many opportunities for great tosses outdoors, indoor tossing enables you to create a safer more controlled environment in which you can start to experiment. Find a simple light source such as a lamp or TV, about 5ft away from this place cushions (or anything else soft) on the on the floor then kneel down, holding the camera just above them. Toss the camera about a foot into the air and press the shutter as late as you can before letting go, being careful to toss the camera straight up. Then let the camera do all the work while you concentrate on the catch!

Remember it's not about how high you toss, it's all about the spin you put on the camera. Repeat the toss spinning the camera with a flick of the wrist as you let go, obviously there are many ways you can spin the camera and they all give different results, so keep experimenting checking your results as you go to hone your technique. Next try a different light source or try combining another light source with the existing one.

I personally aim for shutter speeds between half a second to two seconds, how you do this depends very much on your individual camera. Cameras with shutter priority obviously come in very handy for this, however if your camera doesn't have this functionality - lets face it most cameras people are willing to throw around won't - worry not there are a few tricks you can use to use to help you on your way:

One trick is to point the camera away from the light source or put your hand over the lens when you half press the shutter to set the exposure, this kids the camera in to a longer exposure, although it can can cause focusing issues.

Alternatively you may be able to use landscape mode, some cameras automatically select a smaller aperture to gain greater depth of field in landscape mode, this will also have the effect of bumping up the exposure time.

Also you can also increase the exposure compensation, but if the conditions are right the camera will often give a long shutter with out the need to adjust settings.

Day time tosses.

Personally I have a soft spot for these, especially self portraits. The main difference between a daytime toss and a low light toss is that the cameras self timer will be required. Obviously in brighter conditions cameras will struggle to obtain a long enough exposure for a low light style toss and even if you could I bet most of the results would be extremely bland and/or overexposed. The trick here is to set the cameras self timer and then utilise your own good timing to toss the camera so that the shutter fires roughly around the high point of the toss; easier said than done!

Again I'd recommend trying this over something soft, at the very minimum some long grass. The best daytime toss results are generally achieved when the camera is pointing back down to earth - lets face it you can take photos of clouds from the ground - therefore you may want to think about the spin (or lack of) applied to the camera when you toss. I find holding the camera lens down and spinning around the axis of the lens works well here.

Sadly day time tosses seem to offer up less creative opportunities than night time tosses, but feel free to try and prove me wrong on that one.

I'd say that's about all you need to know to get you started, just keep trying different subjects, locations, exposure settings, toss heights and spins; whatever feels good for you. And there we have it, the beginners guide to camera tossing. As I have mentioned I didn't really want to go in to too much detail as I don't want to hinder anybodies creative processes, but if you have any questions e-mail me at [removed to prevent spam] or just ask in the forums.



Anonymous said...

cool, thanks for sharing this. i have been holding onto the camera abd whiling, but a toss would really get things spinning.

thank you again.


Anonymous said...

Alternatively, can you hang the camera by a thread and give it a spin/up/down motion? I think that might be safer...

Ted Fisher said...

Excellent! I'll pass this on to my students.

Ted Fisher

Unknown said...

Same Ted Fisher that co-curated "Command-Z"? I've been meaning to get in touch again. You'll also want to pass your students of "Seriously Fun Photography" the more elaborate HOWTO document link. Off to hunt down your email address again.

Anonymous said...

This story is superb! Everyones impressed over hear!

santa said...

every once in a while I come across a creative endeavor that I can't participate in. I live up North and if it's warm outside, it's light outside. No night here for another couple of months and then it gets too cold to enjoy tossing a camera around. Still, this is a great idea and the results are fun. Thanks.

Valstrahn said...

I am
fascinated by your approach - I came at it completely from the opposite
direction - creating digital, 3D objects, and rotating them through space around
a fixed camera. See 
I had certainly considered the opposite - moving the camera instead, and I've
tried loved working with long exposures (,
but I never took it to the extent of camera tossing.

Valstrahn said...

Have you guys heard of CHDK ( It
might help, in that it allows even old/cheap canon cameras to have manual shutter control, and shoot raw!

Valstrahn said...

Also, I couldn't help but notice the similarities
to Scott Draves', especially
the likes of The techniques used there are fascinating too, but are very mathematically based (chaos theory, strange attractors etc). Having said that, I can see similarities in the underlying theories/physics of the two approaches, and in fact they kind of augment each other nicely.

Amanda Ashworth said...

Ha! This is quality! Great fun. I just set the timer on my camera and tried to throw it as it went off.

I think it works better just pressing the button though as I can't seem to time it quite right.

You're a braver person than me though chucking your expensive camera through the air! I think I'll stick to chucking the cheap one! Thanks for the idea, excellent!

weeds season 6 said...

Great post thanks for the read!
I have been researching this topic for a few weeks and this makes alot of it make sense

Image Recovery said...

Thanks for posing Basic tossing tips. It will help not only me but also others who are fond of Camera.

Image Recovery said...

It will help everyone to understand and operate the camera in efficient way.

Anonymous said...

Hi there! Im new to camera tossing and was wondering what kind of light source is best? I have seen some really sharp/cool pictures but when I take mine they just arent as good. Help?