Old School Flash Powder Compared to a Modern Day Flash

Maurice Ribble of Tech Photo Blog recently found the ingredients list for flash powder, which was used for state-of-the-art photographic lighting 150 years ago. After making some of the powder, he began to test it to see how it compares to modern day flashes (more specifically, a Canon 580EX II).

One of the tests is a simple scene that was lighted with a modern flash and then flash powder so we can compare the images. Overall I was quite impressed with the amount of light that even a small amount of flash powder makes; however, there were many disadvantages to flash powder.

If you’re interested in making your own, a simple search on Google will point you in the right direction. Be careful though — the stuff is quite dangerous.

(via TPB via DIYPhotography)

  • David

    I like how he grew muttonchops to add to the authenticity of the experiment!

  • Xxx

     He needs to fact check badly.

  • Photo from

    I can use my dad’s gun powders for that, same thing..

  • Martin Bignell

    Very entertaining.

  • Tyson

    Yeah, Interesting but that entire video could have been shortened to a minute.  Well done buddy.

  • Pablo

    After all that, he could have used a flash meter to see which was brighter or experimented with amounts of flash powder.

    He also could have used a bbq igniter to light the powder with a spark, instead of a blowtorch! lol

    Amusing, but it would have been nicer to see a slightly more scientific approach.

  • Ed Steinerts

    No….it’s not. If it was, don’t you think photographers of that period would use gunpowder, since it was more common, and easier to obtain? But go ahead and try it…make sure you video tape your result. It will be more lively than the above video.

  • Spider- Man

    to compound on Pablo’s comment…

    All this work in the video and if you just took half the time to make it you could have created a powder holder, some kind of remote trigger so you do not have to light it with a torch. Informative but I would like to see a lot more portrait work or better pics then an egg timer. There is a lot of potential here…

  • Karl_valentin

    That guy is a moron and i hope no one tries to recreate this.
    Flash powders are very sensitive and powerful mixtures and can easily cause severe damage. I Think you guys in America know M80’s or cherry bombs – those beasts are filled with roughly the same amount used here.
    If you don’t want to hurt yourself, leave it or ask a professional.

  • Spider- Man

    You mean the foil packet being lit by a MAP gas torch isn’t safe? ;)

    I am just surprised the guy went to all this trouble but couldn’t build a safe rig…