The Stun Gun Photoshoot: Portraits of People's Faces When Hit With A Stun Gun

As a portrait photographer, I am always trying to make people feel comfortable in front of my camera so I can capture a real emotion from them.  But what if I was able to make people feel so uncomfortable in front of the camera that I could guarantee an interesting portrait every time?  This is the idea behind my latest series:  The Stun Gun Photoshoot.  I've edited two different videos as well as a behind the scenes in the full post below.

Like many photographers, I have a ton of ideas floating around that I think would be great to explore.  This idea for a photo series showing people the second they are hit with a taser or stun gun has been something I have wanted to photograph for almost a year now.  Despite all the barriers it presented and the countless people who thought I was a sadist, crazy, or just outright irresponsible, I decided to finally stop talking about this idea and actually execute it.  The results were pretty hilarious.  

taser photoshoot patrick hall

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The Gear:

I explain the entire setup in the Behind the Scenes video below but I'll outline it here as well.  For the camera, I decided to shoot with the new Nikon D810 DSLR.  It has 36mp which allowed me to shoot a little less tight and still retain a high amount of resolution if I needed to crop.  Having people jumping around in the frame can make it difficult to compose the perfect shot so I often shot a little wider to give me some flexibility.  The lens used was the Nikkor 70-200 2.8 because it gives a nice compression to the portraits. 

For the slow motion videos, we used two Sony FS700 cameras.  These relatively inexpensive professional video cameras are all the buzz right now because they can film amazing High ISO 1080 video at 240 frames per second.  It's pretty cool to see this footage in such detail at these super fast frame rates.  For the lenses, I wanted the video to match the still shots so we used another Nikon 70-200 2.8 lens on one camera and the Canon 70-200 2.8 lens on the second camera.  

The overall lighting setup was pretty simple.  I used in total 3 Profoto D1 1000 Watt heads to craft the light on my subjects.  The key light was fitted with a small 2.7 x 2.7 softbox with the front diffusion panel removed to increase the contrast.  To help edge out my subjects from the background, I setup a larger 2' x 3' softbox behind and above my subjects.  The final D1 Monoblock was placed behind my subject to the left of the camera to give an even stronger edge light from the side.  In order to produce the fastest flash duration, I set my key light to full power (10) and set a correct exposure on my camera to compensate for the high amount of flash.  

When I envisioned this event, I knew I wanted to keep my subjects separated from the crowd and also have a clean background to film them against.  Instead of messing with paper or fabric backgounds, we setup two 7'x8' Lastolite Hilite backgrounds to form a little cove.  These Hilites are really useful for location shooting because they are easy to break down and can be used as HUGE softboxes if you fire lights inside of them.  

The Reactions:

Each person was tazed by their friend or significant other which created an interesting dynamic in itself.  The emotions on both sides of the taser were extremely entertaining to watch.  The person getting tazed was almost always nervous and jittery with either a sense of fear or anxiety.  The participants doing the tazing had a different demeanor altogether.  Most of them were excited to cause pain to their friend and only showed remorse immediately after executing the shock.  I wanted to record both of these reactions and you can see  a second slow motion edit of both people's reactions in the video below:

Extended Version of The Taser Photoshoot:

What I found most interesting about the reactions people showed while getting tazed was you never knew how they would react.  Some people screamed while others were quiet.  A few people looked like they were experiencing pleasure while others had the most painful faces I've ever seen.  I saw jumpers and fallers.  People laughed and people cursed.  I even had about four guys and girls who did not react at all and seemed to be completely unphased by the 300,000 volts of electricity.


Overall the entire photoshoot and event was a huge success.  I was able to photograph roughly 100 people in a single night and instantly created a unique portfolio full of taser reactions.  If you want to hear my thoughts on how I created this idea, built up the photography lighting, planned the slow motion shots, and hosted the entire event, check out the behind the scenes video below:

Behind the Scenes:

The Taser Photoshoot
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photos of people being hit with stun gun
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To view even more photos of people getting tazed, head over to The Taser Photoshoot




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Dylan Patrick's picture

So awesome!

People willingly sign up for this? LOL

Lee Morris's picture

Well there was free beer :)

Avrohom Perl's picture

This whole thing makes sense now!

It makes sense if the beer was dished out BEFORE and in massive amounts!

I'd need at least a couple shots of the good tequila. Beer wouldn't convince me being stunned is a good idea.

OK. So what's up with this flash duration is shorter on full power than at 1/8 of power?

Patrick Hall's picture

My math is clearly wrong in the video (I don't actually know if it was at 1/8th or 1/4) but yes Profoto heads have shorter flash durations at full power. I was just with the Profoto rep last week and he confirmed it. B1s have fast T1 times at lowest power while D1 are the opposite and have fast T1 times at full power.

Lee Morris's picture

As I understand it, speedlights fire at full power each time but at lower power settings the circuit board stops the full power flash from completing (shortening flash duration). That's why speedlights have faster flash durations at lower power settings. Most studio strobes actually fill up a capacitor in preparation for a flash (depending on what power setting you have chosen) and they dump the capacitor completely with each flash. That's why you have to "dump" a studio strobe when you lower it's power setting.

Spy Black's picture

If these are traditional flashes, then yes. If these are IGBT units, the opposite is true. I'm not familiar with these lights. I would like to get myself a set of IGBT lights, they're really handy when doing fashion work where a model is always moving about, although sometimes you want the longer duration of traditional units when you want a little motion blur in hair and clothing.

While interesting my only problem is that this using a Taser its a Stungun. A Taser is a gun like device that fires 2 darts on a wire from a distance into the subject. Its nastier and more effective by the fact you have a set of darts embedded in your skin raising the conductive potential of the the charge.

Patrick Hall's picture

Yeah I understand the differences but everyone knows the phrase Taser and it rolls off the lips better than "The Stun Gun Photoshoot". It would not be practical to shoot taser barbs into each participant.

Outside that interesting

Sean Shimmel's picture

Part 2... models zap Patrick while he shoots :)

Patrick Hall's picture

I have been tazed at least 15 times total during these series :)

Sean Shimmel's picture

And not a single slo-mo grimace to share?!

Patrick Hall's picture

Ask and you shall received:

Sean Shimmel's picture

Perfect pain.

Jason Switzer's picture

1. Torture porn?
2. Didn't Bill Murray do this to that poor sap at the beginning of Ghostbusters? Awesome movie.

Avrohom Perl's picture

I do plan on coming to the next Fstoppers party, but IDK about getting involved in the photobooth...

Sara Smoot's picture

Cool video!!! It was funny to watch. The lighting, music and over all mood was serious, but their faces were hilarious! The feel is like the combination of sweet and salty. Really super cool, I watched all the videos and looked at all the pictures!
And i can defiantly say that I would never let anyone touch me with a taser. Ever.

Doug Werner's picture

The results remind me of the promotional posters for the Lars Von Trier film, "Nymphomaniac".

Reid Kimball's picture

I'm impressed with the execution of this project but repulsed by the concept. Portraits of the people doing the stunning are far more interesting to me. So many mixed emotions. Congrats.

David Vaughn's picture

Why repulsed?

Reid Kimball's picture

It reminds me of the Milgram experiment. I'm creeped out the photographer thought it'd be a great idea to find willing participants to actively hurt each other.


Don't tase me bro! The photoshoot looked interesting and the subjects were none worse for the wear and no lasting harm was done.
I can't compare the pain of a taser, since I've never been tased, to that of having 700 or so cold cranking amps surging through my wedding ring.; but I received a third degree burn while replacing a boat battery and the pliers touched positive and negative. The pliers arched through my wedding ring. Fortunately, I had the sense of mind to get it cold and jumped in the lake in mid March in South Carolina. The lake temperature was probably about 50°F. I got to see what a tendon looks like. Fortunately, everything healed up. I now have a permanent wedding band tattoo. I wish I had taken photos of the recovery process since the healing process was quite amazing seeing the skin grow back.

Lee Morris's picture

Ouch. Ya this felt more like getting snapped with a rubber band

Yea, this was 11 on a scale of 10; it felt like a hundred yellow jackets. I wasn't worried about electrocution when I jumped in the lake since I broke the circuit when I dropped the pliers.