Separation and transport of defined populations of living cells grown on a thin membrane can be achieved by laser microdissection (LMD) of the sample of interest, followed by a laser-induced forward transport process [laser pressure "catapulting" (LPC)] of the dissected cell cluster. We investigate the dynamics of LMD and LPC with focused and defocused UV-A laser pulses by means of time-resolved photography. Catapulting is driven by plasma formation when tightly focused pulses are used, and by confined thermal ablation at the bottom of the sample for defocused catapulting. With both modalities, the initial specimen velocity amounts to about 50 to 60 m/s. Time-resolved photography of live cell catapulting reveals that in defocused catapulting, strong shear forces arise when the sample is accelerated out of the culture medium covering the cells. By contrast, pulses focused at the periphery of the specimen cause a fast rotational movement that minimizes the flow of culture medium parallel to the sample surface, and thus the resulting shear stresses. Therefore, the recultivation rate of catapulted cells is much higher when focused pulses are used. Compared to collateral damage by mechanical forces, side effects by heat and UV exposure of the cells play only a minor role.