One of the most interesting and creative photography ideas a photographer can take is of a drop of water making a splash upon impact.
While many of the best examples of this type of photography may look like only a seasoned professional could have captured them, in this tutorial we’re going to show you that even a beginner photographer can take the same level of quality shots. All you have to do is create the proper water drop photography setup.
So, let’s get started!
A Simple Home Setup
The key to capturing the best shots of water droplets is to setup a small system at home.
One of the best ways to do it is to simply get a tray of water and place it underneath a dripping tap. If you can’t find a tap at home that allows you the room to do this, you can instead fill a small plastic bag or container of water and suspend it above the tray. Then, poke a small hole in the bag or container. You don’t want the water to come pouring out. You just want a steady stream of drops to fall down into the tray.
You’ll also need a white sheet of paper or a piece of thin, glossy cardboard which can be placed behind the tray. This will be used to reflect and illuminate the scene with the flash that you’re going to be using.
Before you start shooting, remember that water and electronics don’t mix well, so make sure you have a towel with you and be careful not do get any of your gear wet!
The photo above (by Weeebo. showcases a setup for water drop photography using a plastic bag suspended in air with a small hold poked in it to allow droplets to fall into a black tray. Other features such as the flash position and white board will be discussed below.
Use an Off-Camera Flash
To really pull of this water drop photography idea you need to use an off-camera flash which will be triggered by your camera’s shutter.
Position the flash so it will bounce off of the paper or cardboard and set it to the manual mode. You should then reduce the power of the flash to about 1/16th of the power available. However, you can experiment with different power levels while experimenting with your photos.
Try setting the aperture of the camera at f/8. This will give you sharp quality and a good depth of focus. Then set the shutter speed to 250th of a second. A focal length of 50-85mm is adequate for capturing water drops, however if you’d like to be more creative with your shot feel free to experiment with longer and shorter focal lengths.
How to Focus
Your camera’s auto focus mode will likely have a hard time keeping up, so the best thing to do is set the focus to manual and pre-focus. To do this, release a drop of water from above and mark the spot where it enters the tray. If you place something in the tray in the exact spot the water splashes you can then focus on it.
Use anything you like as a focusing aid, such as a pen or ruler, and then make sure it’s in focus. Since this is the same spot the water will make an impact and splash you know the focus will be sharp.
In the photo above, the photographer placed a pen in the exact point where the water droplets fall and focused on that point to ensure the water droplets were also in focus. Photo by Oneinfocus.org
Practice Makes Perfect
You’ll have to practice to make sure you press the shutter at the right time. Fortunately, with a constant stream of water drops coming down you’ll have plenty of chances to get it right! If the photos are too bright then you can turn the flash power down some more or go higher in the aperture to let in less light.
If you want to add color to the images you have a few options.
First, you can change the camera’s white balance setting from auto white balance over to tungsten. This will change the color which the camera sees and it should turn strong blue. Try other white balance settings to create an orange or green look.
Photo by Martina Rathgens
Second, if changing the white balance does not give your photo the color your desire, then you can replace the white board with a piece of colored cardboard. The flash will bounce off of it and create the desired color.
Finally, if you’d like a mix of colors in your photograph you can replace the white board with a board that has several colors or a pattern on it. This small change will create some wonderful colored effects.
We hope you enjoyed this idea in photography for creating a water drop photography setup. Please leave a comment below telling us about your experiences using the technique.