How To: Photograph Water Drops
June 25, 2009
This blog post is a description of how I photograph water drops. Of course there is more than one way to do it, but it might be useful for people who have never tried it before.
- A transparent glass bowl
- A ruler or other object you can stick into the water for focusing
- A large sheet of colored paper or cloth
- A flat surface you can place your bowl on
- A small plastic bag
- A small pin with which you can make a very small hole in the bag
- Some kind of contruction above your flat surface, which you can hang your plastic bag with water on
- A large book or other object that you can place behind the bowl
- A camera which allows for manual focus and manual exposure (I use a Canon EOS 50D)
- A good flash (I use the Canon 500EX Speedlite) with either an extension cord or a remote control
- A sturdy tripod
- A lot of patience
You should place the colored piece of paper or the colored cloth on the flat surface. Place the glass bowl on top of it, and add water to the bowl. Different volumes of water in the bowl will create different kinds of splashes. You should also make sure that the colored piece of paper or cloth is held up by the large book or other object you place behind your bowl, so that the paper or cloth is also the backdrop for your photos.
After you fill the small plastic bag with water (don't put too much water in it), hang it on some kind of construction so that it is located above your bowl of water. Make a tiny hole in the plastic bag so that water drips from the bag into the bowl.
Make sure your camera is on a tripod, for sharp images. Also try to use a macro lens for the best results. Attach your flash to the camera using an off-shoe cord or use a remote trigger for the flash. You want to place the flash at about the same height of the bowl, but make sure to aim it at the backdrop in such a way that there will be no reflections on the surface of the water.
Trying to autofocus on water drops is impossible. That's where the ruler comes in. Watch where the water drops hit the surface of the water. Now stick the ruler (or other object) into the water and you can use the camera's autofocus or manual focus to focus on the ruler instead of the drops. Do make sure to set your camera to manual focus before taking photos.
Shutterspeed: 1/250 sec.
Flash: 550EX at 1/128
You might want to play a bit with the settings, but they should give you a good starting point. However, you will still need a lot of patience, because timing can be pretty tricky. There are technical aides, but they are usually pretty expensive and, if you ask me, take a lot of the fun out of the whole process.
Each photo will be different, depending on your timing, and on the volume of water in the bowl. Some will look like drops bouncing back up from the surface and frozen in mid-air. Others will look like crowns, as shown in the second example. Just keep trying and you will definitely get some keepers. At first, you may have lots of misses, but your timing will improve pretty quickly.
I hope this blog post will help some people get started with water drop and splash photography. If you have some additional information or have been able to get good results with different settings, please add comments to this post!