Tag Archives: cherry harrison photography

Water droplet photography tutorial

Water Droplet photography tutorial.
A step by step guide on how to take water droplet images like the ones i have taken below, using a dslr and off camera flash.

I’ve always wanted to capture water droplets as I find the uniqueness of the shapes fascinating.

When I first started out in photography back in 2011,  I tried capturing several shots of water droplets and had great fun experimenting and learning.

My set up back then was on a budget and apart from the camera equipment, I used d.i.y material sourced from around the house and the local stationary store.

This guide will show you ‘step by step’ what I used to take the water droplet photos I have posted.

Step 1: camera settings

tamron 90mm speedlite wireless trigger photography

In order to take sharp macro shots with your dslr, especially of water droplets , you will need to have a dedicated macro lens. A cheaper option would be to buy a close up lens or use extension tubes for your existing lens.

You will also need at least one, off camera flash unit, this can be a TTL compatible flash or any 3rd party flash used on manual mode, with a wireless remote trigger and shutter release cable (i use a £20 2nd hand flash – set to ‘manual’ mode )

Camera settings

f11 aperture
1/125 shutter speed
200 iso

I also experimented with the cameras WB to change the colour range in some shots.

My Equipment:
Nikon D5000 dslr camera (you can use any camera that allows you to change aperture and shutter speed)
Tamron 90mm Macro lens (try macro functions, extension tubes if you do not have a dedicated macro lens)
Off camera Flash x 1 (if you have more use them but for basic images like what I have taken here 1 is enough)
3 x Wireless remote trigger (you could use the  flash sync mode, camera timer or ttl if this option is not for you)
1 x mini tripod (mine is like a gorillapod but doesnt have a name and was alot cheaper £8.99)
1 x 5in1 reflector (mine is 22″ £4.99 )


Step 2: Equipment for diy studio set up

reflector highspeed photography dslr camera

Additional Equipment
1x step ladders (anywhere/anything else a bag of water can be suspended from – possibly a door frame)
1 x glass pyrex kitchen cooking bowl (£2.99)
1 x black clipboard (£0.69)
1 x pack of neon paper (£0.50)
1 x pack of holographic paper (£0.50)you will also need a container or bag for the water to drop out of and something to seal the bag withWhat I am using:
1 x fold over sandwich bag (pack of 50 £0.50)
2 x stationary clips (pack of 12 (£0.69)
1 x Badge or safety pin (£0.10)

Step 3: Setting up the equipment

high speed water drop photography tutorial

Setting up the equipment

Place the glass bowl underneath the ladders and place the black clip board behind the glass bowl – Now place your flash to the side of the glass bowl and facing the clip board, position your camera (not shown in these clips) on the tripod approx 12″ away from where the water droplet should fall

The black clipboard can hold any background paper or card you wish to use and will change the colours of your water droplet pictures – try different designs and textures for some amazing images through the water.

You can also try using a reflector as a background and bouncing the flash off the reflector for more colour ranges in your droplets. Or try placing different coloured card underneath the glass dish – (for my droplet images I used black card under the glass bowl.

Once you have set up your equipment, its now time to be a big kid again and play & experiment with water Yeay 🙂
Just make sure you have a towel or cloth ready to wipe up any splashes – remember camera’s and water –do NOT mix !!!!

Step 4: Preparing the water for the droplets

diy water drop photography guide step by step
Fill the glass bowl with  water – I fill mine halfway (1″) – I have been told the shallower the water, the more crown type water shots – the deeper the water the more chance of water orbs and columns – choose whichever style suits you best :)Then with the remaining water from the jug, fill the plastic bag 1/3 with water
seal the bag – or fold over like the bag i used for my photos
Clip the two stationary clips to the top of the bag so it is secure (or use sticky tape or masking tape)Attach the bag to the underneath of the ladder using the clips to secure, if your ladder doesnt have anywhere for the clips to attach you could also try using some garden wire to attach the clips to the ladder.

Step 5: Releasing the droplet

water droplet photography help dslr

Make a small hole in the bag of water with a safety pin from the badge, this allows droplets to fall into the glass bowl at a slow steady rate. – You can also experiment with different sizes of holes to reduce or increase the flow rate of the water.

Step 6: Focus where the droplet will be landing

 Focusing water droplet photography tutorial

I used a serrated edged knife to focus my lens, approx 2cm above the point at which the droplet hits the water in the bowl. – if you dont have a knife or you want to use something safer, you can also use a ball point pen or ruler to focus the camera on the spot at which you want to capture the detail like shown below.

water droplet photography focusing dslr camera

Another handy tip is to point a torch at the spot when you are focusing on the knife/pen as this helps your eyes get a sharp focus

Step 7: Start clicking and capture your perfect water droplet

double water droplet photography highspeed crimson

The rest is down to timing and personal preference – count how long your droplets take to hit the water, press your remote trigger or set the timer for the moments after the droplet hits the surface of the water – remember a droplet performs a crown a stalk and then an orb if the water is deep enough.

  • Take lots of shots, dslr cameras can cope with this – have fun learning what the droplets do with the rate of flow
  • The water in the bag lasts for about half and hour before the droplets slow down
  • Remember to use a shutter release cable a wireless remote trigger or the timer on your camera to take the shots, this avoids camera shake and gives you a clearer shot
  • Also experiment with different backgrounds and droplet heights for more effects
  • Try changing the power and the angle of the flash and also try the flash hand held – for different lighting effects –

Step 8: last words

water drop photography nikon highspeed camera

The possibilities are endless – just let your imagination run away with you and enjoy capturing the uniqueness of water drops

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Long exposure ND Filter

I had been wanting to take some more long exposure pictures in the daytime and knew that  I would need a stronger neutral density (nd) filter to stop the exposure from being blown out. In the past I had used an 8 stop filter to capture water and this had been good for places where there was not much light however I knew the beach in the sunshine would pose more challenges.

below are 2 of the images I took using a an 8 stop screw on nd filter.



If you have not heard of a neutral density filter or are unsure of their function, these filters can be attached to a lens and allow longer shutter speeds to be used in the daylight.

I found a really interesting article from Digital Photography School which explains how to use a 10 stop neutral density (ND) filter to create a dramatic look to a photograph. —– click for the article here

In 2014 I took a family holiday to Newquay in Cornwall UK and had the opportunity to try out a (screw on type) 10stop neutral density filter when we went to Fistral Beach.


  1. Nikon d90 dslr
  2. 18-55mm lens
  3. Manfrotto Tripod
  4. Remote Release cable
  5. 10 stop neutral density filter (screw type)



The image below shows the waves that were present on that day at Fistral

fistral beach newquay cornwall "long exposure"

f13 – S1/250 – ISO350

I used an app on my mobile phone called ‘ND filter calc’ which allowed me to put in the camera settings I used for the picture above to tell me what I could use with a 10 stop filter

The app calculated that I was able to use the following settings:

  • f16
  • s30 seconds
  • ISO 100

With a few tweaks for the different angles I was able to remove the waves and show a mist which was created by the exposure time and made the waves look creamy.

The challenges I found came with attaching the filter and maintaining a sturdy base for my tripod when positioned in the water as the waves kept making the tripod sink.

Below are some of the images that I managed to get with the 10 stop filter

fistral beach newquay "long exposure" photography

nikon "long exposure" photography tripod

fistral beach newquay "long exposure" photography

What are peoples thoughts on the 10 stop ND filter and is there a recommended brand?


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