Water Droplet photography tutorial.
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
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 )
I also experimented with the cameras WB to change the colour range in some shots.
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
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
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
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
Step 6: Focus where the droplet will be landing
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.
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
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
The possibilities are endless – just let your imagination run away with you and enjoy capturing the uniqueness of water drops
An update to my water droplet system
Since getting my dslr camera I have now upgraded to an automated system and below are a selection of some of the images that can be achieved with the Cognisy Stopshot that I now use to create my images.
More blog posts
For a step by step guide of how to take your own Cymatics photographs click here