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Technique Demo – Water Drop Stop Action


Capturing drops of water, splashing into a stationary body of water can give you many different interesting photo opportunities.




In the examples and demo below I will show you how to setup for and take cool photos of water drops hitting a bowl of water.





I took these shots in the kitchen sink to keep the amount of clean-up to a minimum.Plain old tap water was used, but you can use just about any liquid that splashes when it hits a stationary object.I have tried food coloring in water but did not personally care for the results.



I have heard of using, but have not tried it personally, milk as it is opaque and may give you better contrast.  Try different liquids and see what results you get.Please do not use anything that will stain or is caustic. Or you will have a big mess to clean up or worse, end up injuring yourself.






I have found using a clear, shallow dish with some color behind it gives a very pleasing and interesting background to the water splashes.



In this demo I used plain old aluminum foil placed under my dish.In the past I have used colorful magazine pages, foil wrapping paper in different colors and colored water in the dish.Use your imagination and see what you can come up with.



Items that I used in this demo:


          1. Camera with remote shutter release

          2.Built-in flash or accessory flash


          4.Aluminum Foil

          5.A clear, shallow dish or pan

          6.A water bottle with a squirt (pull up) top or a measuring cup (I will explain which I used later)

7.An object to use as a preliminary focusing target

8.Something to raise the dish up to the top third of the sinkbasic-supplies

Let’s get started!

water-catch-basinHere’s what I did, first I placed a large bowl in the sink.I spread a sheet of aluminum foil over the top and placed my clear, shallow dish on top of this and filled about half way with water.

Next I filled a sports bottle that has a squirt top, with water. I will use this to create and control my drops.I had initially tried a measuring cup, but found that I did not have the control I needed to get the drops precisely where I wanted them.



Now for the camera setup, I placed my camera on a tripod and set it up next to the sink.I set my camera at about a 20 degree angle above my target.You can experiment with the angle until you get something you like.I choose this angle because I get a good side view of the drop without seeing too much of the edge of the dish.


It is important that you have some way to remotely release your camera’s shutter.I use a shutter release cord that is physically connected to my camera, but you can also get wireless remotes. Before you buy a wireless remote I suggest you check out where you can trigger the shutter from, as some remotes require you to point the remote at the front of the camera.


focusing-targetNext I placed a fork in the dish of water where I was going to aim my drops (any slender object would have worked, but I was in the kitchen and this was handy).I put my lens in manual focus mode and focused on the fork.  This is important, because you will be taking multiple exposures at a very rapid pace and will not be able to use the camera’s automatic focus feature. I also disabled the lense’s image stabilization as I had it on a tripod and did not need it. 


water-crownIn this demo I was using an accessory flash unit, but a built-in flash will work just as well.All the examples with the non-silver background were taken with my Canon Rebel XT with built-in flash.

I set my camera to manual mode, set the shutter speed to 200th of a second (this is the flashes maximum).I wanted the depth of field to be fairly deep, so I initially set my aperture to F16, but this would not work with the shutter speed to get a proper exposure.I ended up adjusting my ISO to 500 and settled on F13 for the aperture, but it seemed to work well.

I also made sure my flash had fresh batteries as I was going to really push it, to fire as quickly as possible.



Some other control settings I used were to set my camera’s drive mode into Continuous, thus allowing me to hold the shutter release down and take rapid shots.I also set my quality to Fine, JPEG (I usually use RAW for the flexibility it gives me in post process) so that I could take a lot of shots without the cameras memory buffer filling too fast.

water-dropperNow on to the shooting, I made sure everything was turned on, I had the shutter release cord in one hand and the water bottle in the other.I started the water drops first, aiming at the spot I had determined with the fork focus target until I got into a rhythm then fired away.

I watched the flash and if it stopped to recycle I would stop the water.Another technique I used to increase the number of “keeper” shots was to aim the water drops slightly in front of and behind my target.I just keep walking the water drops back and forth from back to slightly in front.

All in all, I took about 300 shots and got about 20 shots I would consider good ones.You will get a lot of empty shots and out of focus ones as well, but keep with it and you will get some really cool shots.


Here is an interesting shot I got of a water drop colliding with the splash from the one before it.This is the first time I have captured this event.I just wish it were a little sharper but it was just such a unique one I had to show it.


Remember to experiment and have fun!

Leave me a comment below if you have any questions.


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