Shooting Water Drops

Water has so many properties which make it such a versatile subject to shoot. They can become solid and turn to ice or they can become gas. They can give off reflections or appear transparent. Objects can sink or float in water. By playing around with the camera settings and being creative with your composition, you can capture water and portray it in various ways.

The water drop shot is one of the most popular cliché shots in photography. Aside from getting pretty images, shooting water drops are just plain fun and interesting to do and if you haven't tried it before, now is the time.

There are dozens of ways to create a water drop setup. Some are very elaborate and require high speed instruments while others are primitive but still work great. If you want to keep it simple, try using the kitchen sink for the setup because dripping water is very accessible. Allow water drops to constantly fall from the faucet and place a basin underneath it to catch the drops. Adequate lighting is essential since you will be using a very fast shutter speed to freeze those drops. Most people use a flash as the main light source. The background and the basin will be reflected in the droplets so choose those carefully. You can go for plain colors to emphasize the shapes of the droplets and ripples or you can use printed backdrops or basins for the drops to catch those patterns.

Bear in mind that the higher the drops, the harder they land. These drops can form fascinating crown-like splashes when they hit the surface. The drops may also come out in the image in different shapes, not necessarily as round balls. The ripples created by the force of the impact also provide additional detail and patterns.

For this particular shot, I used food coloring diluted in water for the drops, a syringe without the needle to control the flow, and a bowl that had water mixed with a teaspoon of cornstarch to make it an opaque white. I lit the scene with a 40watt lamplight, set my camera to macro mode and started experimenting. After playing around with the colors, at first using just one color then trying out all four (red, yellow, green, blue), I soon realized that when the colors began to blend, they came out an ugly shade of gray so I had to be very quick.

A fast shutter speed was used to freeze those drops in mid-motion. Since my camera was an advanced point and shoot, it did not have manual focus. To get around this, I placed a pencil where I assumed the drops would hit, focused on it and then half-pressed the shutter-release to keep the focus in place, then started squirting food coloring from the syringe. Timing was important to capture the drops as soon as they hit the surface. A lot of the times, my images showed a basin of water with no drops at all. Either I was too early in hitting the camera button or too late and the colored drops had already blended and made the water go gray. In which case, I'd have to change it to a fresh batch.

Out of over 300 shots, only around 10 were worth saving. If you don't get the perfect shot the first fifty tries, don't lose heart. The more you practice and experiment with your setup, the faster you'll get satisfactory results. Also, push your imagination and look for different surfaces for the water drop to splash on. Aside from a basin filled with water, you can use a fruit, a flower, or other liquids such as coffee or juice.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 27th, 2010 at 11:00 am and is filed under Advanced Tutorials, Articles, Miscellaneous, Photo Inspiration, Photography Tutorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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