How To: Photograph Water Drops

posted on 25th of june, 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.

What you'll need

- 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
- Water
- 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.


You will want to freeze the water drops or splashes. If you want to use decent ISO settings, preferably ISO 100, this might seem nearly impossible. However, this is where the flash comes in. I used the following settings for both water drop images that am including with this article:

ISO: 100
Aperture: F8
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!

Comments (15)

Comment by Reeddaigle on July 23, 2009

Thanks for the blog post. It's very clear and well written. I've wanted to try water drop photography for a while, but never took the chance. I hope to give it a try sometime after I return to the US.

Comment by Vwimage on July 20, 2009

Beautiful shots, I'll give it a try.

Comment by Trottola on June 29, 2009

Fantastic! Really interesting, I look foreward to try it!!!

Comment by pic.r on June 27, 2009

Fantastic article, very clearly written, and splendid photographs!
Thank you so much for sharing this!

Comment by Morrbyte on June 26, 2009

wonderful tutorial and some brilliant shots,not sure if i would have that much patience but might give it a try soon, thanks and best wishes.

Comment by Starblue on June 26, 2009

I love water drops, esp. on a surface, but I will definitely try also this. Thanks for so interesting blog!

Comment by Asyan on June 26, 2009

Hey! Thanks for sharing. Really good written!

Comment by Ingesche on June 26, 2009

Thanks, everyone, for the nice comments. I just noticed that I forgot to write something about focusing. I just added one paragraph with some additional information.

Comment by Chuckpee54 on June 25, 2009

Great info, I am going to give it a shot next week when I am on vaction.

Comment by Wildmac on June 25, 2009

These images are great! Thanks for sharing :0)

Comment by Rebeccaosborn on June 25, 2009

thanks for these tips... the photos you got are amazing! good luck with them!

Comment by Hlehnerer on June 25, 2009

Excellent blog! I really have to find the time to try this out.

Comment by Irisangel on June 25, 2009

Thanks, good blog, I will have to try this.

Comment by Cmarshall717 on June 25, 2009

Very good instructions. I've always wanted to try it, and this seems like a very simple way to do it. Thanks!

Comment by EmeraldUmbrellaStudio on June 25, 2009

great, this is actually better then the one on strobist a couple weeks back

Comments (15)

This article has been read 4195 times. 17 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Inge Schepers.

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