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Photographing Water Drops

Updated on May 14, 2014
Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) | Source

A drop of water sounds very simplistic in terms of conducting a photographic project involving simple drops of water but like many photography projects this one also takes some planning, creativity and patience as well as many tries before obtaining a usable shot.

Drops of water whether they be one at a time; a single drop or several will require some specific adjustments to the set up. Among the materials that are needed is a non glossy backdrop preferably black and placed a few inches behind the focusing spot, a thin piece of string from which the drop will fall, a few containers to hold water into which some food coloring will be added; mix colors separately so you have a supply of different colored water. a tripod to hold your camera still, at least on flash unit which should be placed at an angle to the pre selected focusing spot. The focusing spot will not change for any of the shots nor will the location of the flash or light source.

Secure a piece of string above the focusing spot and slowly add water to it so that that the water gathers at the end of the string until it forms a drop and eventually falls.

You will have to practice snapping several shots to get one where the drop as it is falling is recorded and for this you will need a camera and flash unit that reloads and fires in rapid succession; a continuous illumination source is better than a flash for this. The best set up is the one used for high speed photography but good results can be obtained with most gear, it just takes patience and practice. Don't forget to have a container to catch the water drops since after several attempts you will have water accumulate.

Be aware that you will probably have to crop the images afterward since it is likely that you will catch portions of the string.

Images of water drops are very pleasing and are very well presented in a thumbnail format with various colors grouped together. Images that have been enlarged are also very pleasing and are good sellers which can be shown at fine art galleries and submitted to any of the many photographic stock houses. These images are part of the abstract art realm of photography and are mostly used for displaying in offices and around the home.

For enlargements you may need to use a set up that allows for macro photography and there are several lenses that allows one to focus closely without getting the lens very close to the water and risking the lens getting wet. Be mindful that water, even a drop, is reflective and can catch your reflection upon itself especially the closer you are to it. Also worth considering is using an electric or remote shutter trigger since any close ups will show blur with the smallest of movement.

Your camera should be set to a manual mode where you control the f-stop and this should be set to its widest aperture such as f-1.4. This allows for more light to enter the camera and for a faster shutter speed. It also renders any background element out of focus so the total emphasis is on the drop of water. The shutter speed should be set to at least 1/500 to freeze the drop in mid air. Here is a link to more detailed and in depth information regarding f-stops and shutter speeds.

A variation is to have various drop sources at once so that several different colored drops can be recorded at the same time but this can be difficult to achieve since not all drops behave and fall at the same time.


There are several variations to this theme such as recording the moment the drop falls onto a pool of water or onto a solid surface and "explodes" in various attractive formations or when suspended from a leave, branch or flower which make very pleasing images or a simple trick which is to let water drop along the surface of a very clear pane of glass and record the images then.

However using glass presents issues with reflectivity and must be done with extra care if your goal is not to appear in the final image or have the flash burst bounce back unto your camera which usually results in what we call "hot spots".

But these images have been photographed to death and the intent is to photograph water drops in innovative ways that show creativity and artistry thus separating you from the rest.

Like I have said many times before; anything worth photographing has probably been photographed already.

Professional photographers who make their living from their art are known for not only the high quality of their images but also for their innovative and creative ways in which they do so.

These very same professionals are also their own toughest critics, often discarding many images for even the smallest of imperfections until they come upon a truly beautiful and technically perfect images that stands out by itself.

If you want to achieve their level of success and professionalism you must do as they do.

Are you willing to try this?

See results
CC BY-ND 2.0
CC BY-ND 2.0 | Source

© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      medor: Thank you

    • profile image

      medor 6 years ago

      nice job with the comments regarding water and photography... I love shooting in the rain. While hiking on Isle Royal, the weather gave me many opportunities to wait for drips to fall or capture a few on leaves of trees... excellent...