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How to Photograph a Water Droplet

To capture the intricate details of a water drop you will need to take charge of your environment. The outdoor elements make symmetry and texture reproduction almost impossible. You will need to bring you patience and creativity inside for this one.

How to Photograph a Water Droplet


1 x DSLR Camera

1 x Macro Lens(100mm Telephoto or larger)

1 x Flash

1 x Softbox, or large white surface.

1 x Light Stand

1 x Hotshoe w/ umbrella bracket and (allows you to attach to a lightstand)

1 x Wireless Flash Triggers (most cameras require this to fire your flash remotely)

1 x Tripod

1 x Large tray (preferably with a black surface – a wok works well)

1 x Torch or dim light (to see the drop when you turn the lights off)

1 x Eye dropper

1 x Glass of water

Advanced optional accessories:

1 x Blue Gel (for effect)

1 x Ball Head w/ arca-swiss style base plate (Allows you to attach a plump)

1 x Wimberley Plampand Plamp Extender (allows you to hold the eyedropper on the same unit as baseplate).

1 x Remote Cable

1. Location, for this shoot we want complete control of our light. A room without light is perfect. This allows us to introduce and control our light source for best results. For some photographers this may be using a room during the night where ambient light is not present.

2. For this shoot it is recommended that you set up your props in the scene prior to setting up your camera. Cameras and electrical gear don’t mix with water. Place your tray of water on a table. We found that a wok was a good substitute for the tray in both size and colour. Ideally fill the tray or wok as much as possible.

3. With the tray or wok in place, attach the plamp to a stand extending it 1 foot over the top of the tray. The plamp will hold the eye dropper in the same place for every shot which allows you to keep the camera and focus in the same position.

5. Speedlites come with a plastic stand, they also attach to standard light stands and adapters. Fix the shoe to the stand.

6. Some wireless triggers such as the Pocketwizard TT5 mount between the Speedlite and shoe. Otherwise attach the wireless trigger to the Speedlite after.

8. Place the flash behind the tray and off to one side. We directed the flash at the white wall behind the tray. By doing so the wall acts like a large diffuser and will create softer light. We have placed a blue gel over the front of the Speedlite for effect. (Advanced users can experiment with many colours of gels).

9. Time for camera gear – attach your macro lens to your camera and place the camera and lens onto your tripod. We have angled the camera approximately on a 20 degree downward angle to the water. (Make sure you can’t see the eye dropper or flash in the reflection of the water).

10. Insert your memory card, it is best to format the card once you have all previous photographs backed up safely. Photographing water droplets can take a lot of time and space. It’s nice to have plenty of memory available.

11. Now to adjust the camera settings. Change your camera to manual mode. This may seem overwhelming at first for many users, however it is necessary for this photo.

12. Change your ISO to 100, this will help keep any ambient spill light to a minimum.

13. Adjust your shutter to 2 seconds. This will give you enough time to squeeze the eye dropper and trigger the flash.

14. By setting your aperture to f16 you will be able to get the drop in focus.

15. Finally set the time delay to two seconds. Once you press the shutter you will have time to get into position to release the water drop.

16. Manual focus is best for this setup. Replace the eye dropper with a long straight tool such as a pen. By doing so the pen will appear in the frame of the camera, indicating where the water drop will occur. Remember to allow for water ripples when framing. At this time focus on the pen. (your lens is on manual focus, the camera won’t change this focus point)

17. If you have lights in your room it would be best to turn them off at this point. A weak torch or lamp will allow you to just see what you are doing, with the current settings it shouldn’t affect your shot.

18. Test shot - press the shutter release. You have two seconds to get into position. Listen for the click of the shutter, at this point release the water drop. Press the wireless trigger to fire the flash. Hopefully you will fire the flash at the right time, just moments after the drop hits the surface of water.

19. Review test shot, exposure is key. If the image is over exposed, rather than changing the settings of the camera, simply turn down the power output of the flash.

20. With everything in place it is time to shoot. It may take some time to get the right shot, but patience is a virtue. You will get into a rhythm of firing the shutter and dropping the water. In this shoot we were fortunate to achieve this shot in only 8 shots, however it usually takes many more.

21. Shoot like no one is watching.

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