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28 Sep 2013

Refraction of lines/shapes using water can produce interesting results.

I've came across this interesting article from a photography magazine that is simple to setup and try from your own home. The following are items that you would require:

1 x White Cardboard & 1 x Black Cardboard

White cardboard to be used for the backdrop, while the black cardboard for the table-top surface.

A4 Size Printout of Diagonal Stripes

This can be easily created and printed using Photoshop.
(Tips: You may just google "Photoshop Stripes" on instructions to create stripes using Photoshop.)

Tall Clear Glasses (4-5 of them)

This is essential to hold water in order to create the refraction effect. I must emphasize to get glasses that are tall as it would bring out the refraction effect better. (Note: You can easily buy them from Daiso.)


Ideally 2 could create better lighting for your work. However if you only have a single on-camera flash, it could also work although results may not be as ideal.

The Setup

The items are then setup according to the top-view perspective illustration below:
In this piece of work, I've used my Canon EOS 5DM2 with EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM. The settings I've used are ISO 100, F/16 and 1/200s. Depending on your flash power and distance from the subject, you may need to play with your aperture and shutter speed.

Tips: I would recommend an aperture setting of at least F/11 for a deeper depth-of-field (i.e. the entire scene remains sharp throughout).

Note: If you only have a single flash attached onto your camera, it is advisable to point the flash to the ceiling and use bounced light so as to eliminate possible shadows that could fall behind the glasses.

Positioning Your Glasses & Water Levels

As you are positioning your glasses, fill them up with different levels of water and watch how the lines/shapes are refracted through the glasses. Adjust your water level and glasses' position as you go along.

Personally, I would recommend that part of the glasses are overlapped when positioning them as illustrated below, as interesting patterns will show when lines/shapes are refracted more than once.

Note: Try to clean up with water droplets that may form on the outside or inside the glasses with a piece of cloth/tissue before you start shooting.

Shoot, Adjust, Crop and Touch-Up

Once you have setup everything, go ahead and start shooting. It may take you a couple of adjustments and shots to get the ideal one that you like. The following is a sample of raw image from my shooting.

From the raw image, I cropped the photo minus the borders around the stripes. I further enhance the contrast and curves of the photo using my Aperture 3 photo management tool.

Please visit to see my other studio works.

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