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12 Oct 2013

Google and you will find many remarkable and impressive photos of water droplet. There are many articles on the Internet that show how to photograph water droplets from the most extensive to the simplest setup. So I decided to give it a try as well ...
The entire shooting was not as simple and easy as I had thought it to be. I had to tweak my setup couple of times as there are various challenges and parameters to getting the "right splash" that I wanted. I will share some of these key challenges.

Challenge #1: Consistent Drop in the Same Spot

It is important to get the droplet to always drop into the same spot in the water as this is the point of focus for a sharp picture. In order to do, I secured a plastic dropper (note: bought from Art Friend - bunch of 10 at around S$3) using masking tape to a crossbar tripod.

Once the dropper is secured, I lower the crossbar tripod until the dropper touches the water surface. Then, I set my lens to automatically focus on the point where the dropper touches the water surface (i.e. assuming also the point where the water droplet will enter the water), and switch back to manual focus when done.

The challenge comes during the actual shooting, as water droplet does not seem to be always dropping into the same location. As the air around me is still, I could only explained the inconsistency due to the squeezing action of the dropper that cause slight movement.

To account for such inconsistency, I find that setting a small aperture (F20 and above) would produce a better picture with reasonable sharp details.

Challenge #2: Timing Between Drops and Triggering Shots

Shots should not be trigger immediately when the water droplet leaves the dropper, as it will need time to travel and hit the water surface. A short pause is needed in order to capture the splash.

There are many stages of the splashes as seen in some of the pictures below and practice is needed to get the right timing.

Challenge #3: Composition - Angle of Water Droplet Splash

How do you want the composition of the water droplet splash to be captured? Do you want the water ripples to be the "background" of your picture? Do you want to capture it from an angle that is more parallel to the ground (e.g. see 1st image above) OR from a more elevated angle (e.g. see image below).

If you want the water ripples to be the "background" of your picture, then to some extent, the angle of the desired composition does determine the size of your tray/container used. When taking from an angle that is more parallel to the ground, the edge of the container/tray may show up on the far end of the taken picture. See illustration below.

This following picture shows a shot taken at about 15-20 degree angle from the water surface using the water ripples as background. I had to use a larger rectangle container/tray to ensure that the edge of the container/tray does not show up in the shot taken.

This following picture shows a shot taken at about 45 degree angle from the water surface using the water ripples as background. While a small container/tray is required, it does not really bring out the splash effect.

This following picture shows a shot taken at about 10-15 degree angle from the water surface with a black backdrop using a small container/tray. At this angle, it can clearly capture the splash effect.

Challenge #4: Height of Drop and Water Determines the Splash

Both the height of the water in the container/tray and the height from which the water droplet is dropped will determine how "spectacular" the splash will be.

Height of Water Level in Container
In my experiment, I had filled water containers with various height from 2cm to about 10cm. Based on my observation, I noticed that if the water container is fill with a higher water level, the stages of the splash are simpler i.e. may not get pictures such as a ball of droplet splitting away from the stem of water that sprout out from the splash.

Height that Water Droplet is Dropped From
I'd also experimented with water droplet dropping from a height of 30cm to 100cm above the water surface. I observed that the higher the water droplet is dropped from the more "spectacular" the splash will be.

Note: I felt that the size of the water droplet does matter as well, but I did not have a chance to play with it as I only have dropper of a single size.

Setup and Equipment

The following are basic equipment that I'd used for the water droplet photography:
  • EOS 5DM2 + EF100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM (note: both on a tripod)
  • Off-camera Flash/Strobe + Color gel
  • Transmitter and/or Receiver (i.e. for triggering the strobe or off-camera flash)
  • White/black cardboard (note: for background and serve as reflector)
  • Dropper + Crossbar Tripod (i.e. for holding the dropper)
  • Water container/tray of various sizes
  • Water and/or milk (note: you can either try the water droplet splash using water or milk)
There are various setup that I used, most of which only make use of a single off-camera flash. I don't think there is a right or wrong way to position the flashes/strobes. Depending on the equipment that you own, you can try out different settings to achieve different creative lighting effects.

What are the other fun that you can try out?

  • I'd came across articles on the Internet that uses food coloring on milk and it produces very impressive result.
  • Try capturing the collision of multiple water droplets. I'd tried many times but was unable to achieve it.
  • Also try water droplet splashes on objects such as a spoon.

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