Water splash photography is notoriously difficult to get right, but when done correctly can produce outstandingly beautiful photographs. Images of water drops captured in a fraction of a second show a world we just can’t see with the naked eye.
A simple way to do water drop photography is to use an eyedropper and a full cup to drop water into, but the results are unreliable and often difficult to synchronize with the camera triggering. That’s why using a specialist water drop kit is a good idea. The MIOPS Splash Water Kit does an incredible job at synchronizing both camera and flash with water drops, allowing users to choose both the size of the drop and the rate at which they drop - including setting up several drops in one sequence for unique patterns and shapes as the drops interact.
The MIOPS Splash Water Kit is simple to set up with just a few cables, and works with any digital camera. Off-camera flash is recommended for this type of photography because it offers an infinite amount of lighting options to produce stunning and impactful photos and so the MIOPS kit offers triggering via flash or camera. In order to get started quickly with the MIOPS Splash Water Kit follow the guide below for best results. For more information on the Splash Water Drop Kit, or to purchase head here. Or if you want to take a look at the Splash Water Drop Kit in action then check out the latest video.
Assemble the Splash kit
The MIOPS Splash Water Drop Kit is pretty easy to set up. The kit comes with the water drop machine itself, a Splash holder, and a PC sync flash cable. There are also camera cables which connect your camera body up to the Splash.
The Splash Water Drop Kit fits to a light stand via the Splash Holder supplied in the box
There are two ways to connect the camera to the water droplet photography kit: connecting to a flashgun and camera to trigger both simultaneously, or connecting only to the camera. The latter might be more useful if you’re using multiple flashguns, depending on how you’re triggering them.
Screw the Splash onto the holder and affix it to a light stand or tripod and make sure the Splash is sitting level. Two components make up the device itself: the control body and the water reservoir lid. Simply fill up the reservoir with water and affix the lid. Measure the height so that it rests 25cm above the surface of the water it’ll drop into.
For reliable results ensure the height of the Splash kit is at least 25cm above the surface of the water where the drops will fall
Once the Splash is in place plug in your camera, and/or flashgun to the device and run the USB cable to a power source for non-stop use. I placed my Nikon D750 on a tripod and plugged in the cable.
Place two off-camera flashguns either side of the splash zone and aim them at a white backdrop. I gelled each with different colors throughout the shoot to provide vibrant, colorful backgrounds.
For enhanced color tape gels over the flashguns to provide vibrant effects
On your camera it’s best to use a macro lens for close-focusing ability, but if you don’t have this you can use extension tubes, as I have, to turn a mid-to-telephoto lens into a DIY macro lens. Set the aperture to f/11 and use ISO100 with the shutter speed set to the sync speed of your flashguns, mine was 1/200 sec. I experimented with the power of the flashguns until they were giving sufficient exposure at 1/16 power each.
The shutter speed was set to the flash sync speed and aperture stopped down to f/16 to provide plenty of depth of field to keep the drop sharp, with ISO as low as possible to minimize noise
Synchronize with App
It’s time to synchronize the Splash water droplet photography kit with the MIOPS app. Open up the App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android) and download the latest MIOPS app. Follow the instructions to install and then turn on Bluetooth to allow the app to link up with the Splash kit.
From here we can control the drop size (measured in milliseconds), amount of drops, and delay of drops/camera trigger. We can also trigger the Splash kit to start taking photos. By controlling the drop size we can determine the size of the splash and subsequent reflected drop bounce. This is important because it will set up the image for a second drop release. With enough water drop rising back up out of the water, a second drop may be released to splash down onto the first, thus creating an umbrella or mushroom shape.
Timing is critical when it comes to achieving specific shapes, so be sure to check out the suggested basic settings below to get started. Do bear in mind that all cameras trigger slightly differently and at different rates so it might be useful to adjust the trigger latency within the app for your specific camera.
Getting ready for a splash
We now need some water and a way to focus the camera on the drop zone. You can use almost anything to hold the water underneath the water drop machine, such as a cup, glass, baking tray, or pot. However, I like to use two ceramic roasting trays of different sizes. This makes changing water and cleaning up so much neater, without spilling water on the table/floor.
I like to place a chopstick right where the Splash kit is dropping, and let one or two fall down onto it. Then I use Live View on the camera to zoom in and manually adjust focus until everything’s tack-sharp. You could also use autofocus at this stage, but one issue with using this is that the camera may focus on the nearest side of the chopstick, which may be a few millimeters forward of where the middle part of the drop is. That’s a problem because it means that only the front section of the drop will be sharp, with the rest falling out of focus. Due to this, it’s important to zoom in on the screen and focus manually to ensure the center part is sharpest.
Experiment with the drops
Drop size is measured in milliseconds to denote the length of time the nozzle is open for, thus changing the size of the drop released. Delay is also measured in milliseconds and will determine when the second or third drops are released. The timing of the delay can affect how the following drops interact with the initial drop.
To get a good disc-shaped splash, follow the MIOPS Splash Water Kit settings below:
- Drop 1: 25ms size
- Drop 2: 50ms size, 80ms delay
- Trigger: Camera, 60-65ms delay
These are the settings I used to achieve this picture.
Play with water additives
Water of different viscosities will produce varied results. You can try liquids such as milk etc, but for the most flexibility and control you could use glycerin added to water to thicken it up. This can increase the surface tension of the liquid for a different kind of water drop splash.
It’s also a good idea to experiment with food dye, both in the water beneath and in the water drop machine itself. As the water drop splash rises up it can produce some incredibly unique images, and the change in color and tone stands out much more against a backlit background. It may pay to attempt drops with paint or ink, but be aware that thicker paints may clog the Splash kit nozzle, so proper cleaning is required to keep the device serviceable.
With thickening agents, you may find that the release and splash of the water changes drastically, depending on how much you put in. This, in turn, will affect the MIOPS Splash Water Kit settings, with either larger drop sizes or longer delays needed to achieve similar results with lower viscosity water.
As temperature, humidity, air movement, and release frequency change you may notice variances in results, even with the same settings dialled in. This is a fantastic way to achieve multiple unique results with the same setup, as you can keep shooting without having to change anything.
When adding dyes or thickening agents to the water, make sure the water surface that the drop is splashing into is free from dirt, debris, and water bubbles. Such things will affect the glossy smoothness of the final result and make the photograph look dirty. Stray hairs or motes of dust are also quite apparent on the surface of the water after a while, so regular change of the water will help with this.
Credit: Jason PB
Jason Parnell-Brookes is an Internationally award-winning photographer, educator and writer. He won Gold in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19 and was named Digital Photographer of the Year in 2014. Jason is a qualified teacher, Masters graduate and works with many high profile international clients.