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Powerful Water Drop Photography Tips and Techniques

Powerful Water Drop Photography Tips and Techniques

Water drop photography is an exciting genre of high-speed photography. Every creative photographer wishes to click stunning water drop collision photos. When a water drop collides with another drop, it creates beautiful crowns, and clicking them is a fantastic experience for a photographer.

A few years back, taking such shots was not easy, and only a few expert photographers could click those photos. But with the technology now, it’s become more accessible, and everyone can add these mesmerizing photos to their portfolio. Nowadays, we have gadgets such as MIOPS Splash, which can make water drop photography a child’s play.

So, let’s talk about how you can take thousands of incredible water drop photos by creating the setup once.

What you need:

A Spare Room: The first requirement is a spare room because we’ll create a setup and keep it for a few days. As I told you earlier, you can use the same setup to click lots of pictures. We will be using bulb mode of the camera, so make sure you can darken this room.

Camera and Lens: Any DSLR or Mirrorless camera works fine for this, but choose a lens with a longer focal length so your camera is safe from water splashes. A 100mm macro lens is the best choice for this type of photography.

Flashes: You’ll need a minimum of two flashes for this photography. If you have more, it would be great. The best flashes for water drop photography is the one that is powerful (guide number 50 or above), is adjustable from full power to 1/128 power in 1/3 stops increments, has fast recycling time, can be used with slave mode, and has a swivel and tilt head. Zoom head is also helpful for water drop photography.

Tripod and Light Stand: You need a tripod to fix the camera and some light stands or tripods for flashes. You need one sturdier tripod to place the water drop controller (we are talking about it soon). 

Shutter Release Cable or Remote: It’s not essential, but you can control your camera from some distance if you have it.

Water Containers: You need a glass dish which you can easily find in your kitchen. Just make sure that it’s bigger, so it’s not shown in the picture, and it should be at least two inches in depth. If you want to show the water container in the picture, you may use a wine glass or a beautiful ceramic bowl or cup instead of a glass dish.

Backgrounds: You need colorful images to place as a background. Search google for “blur abstract background,” and you will know what type of images you need. You can buy such photos from stock sites or get them from free stock images sites. After getting images, print them on thick paper or transparencies.

Water Drop Controller: If you want to easily take hundreds of different photographs, you need to invest in a water drop controller kit like MIOPS Splash. It can control the size and timing of water drops and also control your camera or flashes precisely. This intelligent gadget can even release four water drops one by one and create unimaginable splashes. This little investment will save you tons of time and effort, and your pictures will be different from the rest.

You need a few more things like a piece of Plexiglass (milky white acrylic sheet) to fix backgrounds (around 12 x 18 inches), something to hold the acrylic sheet, some dry cloth, and clamp clips.

Setup:

Now we have everything we require, let’s create the setup. The first thing to remember is to create the setup on a table. You need to work for a long time, and if you make the setup on the floor or in a way so that you need to bend over and over again, you will get tired quickly and would not be able to do it for a long time.

First, place the camera on a tripod. It should be 10-15 degrees downward. Place the glass dish in front of it. If you have a 100mm lens, the distance should be 36-40 inches from the camera. If you are using a rectangle glass dish, make sure that the longer side is parallel to the camera so the edges of the container won’t show in the picture.

Now place the Plexiglass around 8-10 inches below the edge of the glass bowl. We’ll set abstract backgrounds on this Plexiglass.

It’s time to set up the flashes. If you have paper prints, flashes will be placed between the camera and background at a 45-degree angle. In this case, make sure you cover the flashes with a plastic sheet. If you are using transparencies, flashes will be placed at the backside facing the Plexiglass, and the distance should be around 12 inches.

Finally, set up the MIOPS Splash on a tripod so that the water drop falls at the center of the glass dish. Attach one flash to the MIOPS Splash and make the other one slave, so it fires automatically when the first one fires. See the below setup images to understand everything. 

Camera, Flash and Controller Settings:

At this moment, you may want to take some rest and have a coffee. Go ahead and enjoy your coffee because this part is a little bit technical and requires your full attention. But if you are like me, you are probably dying to see your first masterpiece.

Okay, let’s do all the settings. First set both flashes on 1/32 power. If you are using four flashes, you need to select the power to 1/64 or 1/128. Now do the camera settings, set it on bulb mode, set aperture to f/16, and ISO to 100. We’ll use manual focus, so change focus mode to manual, place a pencil at the center of the glass dish where the drop will fall, and focus on it.

Now darken the room and keep it a little bit light so you can see the setup. Press the shutter for 1/5 or 1/10 seconds and see the picture. If everything is dark in the image, you are good to go.

Now let’s do MIOPS Splash settings. It will release two drops in a time interval and then fire the flash, so you need to set the size of the first and second drop, the time interval between both drops, and the flash firing time after releasing the second drop. You can set everything easily using the MIOPS mobile app.

Open the app and set the size of the first drop to 25 milliseconds, the size of the second drop to 50 milliseconds, the delay between both drops to 100 milliseconds, and trigger to 350 milliseconds. Also, set trigger mode to flash.

These settings are not final, it’s just a starting point. For these settings, the height of the nozzle of MIOPS Splash is around two feet. If your nozzle is higher or lower than this, you need to change delay and trigger settings accordingly. 

Workflow:

Now we need to check if everything is okay. Darken the room, turn on the flashes, press the drop release button of MIOPS Splash, and keep your eye on the glass dish. If a crown is forming and the flashes are firing at the same time, MIOPS settings are okay. If not, turn on the lights and press the switch again.

If a crown is forming, but flashes are not firing at the same time, adjust the trigger setting to 5 milliseconds interval. You need to determine if flashes are firing earlier or later and increase or decrease the trigger time accordingly. If a crown is not created, adjust the delay between both drops to 2-3 milliseconds interval. Check it with the flashes on, and if you see the second drop in the mid-air, it means you need to decrease the time between both drops. 

Now, darken the room again, switch on the camera, press the shutter release button, and press the MIOPS button. Release the shutter button as soon as the flashes are fired. Now check the image. If it’s darker, the move flashes a little bit closer to the Plexiglass. You may also increase the ISO. If it’s overexposed, move the flashes further. Check the focus too. If it’s not proper, focus again.

By now, you are ready to take shots. Now the workflow would be:

  1. Press the shutter button
  2. Press the water drop release button immediately
  3. Release the shutter button as soon as the flashes are fired

Now you need to do experiments to get different shots. Changes in delay time will give you another type of crown shape. Increasing the size of water drops will give you different results, and you need to change the trigger time according to the changes you made. Whatever you do, keep in mind to change only one setting at a time. Otherwise, you’ll be confused and couldn’t understand what changes in settings are impacting the picture. It’s advisable to keep a notebook and write down what changes you made and their impact.

The second experiment you can do with the background. Both front and back flashes will give you different results, so try both techniques. Make a lot of prints and use other backgrounds like aluminum foil or packing paper. If you add a few drops of liquid soap to the water, you will get totally different crowns.

With this setup, you can click thousands of different photographs. So, let’s begin and share your masterpieces with the world.

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Blog Credit: Ramakant Sharda

Ramakant is an Award-Winning Photographer, Author, Mobile Apps Publisher based in the beautiful “Pink City” of India, known as Jaipur. Many of his works have been published in magazines, newspapers, and international blogs. He writes about photography and also teaches photography in his workshops. He has published three (so far) coffee table books. Get his latest book Mastering High-Speed Photography.