Water drop photography is a fun type of photography, and especially good for those rainy days when you’re not keen to chase after the kid running through a puddle in the monsoon. You mean you are, well ok it makes a cool shot… just be careful with your gear, that camera bag might not be as waterproof as you think in a real monsoon. I mean that as well, just last year I went to Mulu national park on Borneo and in-spite of using the bags rain protection the bag ended up soaked through with a puddle forming at the bottom of my bag that very almost claimed a few lenses.

Usually I say when the conditions are rough, roll with it; however now and again it’s nice to do something indoors with controlled conditions. You can’t get much more controlled than using strobes and dripping water to create water drop photos. There are a number of guides you can find on youtube that show you how to go about taking this kind of shot. Here’s a video showing you my setup, as you’ll see from the wider web mine is far from the only way to setup for this shot. You can get more free video’s here!

To help you with the setup here is a step by step guide on how to take this sort of shot.

  1. Fill the bowl with water and place it on a table, it is best not to fill it to the top. Once the bowl is on the table use a glass to fill the bowl to the top, so that the meniscus is at the top of the bowl.
  2. Set up the tripod next to the table, and use the tripods extension arm so that it is directly over the bowl on the table.
  3. Now half fill the plastic bag with water, and tie a knot at the top of the bag to stop water coming out. Make sure there is enough plastic at the top of the bag to tie around the tripod extension arm.
  4. Attach the plastic bag to the tripod by rapping the plastic around the tripod arm, knotting it and then using a peg to make sure it is secure. Note – if the bag comes off it will make a big mess.
  5. As an alternative to step 3 and 4 you could use a stand and clamp with a burrette, this is probably safer and more controlled if you are able to get hold of these items.
  6. Now use a pin to prick the plastic bag so that water drips out of it into the pool of water in the bowl below it.
  7. Set up the second tripod close to the bowl and put your camera on it, with the macro lens attached to the camera.
  8. The pencil should now be used to get the focus point, so place the pencil at the exact point where the water drips into the bowl. Use the pencil to focus the camera on auto focus, and when focused switch the camera to manual focus.
  9. Now put the radio trigger on the camera hot shoe, and place the strobe and radio receiver next to the camera so that the light bounces off the background and back through the water drop. Now place the background of your choice behind the bowl.
  10. Now it’s time to try and catch a water drop. You can try to do this by your eye by watching the drops of water falling, or use the camera’s multiple shot motor and hope you will get a splash. Use an external shutter release cable when doing this.
  11. The camera settings can be varied but as a guide try these settings. Aperture f11 shutter speed 1/200th and strobe set to 1/8th Remember that your strobe won’t sync above 1/200th second.


Water droplets can be caught in camera using strobe lighting.
Water droplets can be caught in camera using strobe lighting.

There are a number of things you can do to make this type of shot more creative, such as using milk, or using the dripkit. In terms of the photography I’m looking to showcase here it’s the refraction potential that this type of technique provides. If you’re interested in pushing your waterdrop photography a little further please check out the follow up videos to the one posted in this blog. You can find them in the refraction module.

You can also try out some of my videos for free, and join the creative photography community by signing up below!

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Red vs Blue
Using the principals of refraction can give you even more impressive results.
Using pictures in the background can lend a story to your water drop photo.
Using pictures in the background can lend a story to your water drop photo.

Simon Bond
Simon Bond

Simon Bond is a professional photographer from the UK, his work has featured on the front page of National Geographic Traveler and numerous other magazines. He is most well known for his work with the lensball, for which he has featured in national newspapers in the UK. You can find out more about lensball photography by downloading his free e-book! Simon has also produced a video course on lensball photography called Globalise, which you can buy here!