How I Do The Water Drop Shots

Feb 3, 2015
South Louisiana
I though some might be interested in how I do the water drop shots. Let me preface by saying , I am no expert. There are probably as many ways to do this as there are people doing it. This is just what works for me . I am always open to suggestions on better ways and improvement.

If you have not seen the following videos and are new to water drop photography, I recommend them. The last video on the site, is by Time Warp and is what gotten me interested in trying to capture water drop shots.
The video “ How to do water drops with one speed light” is how I started.

I started out using a zip lock bag hanging from my kitchen cabinet - see picture below. Nothing fancy as you can see. Just rigged it with what I had around.

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You can get some very interesting shots with this very simple set up . Here is an older shot using the setup in the picture above

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After some time, I wanted a little more control of the water drops and started using a burette similar to the one on this link, except mine was plastic. It gave me a bit more control over how fast the water drops fall.

I still wanted more control of how the drops fell as capturing a 2 and 3 drop collision is my goal. So I now use the Cognysis - Stop Shot. I am still working on the elusive 3 drop collision.

Whatever method used to deliver the drops, the following is the process or steps I do.

Gear: Nikon 60mm Micro lens . ( You do not have to use a macro lens, but I like that you can focus close to capture the detail of the refraction of the flower)
Tripod - A must
Speed lights - I currently use 3 speed lights . The lighting can be tricky and you have to play with the position. I usually have one light in the rear behind the background, one to right aimed across where the drops fall and one to
the left aimed at the background. Again, you don’t need three lights .
Remote shutter release

Background: White poster board as seen in my kitchen set up or White Acrylic Sheet ( which I currently use) see link below. You can put anything up against the acrylic sheet , colored paper, flash gels, pictures etc.

Large round flower such as a Gerber Daisy, Sunflower , Large Carnation, etc. ( I find the large flowers refraction fills the drop )

Note about Background: The water drop will pick up the refraction of whatever you place behind it. You are only limited by your imagination. You can use flowers, pictures, objects, anything you want.
For the flowers, you have to play with the position, but generally they are laying at water level behind where the drops are falling.

Liquid for Drops: You can use water, milk, cream , water based paint that has been diluted. I find that I need to add something to plain water to make the drops thicker and rounder. I use glycerine. Adding glycerine or guar gum or xanthan gum will give the water more viscosity and make the drops rounder. You will have to play with the amount you use.
Generally I use about 3 TBS per 2 cups of water. Depending on how hard your water is, will determine the amount you need to use.

You can also add dishwasher rise aid ( Finish, Jet Dry) to the container the drops are falling into. This will increase the surface tension and helps with the rebounding column or jet getting taller and not falling apart as quickly.

I buy at the glycerin at CVS Drug Store . Or you can from Amazon or other places on line

Container to catch drops: You can use anything. I have used a plain clear pyrex dish as you see in the kitchen shot . When you use the clear dishes you can put something colorful underneath the dish that will reflect in the water. I have used tea cups .
You don’t need anything really deep.

Coloring the drop: You can use food dye, gel your flashes , something colorful on the background that the drop will pick up the colors.


Now, that you have all the details on the equipment . How do you get the image.

Focus on where the drop is falling is critical. I currently do the following. I lay a ruler across the dish. I put a nut on the ruler and get the drop falling into the middle of the nut. I will then manually focus on the top edge of the nut. If the rebound column of the water is tall, I will add a pencil in the nut and focus a bit up on the pencil. Take a few test shots to make sure you have focus. Nothing more frustrating than getting a good shot that is out of focus.

A note about camera position for focus. I try to have the camera at water level. Many do this with the camera pointed down . Again, whatever works for you .

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Camera settings: f/20- to f/22 ISO around 250. At times I might up this to ISO 400.

You can use different methods for taking the shot.

The flash is going to freeze the motion, so high shutter speed is not used.

My earlier attempts I did the following:

Flash off camera in i-TTL mode with shutter speed around 1/160. I was not using a dark room.

Probably the best way to start is letting the camera trigger the flash.

Currently I use bulb mode . Flashes in manual mode at 1/124 power . I open the shutter , release the drops and then close the shutter. If you use a Stop Shot device, it can be set up to trigger when the flash fires. I have done both, camera triggering the flashes and the stop shot triggering the flashes.
I turn off the lights in the room I am in, but it is not dark , there is ambient light. You do not have to be in a dark room.

Post Processing: You will have to clean up errant water drops that might not be in focus , or blur the background a bit as at f/22 it will be fairly visible.

Be prepared for lots of frustration and LOTS and LOTS of deleted shots :) I find it very challenging , but lots of fun. No two captures are alike. You never know what you have captured.

I don’t know if I have helped or confused you.

I think if you watch the videos in the first link, it will help . I am happy to answer any questions . You are only limited by your imagination with this. Give it a try and have fun. Look forward to seeing your results.


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Cafe Ambassador
Apr 8, 2008
Rutledge, Tennessee
Real Name
What an extensive explanation of the technical details and possible techniques! Thank you so much for posting!!!

I, for one, am still spellbound by the images you have created! Impressive, an intimidating, all at the same time!

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