Tips for Shooting Photos of Water Droplets

Good Camera Equipment Simplifies This Tricky Photography Subject

Getty Images / Multi-bits

When making the switch from point and shoot cameras to DSLRs, one aspect of the DSLR that can be confusing is learning how to shoot some specialty photos and some special effect photos.

When shooting with the beginner-level point and shoot camera, most of your specialty options involve shooting images with certain special effect settings enabled, such as a fisheye effect or an HDR option. But with a DSLR camera, you open up some additional specialty photo options, including the ability to shoot special effect photographs that rely on specialty equipment.

One type of specialty photograph that works well with the equipment you can use with a DSLR photograph is a photo of a water droplet. It takes a good working knowledge of your camera’s settings and capabilities to capture this type of photo successfully. Read through the following tips to figure out how to use the DSLR's various features to shoot a photo of a water droplet that appears to be frozen in the air as it falls.

  • Setting up a water droplet photo. You have a couple of options for setting up this shot. You can shoot the water droplet falling into a glass (meaning you must shoot through glass) or into a bowl (meaning you don’t have to shoot through glass). With a DSLR camera, you can shoot the photo through glass, if you want, which gives you some options. Sometimes, the lighting will cause undesirable reflections in the glass, so test both methods with the available lighting before choosing one.
  • Study the droplets as they fall. It’s important when shooting this type of photo that you can exactly predict the location where the water droplet will fall, allowing you to pre-focus. Before shooting the photo, you’ll want to place a stationary object in the area just above the water, where you want to capture the water droplet as it falls, and then pre-focus on this object. This should help you achieve the sharpest possible focus. Make sure the DSLR camera holds the focus spot.
  • Use a fast shutter speed. Shoot at a fast shutter speed to stop the action sharply. Ideally, if you have enough lighting available, you’ll want to shoot in “shutter priority” mode to yield the best results. But to use a fast shutter speed, you’re going to need to have plenty of light available in the scene.
  • The background plays a key role. Put a background in place that will allow the water droplet to stand out from the background. Try to aim the lighting so it isn’t directly striking the pool of water that the droplet will fall into, or you’ll end up with an undesirable reflection.
  • Add a macro lens to your DSLR camera. Because of the close-up nature of this type of photograph, you’ll want to use a macro lens to achieve the best results. The macro lens will create the image at a 1:1 ratio, which is perfect when you’re trying to show some of the interesting curves and shapes the water droplets occupy as they fall.
  • Take your time with this tricky photo. Don’t become frustrated if the photo doesn’t come out quite right immediately. It will take several or even dozens of tries to shoot a successful photo of water droplets. As with anything else related to photography, take note of the techniques that work and those that don’t work. Be willing to learn from your mistakes, and you’re sure to get the hang of this type of photograph before too long.
  • Consider adding your own special effects. Once you’ve shot this photo successfully a few times, consider changing the parameters a bit. For example, color the water or try a liquid other than water. Shoot at a different angle.