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Looking for ways to make more creative images without leaving your home? Colourful water drop photography is the solution, and this article will show you how to create something stunning with just a few simple tools.

The reason behind using water droplets is that they create little wide angle lenses. They pick up the background, showing it entirely in a small area. By using many water droplets, we are able to replicate it over and over again.

There are plenty of ways in which you can customise this to come up with your own original and creative water drop photography.

What You’ll Need

  • A bowl of coloured sweets or stones
  • A pane of glass (table, picture frame, etc.)
  • Water
  • Water dropper or sandwich bag with a golf tee
  • Flash (optional)
  • Tripod

Water Droplets

First things first: This photograph will be shot from the top down. This means the camera will hover over the glass, which is itself above the sweets. What you need to do is place the glass first. If you are using a table with a glass top, just move it into a good position.

I was fortunate to have a glass coffee table in my house. If you’re struggling to find something to use, I recommend the glass from a large picture frame. Resting this on some books or two chairs will basically do the same thing.

The first time I tried this, I used a sandwich bag with a small hole in the corner that I could use to drop the water. However, using this method created an unattractive water droplet. The size and shape of the droplets have a huge influence on the overall effect and image.

Here’s an image comparison of my first try at creating water drop photography.

Method

After a little research, I discovered a technique using a golf tee to make much more effective water droplets. A golf tee will allow you to control the amount of water you’re using and give it a path to form a droplet in.

I widened the hole in my bag by pushing a golf tee through it. Leaving the golf tee there, I was able to better control the drops. After a little bit of trial and error, I was able to make much more uniform water droplets which reflected the shapes and colour of the sweets below much more accurately.

A diptych of a first attempt of creating water drop photography

The final time, I used a water pipet and a few toothpicks. The pipet was used to pick up a small amount of water, allowing me to drop them much more precisely onto the glass. On droplets that were not as attractive, I used the toothpicks to fix them.

Any method you choose will take a long time. One, to drop the water where you want. Two, to make it look how you want. In the next image, you’ll see where we started and compared to the last image, it is a world apart.

NB: If you set up your camera beforehand, using the right focal length and framing, you’ll see how much space you need to fill. It is a waste of time creating more droplets than you actually need.

Next, we found that by using a bowl, we couldn’t get far enough from the sweets and glass without the edges showing. We wanted to show as many water droplets as possible. We traded the bowl for a tray, which allowed us to move further away.

Focus

Once I had the droplets set up as I wanted them, I started to experiment with the focus. I knew that the effect I wanted to achieve was for the drops to act like little magnifying glasses. However,  it wasn’t that easy.

The autofocus on my camera got confused about what I was trying to take a photo of and would, more often than not, fail. It produced images where the focus would fall on the sweets in the bowl. To counteract this, I could either try manually focusing using live view and then switch to manual focus.

A colorful image of waterdrops in front of brightly colored sweets

Once I’d found the correct focus, it was time to play with the light and positioning of my sweets.

As you can see from the photo above, the shape of the bowl can be made out in the photo which wasn’t what I wanted. I raised my bowl closer to the glass with the aid of some photo frames and a large book.

To make sure that I was only including the sweets in my background, I used the longest focal length available in my lens. A longer focal lengths force the perspective of the scene to appear closer together, allowing less of the wider angles into the photo.

 

I thought it would work better but I was wrong. This is only really a matter of taste, but you may prefer this to the photo that I choose as my final image.

A cool water droplet arrangement with circles of brightly colored sweets with droplets on a bokeh background

Settings

Having played around with my settings, I found that the photos would come out fine if so long as the camera was on a tripod and the shutter speed was long enough (1/200). One of the overall styles I wanted was a strong contrast between the water droplets and the sweets.

To help me achieve this, I chose a wide aperture of F/2.8. This also gives me a maximum amount of background blur.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the most important factors in taking good water droplet images was to give them a good shape. To get the best results, I found that taking the camera a few inches further away from the glass, while still using the longest focal lengths, worked best.

This gave me the following image.
A cool water drop photo arrangement with circles of brightly colored sweets with droplets on a bokeh background

As you can see, the shape of the bokeh in the background is really quite nice. This is mainly due to the wide open aperture, and the excellent shape of the water droplets. The main problem is that it looks a little dull. there is also too much space around the edges where you can see where the bowl can be seen.

To come to my final water drop photography image, I just needed a small amount of post-production.

Firstly, I cropped the image. This is so that you can only really see the colour. Then I used the repair tool to fix a few blemishes, which were scratches on the old coffee table. I boosted the exposure slightly, added a very small amount of contrast and raised the black point to make the colours appear richer.

These were the only adjustments I made and, although it looks as though I may have, I didn’t adjust the saturation at all.

Here’s the final image.A fun water drop photography shot of circles of brightly colored sweets with droplets on a bokeh background

If you liked this creative photography project idea, why not check out our 30 day challenge with 30 different creative projects to try out yourself. We have a great one on creating cool glitch art photos too!

A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:

Thank you for reading...

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Thanks again for reading our articles!

Craig Hull

Craig is a photographer currently based in Budapest. His favourite photographic areas are street and documentary photography. Show him a darkroom and he'll be happy there for days. As long as there are music and snacks. Find him at craighullphotography.co.uk and Instagram/craighullphoto

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