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In this tutorial I’m showing you how to create a cool effect of using water drops to magnify the objects beneath, creating a colorful water droplet photo.

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

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)

The Concept

OK, first things first: I need to set up my glass above the coloured sweets and place some water droplets on the glass.

I was fortunate in that I have a glass coffee table in my house but, if you’re struggling to find something to use, I recommend the glass from a large picture frame rested on some books or folders – it will do basically the same thing.

I don’t have a water dropper so I used  a sandwich bag with a small hole in the corner that I could drop the water out through. I thought that this would work fine but it turns out that the shape of the water droplet has a lot of influence on the overall result.

Here’s an image comparison of my first try at creating these waterdrops.After a little research, I discovered a technique, using a golf tee, to make much more effective water droplets.

You need to find a way 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 and then widened the hole again to allow water to pass through.

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.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 but 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 like the one below, or photos focusing on the sweets in the bowl.

To counteract this, I could either try using the focal lock or switching to manual focus.

I chose manual focus as the focal lock was still unreliable. I could just start snapping away with manual focus with the likelihood of this producing at least a few decent photos.Once I’d sorted out the focusing problem, 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 was looking for – 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; longer focal lengths force the perspective of the scene to appear closer together, allowing less of the wider angles into the photo.  Adding to this, I decided to experiment by lighting my water droplets from the side with an off camera flash.

This lightened the colours that appeared in my photo and ultimately resulted in some loss in the shape of the water droplets – not ideal.

Believe it or not, I actually started with a flash before trying it without because this is one of the occasions where I thought it would work better but I was wrong. This is only really a matter of taste, you may prefer this to the photo that I ended up choosing as my final image. Having played around with my settings I found that, so long as the camera was steady and the shutter speed was long enough (1/200), the photos would come out fine.

I did, however, want a strong contrast between the water droplets and the sweets in the background so I chose a wide aperture of f/2.8 to maximise the background blur.

I’ve mentioned it before: the most important factor in taking good photos of these water droplets was to take good care of their 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.

The photo below was shot without a flash.As you can see, the shape of the bokeh in the background is really quite nice, largely due to the wide open aperture, and the water droplets are an excellent shape.

The main problem is that it looks a little dull with too much space around the edges – in areas my bowl didn’t extend to.

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

Firstly, I cropped the image 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.

How to Create Colorful Water Drop Photos

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Hey I'm Josh, I'm Photographer in Chief here at ExpertPhotography, and I'm in charge of making sure that we provide you with the best content from the most knowledgeable photographers in the world. Enjoy the site :)

  • Michele Shank

    This is awesome! I can’t wait to try it. I’m so tired of taking pictures of cats and flowers and I don’t have enough imagination to come us with ideas like this. Thanks, Josh!

  • Cool tutorial! 🙂

  • Great tutorial! Had the same “success” with my first try, didn’t realize how important the water droplets shape was. I didn’t have a eyedropper either so I used a syringe with a hypodermic needle. Anyway, one pane glass later (broken in half), I got this result: Thanks, Josh!

  • Jamie Rey


    I am really struggling trying to photograph the water droplets. I either don’t have the right lens, or the correct distance from lens to droplets. I am going to try your golf tee and plastic bag tomorrow. I am just not able to get a good reflection in the droplets? Any suggestions? I am using an old fish tank and set it on it’s side. Inside the tank I have colorful buttons. Maybe I need a smaller subject matter? I have given my high school advanced photo students the 30 day challenge but we are doing some of them in class. So far we have done the Bokeh and Harris Shutter and they have really enjoyed them.
    Thank you!