Water Drops




I have always wanted to play around with water drop photography. So this week I’m trying something new.

To begin I made a reflector out of white paper and a scrap piece of plywood. Then using one of my trusty little  “stick-in-a-pot” as a support I clamped some fishing line to hold the reflector at a slopping angle towards my subject.


set up


I actually tried a couple of different ideas to drop water. The first one was the coolest with a soda bottle and tube. It looked more like an IV than anything else. However, I ran across this idea and it was less trouble and seemed to work better. Again, I started with another “stick-in-a-pot” and clamped a brace to hold my water source. The source is a gallon zip-lock bag containing water. I just made a small hole in the corner of the bag with a needle.  This part is just trial and error. Start small and continue until you get the drops coming at an acceptable rate.





To catch the water I used a large pan. This actually is an old oil changing pan that I had for cleaning small parts, filled with water.  For my lights I used a key light that I had made (this will be an upcoming post) and placed it to right.  Then for my main light source I used an off camera flash controlled by a wireless flash trigger.  The flash is pointed towards the reflector and bounces back towards the drops making a very nice light.


focus test

focus test


I set up my camera with a 70-300 macro lens on a tripod with a remote. I shot these images in manual using ISO 100, speed 125 at F8. Since it would be impossible to focus automatically on the drops, I pre-focused automatically on a bolt, and then afterwards switched the lens to manual focus. The drops will continue falling in the same place, so as long as nothing moves the subject will remain in focus.






Color can be brought into the shot several different ways. One series I used colored file folders and held them between the flash and the reflector. One could also use color gels. These particular images, I changed the color in processing.






As you can see you can try this out for next to nothing in cost, by re-purposing items that you may already have lying around in the garage.  On the other hand I found some very serious water drop photographers on You Tube who had “time machines” that dropped the water drops at certain rates so that they would collide together at a precise time. They were able to make some amazing images. While those toys are certainly nice, I have a few lenses that I would rather purchase first.




  1. Edith Levy November 28, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    Wow these are great. I love this post. Thanks so much for sharing your set up with us Phillip.

    • Phillip December 5, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

      Thank you Edith. I really enjoyed it myself.

  2. Jan Winther November 29, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    Very cool Phillip. A great project for when its cold out side…lol..

    I think ill book mark this page and try it out at some point. Thanks for the tips and setup.

    • Phillip December 5, 2012 at 8:00 pm #

      Thank you Jan. You would know better than me about those cold days. (I’m knocking on wood as I write this.) I’ve taken my jacket to work a couple times already this year. You know when it might get down into the low 40s. Gosh, makes me shiver to think about it. 🙂

  3. Otto von Münchow December 5, 2012 at 11:04 am #

    It’s really fun to read how you achieved these stunning photographs with a handful of simple items. How did you time the shutter release? All the photographs are great, but my favourite is the last one. The colour is cool and the drop has quite an amazing shape.

    • Phillip December 5, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

      Thank you Otto. Adjusting both the shutter speed and the aperture in manual mode was also a question that I had as well. I go way back to the manual lenses that had a simple aperture ring on the barrel of the lens.

      Of course I can’t speak for all cameras. I own a Nikon D5000. While in Manual mode I can adjust the speed by turning the command dial on the back of the camera. To adjust the aperture I have to pressed and hold the exposure compensation button / aperture button / flash compensation button, or if you are like me the button with the + and – signs, while turning the command dial. Don’t you just love multifunctional buttons?

  4. Denise Ippolito December 6, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your set-up. I want to do these again but I don’t want to buy the expensive set -up!

    • Phillip December 6, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

      Thank you Denise. I’m always for finding a less expensive way to do something. I found some people who spent a small fortune on equipment. Then I found this zip-lock bag idea!

  5. Andrew Graeme Gould December 15, 2012 at 8:54 am #

    What a clever technique, Phillip. Very interesting to see just how you did it. I particulaly Iove that first image, which makes for such a wonderful abstraet design.

    • Phillip December 15, 2012 at 9:56 am #

      Thank you Andrew. I enjoyed the process, and look forward to trying it again.

  6. Danielle Lewis January 15, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    Brilliant, Phillip! I’m going to send my coworkers to this post so that they can understand how it’s done. Thanks.

    • Phillip January 15, 2013 at 10:42 pm #

      Thank you Danielle, I appreciate it. There is also a lot of info on YouTube that you’ll want to look up.

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