Water drop photography: from idea to results in five easy steps

Fascinated by water photography and eager to photograph a water droplet? Get started with water drop photography by following these simple tips. Find out what skills, tools, and materials you need to get amazing pictures.

Water drop photography refers to the technique of photographing a single water droplet. It’s an artistic type of photography and it finds many fans among stock and commercial photographers. To save time and gain precision and control, many photographers choose to create their own environment for water droplet photography in the studio, using lights and dedicated tools. Nevertheless, water drop photographs can be taken in natural conditions using rain, dew, and other natural water droplet sources.

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Water drop photography requires patience, skill, and the right conditions. It’s also time-consuming and requires post-processing; but the results are spectacular. Many photographers go even further and use dye and different liquids to create a special mood or effect. Water drop photography is fun if you enjoy the process. Here’s all you need to know before starting your own water droplet experiments.

How to create a water droplet

The simplest way to photograph a water droplet is to create it yourself. You’ll need a container with water and a dropper. Many people use a bowl, tray, or bucket for the container; for dropping the water, you can use either a medical or cosmetic dropper. Professional photographers focused on this type of photography use dedicated drip kits and intervalometers to control the size of the water droplet and the time between drops.

Everything you use matters. The color of the container and the color and viscosity of the liquid are important to the process. For better results, use a more viscous liquid. Some people use milk, cola, or other drinks with higher viscosity. If you want to use water and maintain its transparency, you can use ice cubes to keep it cold. You can also add some drops of liquid soap, glycerin, sugar, or guar gum. Experiment and see what works for you. Consider combining different liquids for a creative approach.

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Think about your goal for water splash photography. If you want artistic images and creative effects, consider mixing all sorts of liquids and colors. You can add food coloring or watercolors to transform the scene into a painting. You can even add oil or nail polish for a more dramatic effect. When you illustrate a specific concept (for example, fresh drinks or beauty products), match the colors and the viscosity according to your needs. Water drop photography is often used in ads for perfumes, cosmetics, drinks, and cleaning products.

Choosing the equipment

While there’s no recipe for what gear to use when you photograph a water droplet, some things are important. Among them, a camera that allows for fast shutter speeds, a macro lens, and a tripod.

Timing is essential in water drop photography. A fast shutter speed helps you catch the perfect moment. You can set the camera’s timer to open the shutter or you can use a remote shutter release. Also, if you use an external flash, make sure it’s synchronized and fast. You can use the built-in flash on your camera, but sometimes you’ll need more than one light source.

By using macro lenses, you improve the quality of the composition. Fill the frame with the water droplet and its background, but leave aside unwanted elements. You can always crop the image later, but you’ll end up with a smaller image or a different aspect ratio if you do.

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Important settings for water drop photography

Basic settings to help you get started with water drop photography:

  • Work in manual mode
  • Keep the ISO low to avoid adding noise
  • Use a fast shutter speed
  • Use a large aperture
  • Take pictures from a short distance
  • Use a deep depth of field to keep the entire frame in focus
  • Dim the natural light and use only artificial light (built-in or external flash, or reflectors). Use a soft light and experiment with different colors. Also experiment with different positions for the light sources (behind the droplet, lateral, etc.) to create different effects.

The most important part of a water drop photograph is the focal point. You need to focus exactly on the water droplet, and this can be tricky. Take some time to calculate where the droplet will fall. Manually focus on the exact point where the droplet will be. Some people use different objects to help them find the focus point. It may take a while to synchronize everything, but after you finish setting up you can start being creative.

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Perfecting water drop photographs in post-processing

Many water drop photographs require post-processing. You’ll need to crop unwanted elements, fix exposure, eliminate any noise, and adjust the general mood of the pictures until they’re perfect. You can do all this and more with Luminar Neo, one of the best photo editing software tools for Mac and Windows.

In Luminar Neo, you can work with layers and try different presets and filters until you’re satisfied with the result. As you work, you can always compare before and after images. Luminar Neo has all the important tools for editing water drop images: Crop, Clone & Stamp, and Erase. In water droplet photography, it’s common to remove some elements from the original image. You’ll often have dust, extra bubbles, awkward shadows and lines, and unwanted reflections. It’s also possible to multiply the drops using the Clone & Stamp tool. Especially if you do stock photographs, having a clean and sharp image is a must.

The most amazing features of Luminar Neo are the filters and predefined Looks. They’re based on powerful Artificial Intelligence algorithms, so they’re efficient and save you a lot of time. Luminar Looks are grouped by genre so you can easily decide what set to use. For example, you can make water drops bright and smooth using the Aethereal Look from the Lifestyle set. Aethereal gives your image the polished aspect you see in TV commercials for silky and luxurious beauty products.

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Photo by Terry Vlisidis

Another benefit of post-processing is the possibility to change the mood of a water drop photograph. You can transform a color image to monochrome using one of the black and white Luminar Looks. If you like the color splash effect, Luminar Neo gives you all the tools to do it in only two steps:

  • Transform your color image to black and white using a B&W Look or filter. 
  • On Mac, put the Brush in Mask Erasing mode and brush out the image area where you want to see the colors; on Windows, put the Brush in Radial Mask mode and choose where you want to have a round area of color.

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Photo by Terry Vlisidis 

  • You can also change colors completely and make a basic photograph artistic. Use the Color Balance filter to transform a blue image to a green one when you don’t have time to redo the settings and take the picture again.

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Photo by Terry Vlisidis  

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Water photography and natural water droplets

Water photography is much more than photographing a water droplet in a controlled environment. Water photography connects you with our natural resources. You can find natural water droplets and enjoy a wild photo session in the middle of nature. Natural water drops might not be so spectacular as ones created in the studio, but nature has its ways of delivering amazing subjects. Besides, an outdoor photo session transforms a simple water droplet into a story.

Tell the story of a summer rain reflected in the water drops falling on flowers. Discover the morning dew and its glow, the mysteries of a waterfall, and the water that creates stalagmites. Wait for drops from a mountain spring or splashes in the ocean. Water drops are everywhere. They symbolize life, renewal, and freshness.

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Photo by Inge Maria

Natural water photography is much more challenging than taking water drop photographs in the studio. You can’t control the environment, you don’t know where and when you’ll find water drops, and you can’t change anything in the scenery. You need to be prepared and work fast. Use a high speed burst mode and take many pictures in a short period of time. Choose a sunny day to have plenty of natural light and be able to use a low ISO and high shutter speed. Engage with your subject and try different angles and perspectives, as nature is always changing.

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Photo by James Stronsky

Some photographers are so fascinated by water drop photography that they choose to do only that. Markus Reugels is one of them, and you can learn a lot from his amazing compositions. He’s more than a photographer; he’s an artist. Water drop photography requires creativity and inspiration. You have to love it and you have to enjoy working endless hours and waiting for the perfect drop. Don’t forget to catch natural water drops and see nature in action. Delicate and fragile — but the source of life on Earth — water creates outstanding shapes and reflections. 

Learning from great photographers and using the best equipment and photo color editor will help you find your own style. Download the free trial version of Luminar Neo and get started right now.

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