Liquid photography, when done right, can result in astonishingly spectacular results.
When done right.
Because it is one of the most difficult visual concepts to accomplish, requiring a lot of patience and practice.
Read on for how photographers have approached the task and pick up some tips along the way for your own attempts at making a photographic splash.
For her pics, she used the following:
Belenko says a light source “suitable for shooting high-speed scenes” is essential. She lit her shots with two Nikon SB-910 speedlights (since discontinued).
The flash duration becomes the shutter speed, she explains. “It won’t matter if your shutter speed is set for 1/250 of a second or for a half a minute. If there’s no ambient light available, the flash is the only visible light source. This way, the camera sensor is only exposed to the light for the duration of the flash.”
Belenko goes into further detail: “In my experience, a short enough flash duration for water splashes is about 1/4000th of a second…This is the speed that helps freeze liquid in motion and keeps all the drops sharp and clear.”
Once she had her scene composition in place, using her still life props on a wooden board set against a colorful background, leaving empty space for splashes, she glued everything in place.
But be careful if you intend on using a glue gun. It “can be a rather capricious tool...Try not to leave too many visible glue spots. They not only can expose your photography trick but also look rather messy.” It’s not so much of a problem for acrylic ice cubes. “After you make a splash, transparent glue will look almost like water.”
She then turned her scene upside down for an eventual 180 flip in post-processing, using wooden frames as improvised supports.
Her lighting set-up was:
The key light
One electronic flash inside a strip box on the right side to light the blue background.
The fill light
The second flash behind a large diffuser on the left side to lift the shadows and add volume.
Belenko suggests lowering the power of the flash to 1/16 or even 1/128 if this feature is available on your flash unit. “This provides a very short pulse that will freeze the motion of the liquid and get you a stunning splash photo.”
She mounted the camera on a tripod and set her camera to burst mode (continuous high) to take a few shots in a row, and she used manual focus.
Belenko set the shutter speed to the flash sync speed.
She took a test shot to establish the smallest aperture that could be utilized without underexposing the image. This lets her get the appropriate depth of field for the shots.
It all comes down to this!
First, she took a “clean shot.”
Then, she splashed water onto the limes and mint leaves!
She repeated this a number of times, and suggests experimenting with different shape glasses and bowls for splashing the water.
Belenko says you can take your clean shot and place the images featuring the splashes you like best as separate layers above it, using Layer Mask in Photoshop to conceal the parts that should be hidden.
She took one shot that had a splash forming an arc above limes and combined it with another splash flying above them.
Lastly, by adding in a couple of flying drops “to make the dynamic more prominent” and adjusting the colors and contrast, she had her final image.
SPLASHING OUT: A VIDEO DEMONSTRATION
Check out Dustin Dolby's entertainingly humorous video tutorial on using a black plexiglass, diffusers and electronic flash.
Like Belenko, Dolby also illustrates the possibilities with composites, such as taking the eye catching midair droplets in one exposure and putting it in another image.
He sums up the water photography process as "You've got to make the integral set-up, then splash for days, and hope that something beautiful comes out of it."
SOMETIMES, WATER AND OIL DO MIX
Digital Camera World has handy tips for indoor photographic fun using basic household items to create dazzling photos.
DCW explains: "The discipline that comes from trying out this project will extend through your other styles of photography, so shooting delicate abstracts is of great overall benefit."
The process itself is far simpler than the water splash tasks. For this, just fill a tumbler with water (or other liquid) and add a drop of liquid dish soap to it. Stir, and then wait about 10 minutes for the mixture to settle before adding some drops of cooking oil.
SAFETY NOTICE: Throughout all your own attempts at liquid photography, take heed of Belenko’s advice: “Keep liquid away from any electronic equipment and especially from your camera.”
Have fun experimenting!