Your Weekend Project – Drip Drip Drop!

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I just had way too much fun taking pictures of drops of water. This is a GREAT rainy-day (or cold winter day) photography project. It’s also a great teaching method if you have children or teens interested in photography!

Here’s what you need:

- A camera (naturally!)
- A tripod
- An external flash
- A vessel to hold water (I used a colored glass pie plate)
- A reflective surface such as a hand-held reflector or just a piece of white paper or poster board
- A hanger
- A ziplock plastic sandwich bag
- Tape
- A safety pin
- A marker, pen or pencil
- Water

What you see here is the setup I used at my kitchen table (the water in the pie plate is cloudy because I tried dripping milk into the water – the effect was… gross. So! Not recommended.). I hung the hanger from a boom arm attached to one of my light stands, but you can use a plant hook or position your project in some other area where you can hang stuff from overhead. I put a triple-layer of tape over the top corner of the plastic bag and poked a hole through it, filled it about halfway with water, then hung it up on the hanger (the tape is to prevent the hole from tearing through and creating a splashdown).

Next I filled the pie plate about halfway with water and positioned it under the plastic bag. Then I braced the reflector directly behind the pie plate (with the vase we keep on the table), and set the tripod up directly in front of the setup.

Then I put my camera (Canon 7D) in Manual mode, set the aperture at f/8, the ISO at 100, and the shutter speed at 1/250 (the flash sync speed for my camera). I set my Canon 580EX II flash to ETTL, slaved it to the camera, and stopped down the power by about two stops. I put the camera on the tripod (I was using the Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens that came with the camera) and positioned the flash in front and to the left of the pie plate (on its little plastic foot), aimed directly at the reflector.

Finally, I poked a tiny hole in the corner of the plastic bag with the safety pin, to allow a steady stream of drips to fall.

In order to focus on the drops, I put the lens on Manual focus (auto-focus would just never keep up). I positioned the tip of the marker right where the drops were hitting the water, and focused on that. From that point forward, unless I moved or bumped any part of the setup (which I did, repeatedly), the drops would stay in focus. If any changes occurred, I just re-focused on the marker again.

Then it was just a matter of shooting, shooting, shooting, trying to get the timing right. (Click on any image to see a larger version.)

I was surprised at how easy it was – literally the VERY first shot I took was the one at the beginning of this article. I slightly increased and decreased the flash’s power to see if that made a difference, and switched the reflective surface from white to translucent to soft gold to see how that would affect the image. I kind of love how you can see the text from the bottom of the pie plate come through in some of the images.

This is a really fun project, so I encourage you all to give it a try this weekend as your weekend project! Please share your photos with us on our Facebook Page or Flickr Group.

Have fun!

All photos copyright Tiffany Joyce.

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  • Dennis

    Fantastic, Tiffany! How did you get that lovely blue tone in the image?  Was the plate coloured blue?


  • Anonymous

    Hi Dennis, thanks for your kind words!  Yes, the pie plate is made of blue glass which I thought would work well for the project.