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Photographing abstract water images

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Category: Creative

How to shoot abstract water images - Here's how you can shoot abstract water images a really easy way.

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Words and images by Barry Chignell of Free Photo Resources.


  1. External Flash
  2. Constant light source
  3. TTL Cord (from Phottix)
  4. Waterproof sheet (or bin liner) for protection of the carpet!
  5. Tea towel or cloth for cleaning up spillages
  6. Tripod for camera- Vanguard's Alta Pro 263AT has a central column that can go from zero to 180-degree angles which means you'll be able to get right over the top of your bowl of water.
  7. Jug
  8. Tripod for external flash
  9. Macro lens
  10. Bowl for the water
  11. Food colouring

Abstract water images
As you can see from the photo above, my set up is hardly professional but it works! I used both a constant light source as well as external flash so I can use the fastest shutter speed possible, the settings were:
  • f/13
  • 1/8000 sec
  • 400 ISO
I used my Tamron 70-300mm lens as this allowed my to place the lens (and obviously the camera) far enough above the bowl of water to be safe from any splashing, but also allowed me to zoom in close enough to capture the effect.

Abstract water

I connected the camera to my external flash using a TTL lead as I wanted the source of the flash to be ‘off camera’. The flash was set to full power to make the water slightly more translucent.

The light (number 2 in the photo) is part of a lighting kit but it could be substituted with a lamp with a strong bulb.

Shooting Abstract water shots

The bowl was filled about two thirds full, mostly in an attempt to reduce splashing (which failed) but also because it meant that if I stuck to the same water level each time I had to refill it that messing about with the focus was kept to a minimum. If you struggle with focusing, try floating something on the surface and manually adjust the focus, then remove the object and wait for the water to settle.

Photographing water

Next I filled a small jug with water and added food colouring and glitter. The main reason for using a jug is that you can be quite accurate as to where you pour the water and it creates a good effect when it hits the surface of the water.

Another way in which I found you could easily control the timing of the drops of water was to dip a kitchen towel or other cloth and then cause the water to drop by gently squeezing. This was messy though and so I would really recommend the first option!

After a while I started to swirl the water with a BBQ skewer and then started to gently throw things into the bowl. If you do this you need to really take care if you're in your living room with a light coloured carpet! You can get some interesting effects from it though.

I also refilled the bowl every couple of shots so I could control how much colour was in the water for each shot.

The main problem I had was taking the photo at the right time, I did not have anyone to help with this and a self-timer would not have made it any easier. In the end I decided to do it the old-fashioned way and pour with one hand and take the shot with the other.

Find the tripods and bags to suit your needs at www.vanguardworld.com


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