Photography in the dog days of summer: Water droplets

Photography in the dog days of summer: Water droplets

We seem to be heated all throughout the country weather-wise. It’s time to take shelter with the air conditioner when it gets this hot (we’ve been in the 100s). Landscape and wildlife photography take a bit of a back seat. What to do, what to do with my camera while indoors? I’m going to pen a few articles with some ideas. Here’s the first one on water droplet photography.

Water droplet photography

Water droplet photography is ideal when you’re stuck indoors. Go to your local framer and ask for a sheet of picture frame glass. A 16×20 inch is a good size. I have a 20×30-inch piece I use. If you don’t want to buy a specific piece of glass for this you can take down a frame from your wall and ‘borrow’ the glass for your project. You can support a piece of glass with a couple of boxes. Make sure the glass is level so your water drops don’t run away from you. It’s important that the glass is treated properly.

Early in the photo process I used a white background for these peaches. Nice but the contrast of the pure white grabs too much attention for me. Time to keep working it.

Rain X

Part of the secret to good-looking droplets is treating your glass with Rain X. Rain X is helps make water run off car windshields quickly. It has the added benefit of making the water bead up on the glass, making the shape better for recording subjects in the droplets. Follow the directions to spray on the glass, wipe off and polish dry. Then, wait at least a half-hour before allowing the surface to become wet. Note that Rain X is volatile , so make sure your space has proper ventilation or treat your glass outdoors.

Spray bottle

You might want to employ a spray bottle to wet the glass. It’s a tip I learned the hard way. Fill your bottle a day or two before you have your photo session. If you fill up the bottle from the tap and start to use it right away you could end up with tiny air bubbles in your water drops. That caused me to do a fair amount of unnecessary retouching on one of my projects. Not sure if maybe you started with distilled water rather than getting it from the faucet this problem might not rear its ugly head.

mandarin oranges on a red towel macro water droplet photo
This was my favorite image from this photo session. A red towel was placed under the set and mandarin oranges were placed under the glass. Colors were enhanced a little in post production using Adobe Photoshop. In addition, small dust spots and stray reflections were removed.

Alternate drops

After playing with the spray bottle with straight water I tried a mixture of glycerin and water. I used distilled water mixed 50/50. The mixture was placed in a dropper bottle. The dropper allows for placing drops exactly where you want them. With the combination of glycerin and water placed on the Rain X treated glass my water drops held their shape.

macro water droplet photo green apple
Green apple on a red towel. I lowered the camera to fill the frame below the water drops with the apple.

Subject matter

Anything colorful will make for some cool shapes and patterns. This is one of those projects where you start with flowers as the natural first subjects and start experimenting with anything that will fit under the glass. I raided my fruit drawer and used various combinations of fruit.

Camera setup

You can handhold your camera and lens. I find more control when mounted especially if you want to increase the depth of field by using focus stacking. For me, the camera works best when directly over the water drops. It’s also helpful if using a macro lens and trying to accomplish some focus stacking as part of your capture process. See the photo for my set and description of gear. Camera Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III with a 60mm macro lens.

macro water droplet set
A Platypod eXtreme with two Platypod handles support a Platyball. A third Handle uses a Benro ball head to support the camera. An Ultra has a gooseneck holding a clip to keep a white reflector in place. A 100 watt Zhiyun COB LED lights the set. For more on the Zhiyun light see my review. Note the eXtreme is clamped to the table with a woodworking clamp!

Yours in Creative Photography,


P.S. This is a good project when it’s too cold to venture forth as well!