Splash Photography: How to Capture Liquid Motion
Freezing motion using high-speed photography basically gives you magic powers!
It gives you the power to stop time and enables you to see what your eyes are otherwise unable to process.
Capturing these micro movements for a fascinating look into things happening too fast for our own vision to grasp, is simpler than you think.
We’re here to show you a simple setup for capturing the intricate and unique freeze frame drops created during a splash.
With a little patience and some help from a friend, you’ll be surprised at how easy they are to create.
- Liquid – water/milk/coffee
- A Container – glass cup/glass bowl/coffee mug
- An Object for Creating Splash – strawberries/cereal/donut
- White and black poster boards
- Food Coloring
- A Friend
- A camera with manual settings
Step 1: Set Up
This process can get particularly messy depending on the intensity of your splash, so we recommend going outside to avoid the splashy explosion from getting all over your house.
Use one poster board on the ground to set the container on, with one directly behind it acting as a backdrop, alternating between black and white depending on the shot.
Play around. It’s not always necessary to have a black or white backdrop and your environment can add interesting context.
Step 2: Fill Your Container
Place your container on top of the poster board on the ground, in front of the backdrop you just set up, and pour in your liquid of choice until it is filled to the absolute top.
We found that best splashes had containers that were completely filled to the tippy top.
Step 3: Adjust Your Camera Settings and Focus
In order to freeze motion, you are going to want to use a super fast shutter speed.
Place your camera in Shutter Priority or Manual mode, and for best results, try to stay around 1/1000 second.
Have a pal hold their finger over the spot where they intend to drop the object and focus on it, then switch to manual focus, so it won’t readjust mid-shot. This will help maintain that same focus when the splash happens.
Step 4: Grab Your Friend
You will need a friend to drop an object and create the splash while you photograph.
You can use a wireless trigger if you have one, but we still recommend having an assistant; it’s not as much fun making a mess alone.
It definitely takes some patience to snap the perfect splatter. You might find these splashes start to consume your day as you obsess over trying just one more! Be particularly nice to your assistant friend — maybe buy them their own coffee since you had them spill every drop of yours on the ground.
Step 5: Get Messy
Now comes the fun part: making the actual splash!
Maintain your focus, have your friend hold the object over the liquid-filled container so it is out of your frame, count down from three and hit the shutter (burst mode all day).
The most interesting shots usually happen in the brief moment when the object hits the liquid and breaks the surface, so try to capture more shots on the front end of the drop.
Experiment with different liquids in different containers for a variety of effects. We had a lot of fun adding food coloring drops milk. The color swirls that resulted were pretty rad. Water glass and fruit, cereal and milk, coffee and donuts – the possibilities are as big as your imagination. Have fun and keep it messy!
Article by: Lindsey Leigh Graham – The owner of Flyway Photography in Charleston, South Carolina. She’s also a photography expert for eBay.com, one of her favorite spots for all types of gear upgrades.
Want to contribute? Send your story pitch and photo samples to Laurel@photojojo.com :]