How to Photograph Water Splash – Photography 101

Dive into the world of high-speed photography as we show you how you can capture a fruity splash with your flash.

High-speed photography is a fantastic way to capture some spectacular effects. Freezing the moment an object breaks the water’s surface makes for stunning splash photography.

The setup may look complex, but all that’s required is a bit of preparation beforehand, some photography and flash know-how, and a great deal of patience! We used a macro lens but a standard zoom will do the job.

We’ll show you how to create your own tabletop studio and set up your camera and flash to capture some high-speed action. Our aim is to capture the cherry just after it’s broken the surface of the water, but before it sinks to the bottom of the container.

In order to freeze the action at the exact moment the cherry splashes into the water we’ll be using off-camera flash. By lighting the splash from the side we’ll get more depth and avoid capturing nasty looking shadows.

This isn’t an exact science, so getting the timing right is a bit of an experiment. So what are you waiting for? Grab some fruit and let’s get started.

1 Manual for full control
In manual mode, set shutter speed to the maximum flash sync speed (1/180-1/250 sec, depending on your EOS). Set a narrow aperture (eg f/8) for a good depth of field and set ISO low for noise-free shots.

2 Master flash
To set the pop-up flash as Master, go to Flash Control Settings and enable Flash Firing. Select Built-in Flash Func, scroll down to Wireless Func, press Set. Select the option to trigger the off-camera flash only.

3 Set the Slave
Set your flashgun to the Slave wireless setting and the same channel as camera. Select Manual flash power and you can adjust the output via the camera’s Flash Settings menu. We started off with 1/4 power.

4 Pre-focus
Grab a spoon and submerge it in the water, roughly where your subject will fall, and pre-focus, then switch your lens to MF to lock the focus. It may take a couple of attempts to achieve accurate results.

Final Tips

Diffuse the light
Clear surfaces, like glass, can be a challenge to shoot as they’re so reflective. If you fire a burst of flash in the direction of the glass container, you’ll capture lots of imperfections in the glass – and plenty of fingerprints and dust, despite cleaning it before you started. Position your reflector’s translucent diffuser panel between the setup and off-camera flash to soften the light.

Flash and exposure
To capture splash photography without motion blur we need to use flash as this can capture much faster movement than your camera’s fastest shutter speed. For best results you’ll need to shoot in a fairly dark room, so turn off the lights and close the curtains. Manually set your flashgun to 1/4 power, take some test shots, then fine-tune the exposure by adjusting the aperture to darken or brighten the image.