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9 Water Photography Ideas to Make a Splash

So you want to make a splash in photography, well photographing with water is a great place to start. This is a broad area of photography, with many creative possibilities. In this article, you’ll see a selection of ideas for water photography, and how you can try those out yourself.

Will you want to turn your home into a lab to create stunning droplet photos, or prefer the serene calm of long exposure landscape photography? Let’s dive into water photography, and makes some great photos!

9 Water Photography Ideas to Make a Splash

You can photograph drops of water mid-air using a strobe.

1 – Water drop photography

This is a popular technique you can experiment with at home, and there are lots of YouTube guides available on how to do this. This is a form of macro photography where you’ll photograph water drops falling into a tub of water. The best results are achieved when combining the technique with off-camera flash.

When combined with an interesting background you can use this as a form of refraction photography, with the background refracted inside the droplet of water. Do you want to push this to another level more? Then look no further than the dripkit, which produces amazing results!

Read this dPS article for more on water droplet photography: Beginner’s Guide to Water Droplet Photography

2 – Long exposure landscapes

Long exposure photography has been one of the most popular forms of photography among landscape photographers for a long time. Head out to the coast, or perhaps to your nearest local river and see what you can do! A tripod is mandatory if you want to try this, and a good ND filter is a great idea as well.

  • Capture motion – Exposures of around 1/2 to one second in length will capture the movement of water. For example, waves moving in and out along the coast.
  • Silk water – Water cascading down a waterfall can be made to look like silk with exposures between one and two seconds.
  • Flat seascapes – Those wishing to make the ocean flat need to expose for 10-seconds or longer.
9 Water Photography Ideas to Make a Splash

This coastal scene is captured using a shutter speed of a third of a second.

This is a great way to get amazing photos, especially when you are photographing a rocky coastline. Take care of yourself and your camera gear in these areas though, as accidents can happen. Along the coast, find out what the tide times are so you don’t get caught by the rising water.

Another tip is to watch the waves for around 30 minutes before you start photographing. Waves always come in cycles, with a sequence of much larger waves present in this cycle. You need to know where the force of these larger waves will land before you get too close to the water’s edge.

3 – Freezing objects

Freezing objects is an interesting way to take still life photos, and present an inanimate object in a creative way. As ice is transparent you will be able to see your object inside the ice, although good lighting is needed to make the photo come to life.

Once you have your object frozen in ice use a light source such as a spotlight, or a strobe to backlight it. This works well for many objects, but things you’d find in the sea like fish or seashells would be most interesting. In the winter, of course, you can go out and photograph ice in nature; icicles and ice waterfalls all look amazing.

9 Water Photography Ideas to Make a Splash

Freezing fish in ice is a great way to photograph them as a still life. These fish were bought from a local market prior to freezing.

4 – Photographing in the rain

Most photographers will avoid photographing in the rain, concerned that it can damage their camera. This is a valid concern, although with the right precautions there are some amazing photos to be taken. There are several options for protecting your camera from the rain, which you can buy, or you can use a simple plastic bag and a rubber band.

Rain can add a lot of mood to the scene, and shots of people with umbrellas are classic images. In order to pick up the rain itself try photographing against the light, and the rain falling from the sky will give your photo more impact.

9 Water Photography Ideas to Make a Splash

The rain shows up well in this scene because it is lit up by a nearby street light.

5 – Mixing oil and water

Back in your home laboratory, it’s time to mix some opposites together. Adding oil to water is a great way for you to make interesting texture photos. In order to create a series of photos of oil and water, follow these steps.

  • Add water and oil to a glass container, one with a clear transparent base.
  • Bridge the container over a surface, you could use two piles of books to create the supports.
  • The oil will make a large bubble, and not mix with the water. To create smaller oil bubbles add liquid soap and mix the solution.
  • Below the glass container add your background image, this will add color to your photo.
  • Use a macro lens to focus on an area of oil, the more circular shapes the better.
  • Either use a strong spotlight, or a strobe linked by radio trigger to your camera. This will be used to light your photo.
9 Water Photography Ideas to Make a Splash

Oil and water don’t mix, which can make some nice colorful texture photos.

6 – Water droplets on glass

A similar approach to mixing oil with water is to photograph water droplets on glass. This form of water photography uses refraction to create its effect. The following steps are a guide for creating this style of photo.

  • Use a clear piece of glass, one from a picture frame would work well.
  • Create two piles of books, and place the glass over the piles. Make sure there is a gap to photograph through in the middle.
  • For better results, smear some windscreen rain repellent onto the glass. This hydrophobic substance will make the water droplets form more circular drops. Once you have added the repellent allow it to dry for a few minutes.
  • Add the water to the glass surface. To be more precise use a water dropper, or alternatively use a water spray bottle.
  • Add a background image behind the glass, choose one that will create an interesting refraction inside the droplets.
  • Use a macro lens, and focus on an area of glass that has some interesting water drops. Focus the camera on the water drops.
  • Use an externally triggered strobe to light up the image behind the glass, and expose your photograph. As a guide or starting point, an aperture of f/9, a shutter speed of 1/60th and an ISO of 200 were the settings I used for these images.
9 Water Photography Ideas to Make a Splash

In this photo the South Korean flag is refracted inside water drops on a glass surface.

7 – Water photography with reflections

Water photography can provide some of the best reflections out there. Pick a nice calm day and head to your nearest reflection pool! A few tips that will help enhance your photos are listed below.

  • After the rain – Immediately after it’s stopped raining is one of the best times to photograph. Puddles offer some of the best reflection pools you can find, and they only form after the rain.
  • Calm days – Larger bodies of water such as ponds or lakes will also reflect, though these need to be visited on days when there is no wind at all so the lake is perfectly still and calm.
  • Get the angle – Getting closer to the body of water will improve the reflection. The angle of incident light is equal to the angle of the reflected light, so get low to the surface of the water.
  • Polarize the light – To really bring out the reflection using a circular polarizing filter will make the reflection much stronger (just be careful to turn it the right direction otherwise it will eliminate the reflection).
9 Water Photography Ideas to Make a Splash

Rice paddy fields form amazing reflection pools. The calm of dawn was the perfect time to photograph this location.

8 – Making a splash with water photography

Water can of course look incredible when it impacts something, or something impacts it. The splash this creates needs a fast shutter speed to capture and freeze it in motion. There are a few popular methods that you can try with splash water photography.

  • Drop an object  Dropping objects into water is another twist on still life photography. The moment of capture is made using a strobe, with objects often dropped into a fish tank or perhaps a wine glass.
  • Throw your hair – This can be great fun to play with on the beach. The idea is to put your head in the water, then throw your hair back (or get a model to do so for you). The water droplets this creates can now be photographed, they’ll be picked up better against the light (with backlighting).
  • Throw water at an object – Here you pick an object, or even a person and throw water at it or them. Catch the moment of impact, and you could have a good photo. This works best when done with strobes to light up the water.
Image: Dropping objects into water can make a real splash!

Dropping objects into water can make a real splash!

9 – Underwater photography

This niche area of photography allows you to fully immerse! Underwater photography is not cheap though, and to get professional results you’ll need expensive housing for your dSLR, which will also house a light source that can be taken down to the ocean floor.

Photographing with a model can also be fun underwater, once again providing you have the equipment!

9 Water Photography Ideas to Make a Splash

Underwater photography is fun and challenging. With better equipment the results can be very impressive.

Now it’s your turn!

With so many possibilities for water photography projects, which one will you choose? When you’ve had a chance to try one of more of these ideas come and share your experience, and of course your photos.

Already tried taking photos like this? Then share your work in the comments section below, we love to see your photos.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Simon Bond
Simon Bond

is a specialist in creative photography techniques and is well known for his work with a crystal ball. His work has featured magazines including National Geographic Traveler. With over 8 years of experience in lensball photography, Simon is an expert in this field. Get some great tips by downloading his free e-book!
Do you want to learn about crystal ball photography? He has a course just for you! Get 20% off: DPS20.

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