How to Make and Photograph Rainbow Water Droplets on a CD

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Do you enjoy doing a nice experiment, that gives you colorful photographs? In this article, you’ll discover how you can create a photo of rainbow water droplets using simple household objects and your imagination. The technique uses the principles of refraction and applies it in an easy to use way.

A nice experiment to do while it’s raining outside, create your own water drops and photograph them in an experimental way. So it’s time to setup your home laboratory, and photograph droplets on a CD!

colorful CDs - How to Make and Photograph Rainbow Water Droplets on a CD

You can make some captivating rainbow colors by using this technique.

What you need to photograph water droplets on a CD

As mentioned, you’ll need just some simple household items to carry out this photo of rainbow water droplets. You’ll also need some camera equipment as well!

  • CD – This is what’s needed to create the rainbow effect, make sure the shiny surface is clean.
  • Water dropper – Any simple dropper will do, you could use an eye dropper perhaps.
  • A glass of water – You’ll need a supply of water handy.
  • A flashlight – Any flashlight or headlamp will work for this technique.
  • A camera – Your camera must be capable of doing long exposures.
  • A macro lens – This works best with a macro lens or a camera with a built-in lens capable of close-up photography.
  • A tripod – This is a long exposure technique, so you will need a tripod.
  • External shutter release – In a pinch, you could use the camera’s self-timer, but an external shutter release will be better.
How to Make and Photograph Rainbow Water Droplets on a CD - gear needed for this technique

These are the items you’ll need for this technique.

The method

The following describes the simple method you’ll need to follow when creating this style of photo. The most important thing is you’ll need a dark room.

  1. Place your CD on a flat surface, this can either be a tabletop or the floor.
  2. Add water droplets to the surface of the CD using the dropper. Make sure they make a nice pattern.
  3. Now put your camera on the tripod.
  4. Position the camera and tripod so that the camera is looking straight down onto the CD.
  5. Focus the camera using manual focus and live view. Keep the camera in manual focus so that you retain the focus position. If your camera is on autofocus, when you turn the light off and hit the shutter, you will lose the focus.
  6. Your camera should be set to expose for around 20-30 seconds, the aperture will need to be around f/10-14. This aperture allows for both the long exposure and keeps the depth of field for the water droplets wide enough to ensure they’re all focused.
  7. Now switch the light off. Ensure the room is as dark as possible, so avoid one where there might be light seeping in from outside.
  8. Hit the shutter or trigger to begin the exposure.
  9. Turn your flashlight on. Make sure the light does not shine up directly into the lens element, use a lens hood if you have one.
  10. Keep the angle of the light roughly vertical and slightly down towards the surface.
  11. Now circle the light source around the CD, and let the magic happen! Adjust the length of time you do this for depending on how bright you wish the photograph to be.
  12. Repeat and adjust as necessary. You may wish to try different angles for the torch (flashlight), the higher the torch the more light you’ll see on the reflective surface of the water drop. Using different camera angles may also work well too.
How to Make and Photograph Rainbow Water Droplets on a CD - camera setup

The basic setup for this photo looks like this. It will of course be dark when you expose the image.

Other water droplet experiments

This is not the only way to photograph droplets, there are in fact a host of different methods out there. Here is a brief list you could also try out.

  • Water droplet – Taken using water dripping into a tub, and captured using a strobe. This is a great technique to try out.
  • Water droplets on glass – Use refraction to make amazing photos with water drops, and repeating patterns.
  • Water droplets after the rain – This one you’ll need to go outside for. Photographing droplets on flowers or spiderwebs always looks nice.
How to Make and Photograph Rainbow Water Droplets on a CD - color water drops

There are lots of other ways you can photograph droplets. This is taken with droplets on glass.

Start creating your water droplet photos!

Photographing droplets is a lot of fun, and I hope you enjoy trying out this idea. Have you ever tried photographing droplets before? Did you use a CD to do it, or one of the other methods mentioned in this article.

As always I’d love to see your images in the comments section, together with any comments you may have.

How to Make and Photograph Rainbow Water Droplets on a CD

Using closer framing, or different angles can change the look of the photo.

How to Make and Photograph Rainbow Water Droplets on a CD

Changing the angle of the flashlight to a higher angle means you’ll catch the light reflection on the CD’s. Play with it until you get the look you like.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

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

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