Splash Photography – My Setup, Tips, and Tricks!

Posted by in Photography | December 13, 2011

Upon my travels through the world wide web I’ve stumbled upon a very creative and inspiring type of photography. Splash Photography or Water Photography as most would describe it, can produce some absolutely awesome pictures. You can give that ordinary item an extraordinary edge! Follow along as I take you through my process of capturing these great shots! Don’t get discouraged, it can take time, patients, and luck. Remember, water photography will never produce the same shot twice. So if your using a continuous lighting setup, make sure your camera is set to shoot multiple frames per second. If your using strobes or flashes you better hope you have good timing and coordination!

Items Required for Splash Photography

  • 3 Lighting Sources
  • A Tripod
  • Cable Release
  • Fish Tank
  • Squeegee
  • Metal Coat Hanger
  • Clamps
  • DSLR Camera

My Setup

I took a DIY approach to this setup. Everything used was either lying around the house or purchased inexpensively at the hardware store. My total bill was a whopping $15. I only had to purchase some 90-watt halogen bulbs, the 100-watt incandescent bulbs just wouldn’t cut it.

Squeegee The GlassI started by placing the fish tank on a sturdy stand and filled it with water, as you fill the tank up you’ll notice small bubbles forming a layer between the glass and the water. Use the squeegee to wipe those bubbles away, we don’t want those showing in our final picture.


Bottle Attached To Coat HangerNow take the coat hanger and straighten it out (yes that shirt you just threw on the floor needs a new hanger, this one will be unusable once we’re done with it!). Straighten the hanger in such a way that it can rest on the sides of the fish tank and still have a long piece dropping down into the center of the tank.


Bottle Hanging in Fish TankOnce you have the hanger all bent out of shape and formed the way you like it, tape your item onto the end and dunk it into the fish tank. (I sure hope you picked a waterproof item). Get everything positioned the way you like it and frame up your shot. The 2×4’s in my pictures were used just to make my hanger sit a little higher out of the water. Now comes the tricky part, lighting.

Jeff's Splash Photography SetupI choose to use 3 lights for my setup, you may want more if you have them. But in my case, all I had were 3. Take the first light and position it to the camera left at about a 45 degree angle to your subject. To get my desired brightness it ended up being about 12″ from the fish tank. I considered this to be my key light, I worked all other lights around this main key light.


Splash Photography BacklightHere I added another light directly across from the key light, slightly closer and lower to the glass to increase the back-lighting effect.



Jeff's Splash Photography SetupI had to add 1 more filler light to brighten up the overall scene and make the bubbles pop. I’m not sure of the wattage, but it’s one of the common halogen work lights that can be purchased at the hardware store, very inexpensive. I positioned this light on the floor about 3 feet below the fish tank aimed up towards the subject.


Jeffs Splash Photography Setup!There, that wasn’t so hard now was it? Now comes the fun part! Shooting!
I had to use an ISO setting of 800, just because my DIY lighting setup wasnt bright enough to shoot at such a fast shutter speed. My current setup max’s out at 1/800sec @ F/5.6 – ISO800. Ideally you should shoot Splash Photography at 1/1000 sec +, but my lighting wont let that happen and I get to much noise shooting at a higher ISO.

Now take a small cup or bottle and fill it with water, slowly pour the water around your subject from about 6-12″ above the water. Experiment with height as each gives a unique result. Hold down that shutter button and start to capture these high speed frames, each with it’s own stunning outcome!

Upload your photos onto your computer and edit using your favorite post processing program. I use Adobe Lightroom 3 and love it! If you haven’t yet noticed, your subject is upside down. Rotate your image’s and process to your hearts content!

There you have it, how I shot my splash photography!
I hope you enjoyed this article and get to experiment for yourself, it really is a fun project to do on a snowy or rainy afternoon!

Please post your own splash photography in the comments below! I’d love to see some links to your pictures!

My Final Thoughts

  • Shoot at a minimum of 1/800 sec. exposure
  • Play with your lighting, simple changes can produce drastic results.
  • Pre-Focus on your subject then switch to Manual Focus (We want the subject in focus, not the bubbles)
  • Use continuous shooting to capture multiple frames per second
  • Avoid pouring the water in front of the subject
  • Check often and make sure your manual focus is accurate
  • Shoot up and at a 45 degree angle to get the reflection across the surface of the water
  • Be aware of the foreground reflections, if they are noticeable with your eye’s, the camera can and will see them.

My Results

Splash Coca-Cola Bottle By Jeff Rendek

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