Splash Photography!

12 03 2010

Last year I tried my hand at Splash Photography. The above is the result of about a 3 hour process. It was not a difficult thing to do at all, and you don’t need any fancy equipment – most things you’ll find at home or at least in the local supermarket/chemist. I’ll take you through the process so you can give it a go yourself.

You’ll need:

  • Bowl (square prefarably)
  • A flat surface (Kitchen table ideally – you’ll need to be near  a sink!)
  • lots of light! You’ll be shooting at REALLY fast speeds so the more light the better
  • An SLR
  • Food colouring
  • a dropper – or prefarably a stand that can hold a bag of water…
  • A tripod (or flat surface)
  • A biro

Okay, so place a square bowl in the middle of your table. Under it, place a lot of old newspapers to absorb the unavoidable splashes you will encounter later on. Set up your tripod and camera so you have a nice view of the subject. I positioned myself just slightly above the splash point so as I could see the ‘body’ of the splash best. But you can go from whatever angle you want yourself. Set up your lights – put on all house lights, drag in lamps from wherever and if possible set up off-camera flashes. In my set up I had an open window and flash at full power to the right, a lamp to the left, a fixture light above and the camera flash itself!

Now, set your camera to a fast shutter setting (we’re taking thousands of a seconds here) and take a sample shot of the bowl. Make sure it’s bright enough and the scene isn’t cluttered. My viewfinder just hand a bit of water and the coloured background at this time. Now this is where a clamp would be perfect. If you have one lying about, place it over your bowl and place a bagful of water into it’s grip. Lightly pierce the bag (no more than a pin-pierce in diameter – you want wee drops!). The drops should fall in a regular pattern. Insert a biro into the splash epicentre and manually focus your lens to this area.

I didn’t have a clamp handy, so I had to play it by ear. I focused directly into the middle of the bowl and with a dropper full of coloured water i aimed as best I could for the center of the bowl as I used a remote shutter to fire the camera. This was pretty difficult. My timing was off 90% of the time – but limited as I was I probably couldn’t have hoped for more. being forced to use such a shallow depth of field, I missed some shots by milimeters.

The food colouring was added to the dropping water to create the colours. It’s a good idea to start bright (yellow/clear) and get progressivly darker (red>green). After this you can try your hand at milk. This isn’t easy – and is bloody pongy. But it can yield amazing results if done correctly!

Just remember, unless you have all the right geart, it has the potential to get messy. Especially with food colouring. …Took about half my skin off with white spirits trying to clean my hands, so be careful!

The Set-up


Using a homemade contraption (i.e. a plastic bag filled with water, sellotaped to a hanger, wedged between a stack of books), I eliminated the need for the dropper. Here’s a quick sample, more to follow… just need to find more lamps…



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