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Double Splash Photo Tutorial by otas32 Double Splash Photo Tutorial by otas32
My current splash studio:
[link]

For my own work on Double Splash Photography please visit my website:

DOUBLE SPLASH PHOTOGRAPHY GALLERY

Ok, I know I'm relatively new to the Double Splash Photo world, and that there are many many really good experts out there who get a lot more impressive results than what I do still being a newbie at this.
But still, I got asked by several people to help them out with this, and I know from personal experience just how frustrating it is not to know where to start being able to solve the double splash mystery.
So... I put this quick tutorial together, and I hope it will be useful to those who follow it and feel that it helped out.
Oh... if you are one of those, I would love a quick thanks here :D

I'll put a text version here, if you want to paste it in a text document to read as you set yourself up for experimentation :)

TUTORIAL: HOW TO MAKE A DOUBLE SPLASH PHOTO.

SETTING UP FOR A DOUBLE SPLASH PHOTO SESSION.

DISTANCE
How far the camera is from the drops can make a huge difference, it depends in the fact of having an actual macro lens or a regular 55mm lens for instance.
If you do have a true macro lens (I have a 100mm cheap Vivitar macro for instance), a distance from a foot to a foot and a half is about right. But of course it all depends on how much area around the splash you want to have, I like trying different distances to get varied results.

FOCUS
This is one of the biggies. What I do to obtain a decent (not yet perfect mind you) DOF and main focus point is that first I see where the drops are falling. Then I place something that will hold itself vertically, perpendicular to the water surface, sticking up and out at least three inches. Preferentially a cylinder shaped object and about the thickness of a straw. This will allow for me to determine the impact point/focus point. From there (and this comes from macro photography experience) I move back, towards the rim of the cup with the focus, then back to the impact point, then half way back, then back to the impact point, then halfway of the halfway back. That way I can also get focus on the umbrella rim. This will not always work, since the columns don't always jump dead center, and will sway sideways, frontwards or backwards. But at least SOME pics will have decent focus.
Shutter speed and aperture are key factors in the shots as well, since both influence in clarity and sharpness.
F8 (like in most macro shots) is the standard. I shoot at 1/4000 in shutter speed, but that's just me. A lot of experts say 1/250 is good enough. Some cameras will not sync up with speed light flashes enough so that the sensor is completely exposed, so first you have to figure out what your camera can take as the highest sync speed and then go from there. 1/4000 to me, let's me not worry about blurred out moving drops.

LIGHTING
Bounced speed light flash lighting is always best. It creates a softer more majestic look than a direct flash that will give harsh shadows and will make the drop look small.
I put a piece of dark cardboard sticking out from under the flash, covering under and to the left (the flash is on the right on most of my shots most of the time) of the light direction, thus I avoid illuminating the drop directly. The flash is almost level with the cup where the drops fall, but not always. Enough to the side to avoid a shadow on the background.
Try additional bounce surfaces as well, sometimes with other colors, this will add volume to the drop and create some very interesting colors in the shadows for the drops and splashes.

BACKGROUND
Try to avoid making the cup where you make the drops fall to obvious. It's unavoidable that it will show itself some times, since using large containers for the drops to fall into will not always work, because surface tension is primordial for a good bounce (the larger the surface, the less tension it will have), thought I've seen studio setups with huge tanks, so maybe I'm completely wrong there, but I digress...
DOF, and the right camera angle will go a long way for hiding the obviousness of your coffee cup. The background can be anything. Experiment! Flat colors look great, but colorful or textured background make for interesting refractions and reflections.

DRIP RATE
You need to really control your drips, or your no-shows vs successful double splashes will have a dreadful proportion. In the beginning, mine was of about 100 to 1 (if I was lucky). Even if we're using a digital SLR, and we don't have to worry about wasting film, it's still frustrating and you do kill off your AA batteries in the speed light flash sooner or later.
There's a lot of ways of doing this, the really cool photographers with a lot of techy savvy will set up a rig with motion sensors that will activate the shutter at the right time. They will have digital controlled drips, and other cool stuff.
I'm not technically savvy, and I don't have the patience for such a complicated rig. Besides, this is something I do for fun on my free time. So I look for a simpler solution.
I purchased a foot of home aquarium air rubber hose. Plastic flow regulators for that hose. I cut a small (three inches) piece from the hose and put a regulator on one end. Then I took an empty plastic bottle. Perforated it's plastic cap and put the hose snugly through. Then I made a small hole on the other end of the bottle so as to not create a vacuum as the water falls out.
Then I put the bottle on a improvised pedestal, holding it at a 45 angle over the cup where the drops would fall (the angle is not so important, but placing a vertical non swaying bottle on top of the cup is harder to do).
The ideal drip rate speed is actually very close to a free flow, the flow regulator is almost completely open (remember it's a small hose).
The big secret then is what I received as a suggestion from one of the experts:
Hold a cup under the drip. Let the water surface settle and become smooth, then quickly remove the cup.
I find that the perfect moment (since our brain doesn't make our fingers react instantaneously to what it receives from our eyes) is just before the drop strikes the surface. In reality, from the moment our eyes see the event, our brain registers it from them, then sends the signal to our fingers on the remote trigger (it's best if you have one, but not mandatory), and then for the camera to react from the trigger, enough time has passed for the quick drip to have one drop generate the column and a second drop to hit it on it's way down.
There's still a wasted shot ratio, but it's much much smaller. Mine is about 10 to 1, sometimes less :)
Try several speeds for your drip adjusting the regulator, you will eventually find the perfect one for you.
Height is also something to play around with. My "sweet spot" is about a foot / foot and a half high from where the drip starts off.

VISCOSITY AND LIQUID COLOR
Playing around with several types of liquid is the best way to find several types of splashes.
You can add viscosity with glycerin for instance (yet to try it myself).
Soap in the water can be frustrating, because of the bubbles, I tried carpet cleaner, and it had interesting results, but the splashiness of the water went away, and without splashes... well, what's the point :)
Milk is great, but deluded in water even better.
Try out different things, but be careful with your equipment. Avoid corrosive substances.
Colored or tinted liquids are also great for experimentation, try using contrasting colors in the drip and the container liquid, you will get some very interesting umbrellas.

CAMERA ANGLE
At level with the surface, bellow it, 45 degrees, try different positions, and remember to reset your focus "sweet spot".
A camera angle can take care of the fact that the rim of your container is too obvious, or it can help make the splash stand out better against a background.
It also helps take the monotony out from what could become very repetitive looking splashes (although, in all honesty, this kind of photography is always full of amazing and wonderful surprises).

EXPERIMENT
No need to explain this, right? Water drops could become boring and repetitive. For instance, I'm going to try a drop on a hard surface now. I've seen some sweet looking crowns with that type of splash. How unique and special your shots are will be a direct result of how you experiment. Be creative, itís hard not to get exited with the things you find on your camera LCD sometimes.

PATIENCE
Sooner or later, you will get on a roll, and like I blame the experts that helped me out, you can blame me later for your own addiction to this fun technique in photography. "My name is Oscar Blanco, and I'm a double splash junkie!" (hmmm, that sounds kinda nasty).

GOOD LUCK, AND KEEP SPLASHING!!
Add a Comment:
 
:iconprettyflour:
prettyflour Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This has been featured in my journal!


[link]
Reply
:iconracer1110:
racer1110 Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
nice tutorial
helped me a lot while experimenting :D
thank you :)
Reply
:iconotas32:
otas32 Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2011  Professional General Artist
COOL!
Could you post here results please? It can motivate more people to try ;)
Reply
:iconjonboy56:
jonboy56 Featured By Owner May 29, 2011   Photographer
Good tutorial, I picked up a few good tips here following my first attempt at Water Art. Thank you.
Reply
:iconotas32:
otas32 Featured By Owner May 31, 2011  Professional General Artist
You're very welcome!
Would love to see the results ;)
Reply
:iconjonboy56:
jonboy56 Featured By Owner May 31, 2011   Photographer
Thanks, Will let you know when.
Reply
:iconsaraj3an:
SaraJ3an Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2011   Photographer
I've used this in a news article I just submitted, You can check it out [link]!
:heart:
Reply
:iconotas32:
otas32 Featured By Owner May 26, 2011  Professional General Artist
Somehow I missed your comment. Sorry for that and for featuring it :)
Reply
:iconsaraj3an:
SaraJ3an Featured By Owner May 27, 2011   Photographer
no problems!
Reply
:iconotas32:
otas32 Featured By Owner May 26, 2011  Professional General Artist
Oh, I remember now :) The photo manipulation passed off as a photograph :) (the heart splash).
Reply
:iconabjr47:
ABJR47 Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2011
Fabulous! Thanks for sharing !!! :)
Reply
:iconotas32:
otas32 Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2011  Professional General Artist
Glad you like it!
Your macros are very good! :D
If you ever decide to try this technique, please do share, and if this tutorial helped at all, please share it here! :)
Reply
:iconabjr47:
ABJR47 Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2011
Thanks will do :)
Reply
:iconch3m:
Ch3m Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2011  Student Photographer
That's a wonderful tutorial!
Thanks for sharing
Reply
:iconotas32:
otas32 Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2011  Professional General Artist
you're very welcome :)
Reply
:iconjrondeau:
JRondeau Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2011  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you so much for this tutorial. I am going to give your technique a try and hope to achieve some great results.
Reply
:iconotas32:
otas32 Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011  Professional General Artist
You're welcome. PLease post here the results! :)
Reply
:iconjrondeau:
JRondeau Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011  Hobbyist Photographer
Slowly making progress. Although I do not like the colour at least I finally got a collision. A bit out of focus though but I am learning....slowly.

[link]
Reply
:iconotas32:
otas32 Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2011  Professional General Artist
Awesome! Though I think you got the DOF - focus spot on!
The blur is a MOTION blur friend. The column is focused, the collision is not, and they're on the same focus plain.

I think your problem is one of two things:

1- Shutter speed.
I know from experience, generic flashes will not work well with newer cameras that have a faster running optic sensor. In my case for instance, if I shoot at over 1/250 with my generic flashes, my D80 will either get from banded result (only part of the run made by the sensor get's lit, so only a band is exposed in the image, the rest is black) to complete black a the higher shutter speeds.
You need a dedicated TTL flash to get higher shutter speeds (older cameras like my D70 don't have that issue, though they have lower resolutions and other limitations).

2- Ambient light is too high.
At slower shutter speeds ambient light WILL affect the shot. So even if you are shooting at 1/250 for instance, the ambient light will work against you and you get a motion blur, since the collision is FASTER than the shutter speed.

One way to work around this is to have VERY LOW ambient light, and thus, the speed of your shot is not even given by your camera shutter, but by your speed light flash!
So, what you have to worry about is WHEN the flash shoots, not so much your camera, since you can even have low camera shutter speeds.

Hope this helps.

Thanks for posting results! This adds credibility to my tut. ;)
Reply
:iconjrondeau:
JRondeau Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2011  Hobbyist Photographer
Thanks for the info. Time for me to try some adjustments with my flash and ambient light when I get home :)
Reply
:iconotas32:
otas32 Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2011  Professional General Artist
Another thing friend: I would be thankful if you add a link on successful results to this tut, thus helping others to learn the technique (and it's a great thank you for my efforts in helping out as well ;) )
Reply
:iconxseiichix:
XSeiichiX Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2011
Thanks for the tutorial!
Reply
:iconotas32:
otas32 Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2011  Professional General Artist
you're very welcome! If it helps you with the technique I would be very grateful for links to the results! (posted here :) )
Reply
:iconxseiichix:
XSeiichiX Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2011
I'm very new to this I don't think I have equipment right now to manage some of these shots, but I definitely will when I do produce some! :D
Reply
:iconarwenarts:
ArwenArts Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2011
Awesome tutorial :clap: Thank you for sharing :bow:
Reply
:iconotas32:
otas32 Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2011  Professional General Artist
You're very welcome! I would love to see any pictures that come from the result of anything you might have taken from this information :)
Reply
:iconarwenarts:
ArwenArts Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2011
I will have to work hard, another challenge for me and my water work :aww:
Reply
:iconangel-whisperer:
Angel-Whisperer Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
Great tutorial thanks! :-) I haven't done any double splashes yet so looking forward to having a go! Just waiting for my speedlite I've ordered to arrive :-)
Reply
:iconotas32:
otas32 Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2010  Professional General Artist
GOOD LUCK!
Please post links to your accomplishments! :)
Reply
:iconangel-whisperer:
Angel-Whisperer Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
Will do! :-)
Reply
:iconargolith:
Argolith Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
Very useful stuff. Thanks for writing it down!
Reply
:iconotas32:
otas32 Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2010  Professional General Artist
You're very welcome! Would love to se the results you get! :D
Reply
:iconargolith:
Argolith Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
Let's see IF I get results. :)
Reply
:iconanotherimpossibility:
I LOVE this tut, but can i ask, what is your usual shutter speed, and do you use continuous, or just a single shot?
Reply
:iconotas32:
otas32 Featured By Owner Jul 16, 2010  Professional General Artist
I prefer very high shutter speed. Some people sea 1/250 is enough, but honestly, I'm happier over 1500.
I take only one shots (cross my fingers every-time - at least mentally). Continuos would not do the job anyway, way to slow for what ever happens in a millisecond!
Reply
:iconanotherimpossibility:
Very good point. Thank you very much for that! :D
Reply
:iconaver510n:
aver510n Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2010
Awesome tutorial. I have been looking for some info on this for ages, so thank you very much and such great shots as well.
Reply
:iconotas32:
otas32 Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2010  Professional General Artist
You're welcome. Would love to see the results from your endeavors :)
Reply
:iconkiara-vestigium:
Kiara-Vestigium Featured By Owner Jan 30, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
Wow! Thank you a lot - my friend and wanted to try this in the holidays and had no clue about how to make any good looking splashes at all, so you'll definitely be a great help and I'll send you a link if a splah photo finds it's way to ma gallery ;)
Reply
:iconotas32:
otas32 Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2010  Professional General Artist
I'm glad, looking forward to the results :)
Reply
:iconkiara-vestigium:
Kiara-Vestigium Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
we didn't manage to do any double splashes :(
but we'll try again :D
Reply
:iconotas32:
otas32 Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2010  Professional General Artist
Keep trying, when you finally get one, you'll be jumping around like a maniac :D
Reply
:iconkiara-vestigium:
Kiara-Vestigium Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
I can imagine that :D
Reply
:icontaibu:
taibu Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2009
woow, tnx man and happy holidays to, i start soon myself again taking photos of water splashes :)
Reply
:iconotas32:
otas32 Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2010  Professional General Artist
Cool! Hope to see the results if this tutorial was any help! (or some credit wink wink) :)

Happy Holidays!
Reply
:icontaibu:
taibu Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2010
I collect equipment :P, soon i start testingphase :)

Happy New Year!
Reply
:icondwindel:
dwindel Featured By Owner Aug 26, 2009
FAntastic THanks !!!
Reply
:iconotas32:
otas32 Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2009  Professional General Artist
You're welcome :)
Reply
:iconisje:
Isje Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2009
nice!
Reply
:iconotas32:
otas32 Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2009  Professional General Artist
:) Hope it helps :)
Reply
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