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How to Shoot High Speed Splash without Flash

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Read Time: 4 min

Photographing moving water or water drops is a fun challenge. In this tutorial, I’m going to show how to shoot an impressive image of a splash of water without expensive gear, like an external flash or a photo studio. I’ve gathered few easy steps to follow including all the settings, tricks and equipment you need for guaranteed success.


Every professional photographer has lot of equipment, but if you're an amateur like me, you may not be able to afford it. This fact shouldn’t be a reason to give up your ideas for a great photo.

All additional things needed aren't more than 50$. Now the questions are how to position the camera, the light and what this chair is for?

Your cheap equipment


Setting up the scene is an easy job. The picture below shows the position of the camera and the source of light. The piece of paper should hang right before the light. The closer it is, the brighter the light for the exposure will be.

It’s essential for high-speed shooting to have really strong light. This will allow you to use tighter apertures and give you more depth-of-field. Having the entire depth of the glass in focus will really help make the photo.

Another important thing for me is that glass needs to stay sloped at about a 45 degree angle. I tried different angles and decided that this angle gives the most beautiful splash of the water in and out of the glass.

Below, you can see my primitive hand-made method to attach the glass to my kitchen chair. You can experiment with different angles. And for really bizarre effects, you shoot at one angle and then change it in post-production.

Camera’s Settings

Now it's time to take care of camera’s settings. They are the key to success in shooting a splash of water without an external flash. First, you should turn the camera into “M" – manual mode. You need a clear final image, so keep ISO low – around 200-400 max because you don’t want your images look grainy at the end.

I want to freeze a motion, so I keep my camera at high shutter speed. That means I use 1/640 - 1/1000 of a second exposures. Due to the bright light I'm using, I can use an aperture of f/5.6 - f/8. If you're having trouble getting your exposure right, adjust your ISO first before going to the other settings.

Camera, Action!

Now that you're camera is ready, you just have to start experimenting with pouring and shooting at the same time. Here are some tips I use to get successful shots.

First, my camera is to continuous mode so it shoots many frames in a row. It helps catch the action So shoot, shoot, shoot!

If you're trying to catch it in one shot (without burst), see if your camera has a one second or shorter self-timer. That way, all you have to do is adjust the height your pouring from. You're actually pressing the shutter and starting the pour at the same time.

If you decide to use food coloring in the water, use it very sparingly. You still want light to be able to pass through it.

Set up something ahead of time to catch any spills. I use a bowl under the glass, but maybe some towels or a bucket would work, too.

Last, but not least, remember to clean the glass after every shot. Water drops from the last pour really ruin the shot. it never fails that the shot you get with the perfect splash will be the time you forget to clean your glass. Make a habit of it.

Post-Processing Images

Once I finish shooting, I do a few minor adjustments in Photoshop:

  • Levels – adjust them carefully. Don't polarize the image or lose your gradients.
  • Dodge Tool – I lighten some parts of water and to make it more eye-catching.
  • Burn Tool – I use it on the background to create more contrast.

If wanted, you can also adjust saturation and hue. It’s all about your idea of the image and how it impresses most. Feel free to experiment with post-processing. Nevertheless, my advice is to not overdo.

Final result

After several hours spent on taking pictures may finally see the end result and I think you will really like photographing difficult scenes hereinafter, especially with a small budget like this.

Blue ocean in a glass

All of the equipment will cost you under 50$. I think it’s a good deal with a great final result. Now take the challenge and start shooting!

Magic in red
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