Macro water drop photography

Drops of water make beautiful macro subjects – they’re attractive, they refract light into interesting patterns and they’re available at the turn of a tap! And water drop photography is also quite easy to do! With good technique, attention to detail and the right kit, you can set your images apart from the crowd.

To get up close-ups a macro lens is essential. You’ll also need a tripod to keep things steady, and a pipette comes in handy for placing drops just where you want them.

We’ve used a peacock feather as a colourful backdrop, but all kinds of colourful (and non-absorbent) materials and objects will work equally well.

Once you’ve taken the shot, we’ll show you how to enhance the colours and contrast in Photoshop Elements.

Using adjustment layers and masks, we’ll selectively adjust parts of the image, blur distracting details and then employ a neat trick for dodging and burning to make the water drops really stand out.


How to set up your macro water drop scene

01 Set up the light
Any type of light or household lamp can be used to illuminate the drops; we’ve positioned our lamp behind and to the side of the feather. Flagging the light with your hand or a piece of card can be very effective – we did this to give us a gentle fall-off into shadow on the left of our image.

02 Macro lens
A macro lens is essential for close-up photography. We’ve used the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L here; this has a 1:1 maximum magnification, which means a 1cm drop of water can be photographed close up enough to fill 1cm of your camera’s sensor. Most macro lenses have long focal lengths and wide maximum apertures, and deliver crisp images.

03 Use a tripod
When you’re working at high magnification, even the tiniest movement forwards or backwards can throw off your plane of focus, so a tripod is essential for capturing pin-sharp shots. Using one also enables you to shoot at a slower shutter speed, so you can keep your ISO low for optimum image quality.


04 Arrange the drops
A colourful, textured object like this peacock feather makes a great backdrop for our water drops. It’s non-absorbent too, which of course is vital. Stick the feather in modelling clay or Blu Tack, or tape it in place, and use a pipette to arrange the water drops, keeping them fairly evenly spaced. If you like, you can use a spray bottle for finer drops.

05 Aperture Priority mode
Select Aperture Priority mode so that you can control the depth of field; the camera will set an appropriate shutter speed. We’ve set an aperture of f/3.5, and kept the ISO at 100 for maximum quality.

These settings will result in a relatively long exposure, which is why a tripod is essential; you should also use a remote release or the camera’s self-timer to avoid camera shake.

06 Live View focusing
Switch to Live View mode to compose your shot. Use the back navigator control to position the focus box over the drop you want to be perfectly sharp, then zoom right in on the drop, switch your lens to manual focus, and adjust the focusing ring until the drop is sharp […read more]