How to Impress Your Friends with Splash Photography

splash photography

Splash photography is ridiculously cool.  It looks amazing and never fails to impress an audience.  I did the “blue wine” shot in photography school but have kept it in my portfolio because it always gets a reaction.  It may look like a studio shot, but it was a rushed last minute assignment done with a single flash.  Here is how I shot it:

Setup The Scene

The hero shot above is a wine glass full of Windex on a white piece of construction paper.  That’s it.  I taped the back of the construction paper to a wall to create a seamless background.   The test shot below with water shows the wine glass on a desk in front of the white background.

splash photography test

The Lighting for Splash Photography

I placed a flash beside the wineglass and fired it into the white background.  I set the flash to manual and put it on its lowest power setting. I then zoomed the flash to its maximum level to create a small circle of light on the background.

splash photography lighting diagram

tech notes:

Light was bounced from behind because liquid is a translucent object that derives shape and definition from back lighting.  This is the key to splash photography.

The flash was placed at an angle so light wouldn’t bounce directly into the camera lens and reduce contrast.

The flash was placed on its lowest setting to create the shortest flash duration.

The Camera Settings

I zoomed the camera to 50mm, placed the aperture at f/11 and set the shutter to 1/200 sec.  This gave me a good depth of field and the high shutter speed killed the ambient light in the room.

splash photography preview

tech notes:

In flash photography, flash exposure is controlled by the aperture setting.  Ambient light is controlled by a combination of aperture and shutter.  Shutter is limited by the sync speed of your camera.

Freezing the Action

After setting everything up, I dropped ice cubes into the Windex.  I used a wireless shutter release and froze the action as the cubes hit the liquid.  It made a complete mess and eventually broke the wineglass, but I got a killer shot and made an “A” on the assignment.

A shot like this requires a bit of luck, but if you freeze a random splash enough times, you’ll walk away with something amazing.



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