Last year I ran a series of articles on summer photography fun for kids, like capturing bursting water balloons. This year I’m back with a few more ideas. This is a great one for staying inside and does not need much.

What is refraction?

Light travels in straight lines through space, but interesting things can happen when they travel through other materials — especially when they move from one material to another.

No matter how hard you try, you cannot run as quickly through the water as through the air. The dense liquid is harder to push out of the way, so it slows you down. The same thing happens when you shine light through water, glass or plastic, but it appears makes the light bend.


  • Table to set up on
  • Different colored project paper (black and white or green and purple as an example)
  • Patterned or colored wrapping paper (optional)
  • Clear drinking glasses or vases
  • Jug with water (food coloring is optional)
  • Colored straws
  • Camera and tripod
  • Crystal ball, if you have one (optional)

The setup

Make sure there is plenty of light, but not direct sunlight. Perhaps near a window or with a desk lamp. Set up your table and place your project paper (if you have colored acrylic sheets you can use them too), so that you have black at the back and on the table and the white butted up against the black.

You could even have it as a checkered pattern. Perhaps use a box or large books to hold up the piece in the back.

Place a glass exactly in the middle where the colors meet and three quarters fill it with water. Now set your camera up on a tripod or suitable stable object and start experimenting with how the water is refracted. You could also add a few drops of food dye or coloring and some colored straws and capture the results.

Add multiple glasses of water and see what happens. Try some patterned wrapping paper, too.

The shot

It really is quite cool the different effects you can achieve with a few simple household items!