Caution! If you take up creating images of water droplets you might become addicted. Last time I set up a droplet session I spent three days making images. With that health warning out of the way, let’s take a look at making some very cool imagery.


Lots of gear here. I’ll ‘splain below!

There are many ways to create the droplets. I decided to get a head start by getting some necessary tools. The Pluto Trigger and Pluto Valve can save you a LOT of time. The Trigger is connected to the camera and controls the show. It tells the water drops when to fall, what size they should be and when to trigger the flash. All of these duration’s are in milliseconds (MS).

Use any camera that has a way to trigger your flashes and has a remote port so it can communicate with the Pluto Trigger. Lumix micro four-thirds cameras are my camera of choice. Many of the models have the requisite ports. When you order your Pluto make sure that your camera model is listed and order the proper cord to match. Lens used in this session was the Vario 35-100mm f/2.8 lens with a 10mm or 16mm Vello extension tube.

Here’s a Lumix 360L flash. Make sure that your flashes can be set off optically from another flash or you have even more wires running around on set.

Lighting gear

Connected to the camera is a remote flash trigger that fires the Paul C. Buff flashes from the camera. The Lumix 360L flashes are triggered by the light from the Buff’s because I have them set to Slave Mode. It is the flash that freezes the motion of the water. Adding gels to the flashes adds color and interest to the splashes. In my images, you often see some streaks of color in addition to the frozen droplet. This is because I am using multiple types of flash. The Buff units are not as fast as the speedlights. The speedlights can be of different duration if you change the amount of light you ask them to produce. The lower the power, the shorter the duration of light. Shorter duration of light freezes the motion.

Roscoe gels can be found in a size for your studio flashes should you use them instead of just using speedlights. You can get gel pack samples for next to nothing that are just the right size to fit on your speedlights.

The Manfrotto Magic Arm is extremely helpful in positioning the valve in place over the water. The Manfrotto Super Clamp holds the valve.

Set up

Backgrounds are only limited by your imagination. I used a colored Savage paper background. There is a gelled flash with a snoot to vary the light and add interest. With this setup, I have also used a reflective background with a gel over it lit by a flash at various angles and directions. You can use cloth or photos or printed patterns or almost anything you like. As I learn, I’m trying to be careful not to overwhelm the water droplets which are the stars of the show.

The little drop going up is a result of working with two drops of water.

I used a black bowl of water for the drop zone reflection. Black allows the color of the background to show as a reflection. Fill the bowl as high as possible, so the edge of it doesn’t show. Science says you can fill a vessel higher than the top because of surface tension. Well, let’s not get into that too far, but as a side note, know that you can put 32 dimes in a shot glass before it overflows after you have filled it with water. (makes for a fun bar trick) Make sure you have a drip tray underneath the bowl or tray to catch any spills as you work.

If you don’t have enough lights, or just want to add another variable, note that you can add a mirror to the set to reflect light back from another direction.

Next time

In a part two we’ll take a look at the actual shooting and some variables that can change the look of your water droplets images a lot.

Yours in Creative Photography, Bob