Are you ready to come behind the scenes with me on splash photography? I think splash shots are super fun to shoot and can totally elevate your portfolio of images. Once you get the basics down, the possibilities are endless. Read on to see how I shoot my splash photography in my home studio.
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How To Shoot Splash Photography By Yourself
For this splash photography demonstration, I’m going to keep it simple using things I have in my home studio. No special props or complicated drink recipes needed. I’m using three simple items including:
- Wine glass
Set Up Your Stage
The first thing you’ll want to do is setup your equipment and stage the shot. You’ll need the following:
- Camera & Lens
- Lighting & Modifiers
- Tether Cable
- Pocket Wizards
- Remote Shutter
- Towels 😉
Camera & Lens
I am shooting with my Nikon D750 and my 105mm 2.8 macro lens. This lens allows me to capture the details of the splash up close without having to be too close to the action. Shooting splashes is messy, so setting up further from the action prevents you from getting water on your camera or lens. 😉
Lighting & Modifiers
I decided to set up a strobe behind my wine glass using a Paul C. Buff strobe with a large softbox and a large diffuser. I doubled up on diffusion because I wanted the light to be soft and spread across the wine glass evenly. It also created a really nice, softly lit background for the shot.
The surface I used is from Texturit and is one of their “stone” surfaces called Taipei. I love having a variety of surfaces in my home studio to play with. Texturit’s surfaces are high quality, come in a variety of standard (or custom) sizes and are easy to transport.
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I highly recommend shooting tethered for splash photography. It can take several splash shots to get one you like and being able to review your images on a larger screen is incredibly helpful. To shoot tethered, you need a tether cable that can connect from your camera to your computer. Be sure the tether cable is compatible with your camera model.
For example, I shoot with the Nikon D750 and use this tether cable.
I love my pocket wizards. I have several of the Pocket Wizard Plus X. These convenient little gadgets help my strobe lights and camera talk to each other without extra cables. I can also use an extra pocket wizard to work as a remote shutter for my camera so I can fire my camera from anywhere in my home studio.
In this demonstration, I use three pocket wizards. Here’s how I use them to fire my camera:
- Attach one pocket wizard to the hot shoe of your camera. Connect the shutter release cable from your pocket wizard to the port in your camera. The shutter release cable will vary depending on your camera model. Set this pocket wizard to Channel 1.
- The second pocket wizard will work as the remote shutter. Set this to Channel 1.
- Attach the third pocket wizard to your strobe/light. Set it to Channel 2. This allows you to use the free pocket wizard to fire your camera and sync the light to fire at the same time. If you leave the strobe’s pocket wizard on Channel 1, the flash won’t sync with your shutter. It needs to be set one channel higher.
READ MORE ABOUT: GETTING STARTED WITH ARTIFICIAL LIGHTS
Remote Shutter Release
If you don’t have enough pocket wizards to fire your light(s) and your camera at the same time, or if you’re shooting with natural light, you could also use a remote shutter to fire your camera instead. I have this remote shutter for my Nikon, but I would recommend getting a wireless shutter so you aren’t limited by the length of the cable.
Make sure your remote shutter is compatible with your camera model.
Capturing the Splash
Focus Your Lens Manually
For splash shots, I always set my focus manually. If I set my lens set to auto focus, it can have a hard time knowing where to focus when there’s so much movement happening in the glass. Setting your focus manually can be a little daunting at first, but if you’re shooting tethered, you will be able to see if you are truly in focus or not.
Shoot The Empty Glass First
Editing is an important piece of the puzzle when shooting splashes. Splash shots involve combining several shots together to create the final image. This editing technique is called compositing.
The first image you want to shoot is actually a clean shot of the empty glass. The surface and backdrop will be dry and the glass will be clean. You’ll combine this “clean” image with the splash shot(s) of your choice during editing.
Once you have a nice clean shot of your glass, you can start shooting the splashes. It can take a lot of shots before you get a splash that you like, but have fun with it and don’t be afraid to get messy.
It’s important to NOT to move the glass as you shoot the splashes. This will make your editing process much easier.
For the splash, I filled the glass with water and stood next to the glass and dropped the strawberry in several times. Being able to use my pocket wizard (or a remote shutter) to fire my camera allowed me to shoot these shots by myself.
Continuous Mode vs. Timing the Shot
Continuous mode is a method of shooting where your camera will take several shots with one click of the shutter. This method can come in handy when shooting action shots like splashes.
The thing to keep in mind is, if you are using artificial lights, you’ll want to be sure the recycle time of your light(s) is FAST. Otherwise, you’ll see inconsistencies in the exposure between each of the shots as you shoot in continuous mode.
The recycle time on my strobe wasn’t fast enough to shoot in continuous mode, so I had to practice timing the splash just right on set. I’m sharing a couple of examples of splashes I liked below.
Also, you’ll notice how wet and messy the surface became in the splash shots. This is why it’s important to get those clean, empty glass shots first. The only part of the splash photography images you actually use is the splash itself. Pretty cool, right?
Editing Splash Photography
What Is Image Compositing?
Once you get a clean shot of the glass and several splash shots you like, you’ll be ready to start compositing your images! This is when you will take pieces from each of the images and combine them into one final image.
I am using two splash shots and will demonstrate how to composite the images together to create the final image(s).
Open the clean image and splash images in Photoshop. Label your layers and be sure the CLEAN image is on top.
Duplicate all three layers and store three in a Group Folder called Originals. This way, you have the originals saved in case you need them later.
Create a layer mask on the Clean Image layer, by selecting the white square with a hole at the bottom of the layer panel.
A: Layer Mask
B: Layer Mask applied to Clean Glass layer
C: Paint Brush tool
D: Black reveals. White erases.
Select the paint brush tool to reveal and/or erase the layer directly beneath the Clean Glass layer. Black reveals and white erases. This is such a cool part of the process, because you can start revealing the splash from the lower layer right into the clean glass image.
After you’ve combined the images the way you want, be sure to save your PSD file with your original and edited layers. Make any additional edits and clean up the image as needed and save a separate JPG file of your final image(s).
Repeat the same steps for all the splashes that you want to finalize.
In this demo, I finalized two splash shots and you can see them below.
Once you get the basics down of capturing the images you want and playing with the compositing technique, you open the doors for a wide range of really cool shots. Keep practicing and if you run into questions, let me know!
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All images ©Regan Baroni 2021.