How to photograph water drops and crowns

  • how to shoot water drops and crowns macro photography tutorial by Monica Wilkinson

How to photograph water drops and crowns

Is this winter weather giving you cabin fever?  Wishing it would clear up so you could go out and shoot?  Why not cure that boredom with a little macro fun?  In my workshop, Shooting 106:Intro to Macro, you will learn to appreciate the little things around you, to see the details, but I also have a fun mid week challenge each week in addition to the weekly assignment.  A little challenge to push your creativity and  have try something you may not have tried before.  In week 3 our mid week challenge is Shooting Crowns and Water Drops.  It is definitely a challenge, but when you get those few perfect shots…it is so rewarding!!  Why not try it yourself?

What you will need:

  1. your camera
  2. clear shallow pan
  3. ziplock bag
  4. something to hang your ziplock bag from
  5. water or milk
  6. colored paper
  7. something to hold the colored paper up. (cereal box works great)
  8. safety pin
  9. writing pen
  10. flash (preferably external, but your on camera flash should work too)

Pullback of set up with flash off to the side.

what you need to shoot macro photos by Monica Wilkinson

Pullback with set up with flash on camera just to see if it worked in case you do not have an external flash and need to use your pop up flash.

photography pullback with flash on camera by Monica Wilkinson

Set up:

  1. First, gather all of your materials and set up your area.
  2. It works best to have a shallow pan with something dark underneath, if your counter or table is light, I suggest putting a dark piece of paper of fabric under it. Unless you are using milk or cream..then it does not matter.
  3. The color of the shot will depend on what paper you place in the background. I taped solid colors to a cereal box and then I also taped papers up with mixed colors. I just cut out different colors of circles and odd shapes and taped them on to the solid paper or used anything really with lots of colors..kind of like we did for the oil and water except the background is not underneath the pan.
  4. Set your camera up on your tripod.
  5. Set you flash up. I experimented with positions. I had it facing the background paper. Then I had it facing the water and after that I placed it on my camera to make sure it would work on camera in case any of you did not have an external flash. It definitely worked in that position too…so if you do not have an external flash..your pop up should work too. Flash is needed as it freezes the water!
  6. Find a way to hang your bag so you will have water dropping from it. I have seen people hang it from lamps, stands, closed into a cupboard, taped to a kitchen cabinet…etc.
  7. Use your push pin or safety pin to make a very, tiny hole in your bag. It needs to be super tiny so it drips. If it is too large, the water will stream out.
  8. Focus on the surface of the water right where it is dripping. If you use auto focus to set your focus be sure to switch it to manual before you hit the shutter. Once you have your focus set.
    [B]Turn off all the lights. You do not want any ambient light! [/B]If you are finding that they are out of focus, try focusing on a pen or any other object in the area where your water is dripping, set your focus and then remove the pen.

Then shoot away. It will take some precise timing to catch those drops, but after 300-400 shots you will get some!! :giggle Oh and I am not kidding. It took me forever to get my timing and focus spot you need to keep experimenting until you find the perfect combinations!!

My settings for these photos were:

  1. ISO 200
  2. f/16
  3. SS 1/250 sec

water macro photography by Monica Wilkinson

water macro photography by Monica Wilkinson

water macro photography by Monica Wilkinson

water macro photography by Monica Wilkinson

water macro photography by Monica Wilkinson

water macro photography by Monica Wilkinson

water macro photography by Monica Wilkinson

Another option may be to set this all up in your sink and let your water drop straight out of the faucet. Not sure if that would work..but I see no reason why not!! 🙂

About the Author:

Armed with both a Nikon and Canon set up, Monica focuses on children and newborn portraiture in the Seattle, Washington area, despite her disdain for the rain. She also has a love for macro photography and is the instructor of CPS’s Mastering Manual Exposure photography workshop. And although Monica is a Mac girl, she is madly in love with her Microsoft employed husband, their two young daughters and the family’s Maltipoo, Scout. She enjoys kickboxing and DIY crafts but would much rather spend her day off “laying on a hot, sunny beach reading a magazine while sipping a fruity beverage.” Visit Monica Wilkinson online.


  1. Lisa Benemelis Dec 30 2013 at 7:39 pm - Reply

    This was such a fun mid week challeng, Monica! 🙂 Thank you.

  2. Maryrose Dec 30 2013 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    I’m definitely trying this out!

  3. Dawn Dec 30 2013 at 9:03 pm - Reply

    Can’t wait to try when it’s daylight. I love the amazing color choices 🙂

  4. Stacey Dec 30 2013 at 9:45 pm - Reply

    I love this tutorial! Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Ginny Young Dec 31 2013 at 11:21 am - Reply


  6. Laurie Jan 06 2014 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    Holy smokes – I don’t think my little cell phone will capture thos kinds of images! Beautiful – thanks for sharing.

  7. Cheryl Howard Jan 07 2014 at 10:46 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this – I can wait to give it a try!

  8. Carrie Bayless Jan 08 2014 at 10:59 pm - Reply

    This was so fun thanks for the tutorial… here are a few of my images I did doing this setup! Thanks for the inspiration (( ))

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