Resources from Helga’s Water/Ink/Oil presentation

Equipment List:
Macro lens (100mm)
Drinking glass/piece of glass
Tissue paper
Olive oil
Trigger/Receiver for flash
Remote control for camera
Pluto trigger?

Ink in motion

Water drop photography – start to finish

Pluto trigger
Part 1

Part 2

Facebook Macro Photography group

Adatalux Lighting for Macro

Adaptalux Lighting Studio – Adaptable Macro Photography Lighting

Water Drop Kit
Settings M (manual focus) image stabilizer off
ISO 100 or 200 (100 or 200 depending on the liquid and background used.
1/250 (max sync speed when using flash) (usually I have it slower)
The flash is 45 degrees off to the left or right, set to manual and 1/64 power (sometimes 1/32)
I usually use wireless transmitters.
With water I point the flash to the background image and bounce the light back through the water drops.
With Milk you have to point the flash to the drop/sculpture itself since it is not transparent.
When using water I usually have some food dye in it and about 1/4 tea spoon of “guar gum” mixed with two cups of warm water that is going to be the actual droplets… (then let the water cool)
Drop Kit – Pluto Triggers and Valve (

Liquid Flow

  • Cream mixed with food coloring and then squeezed into a plastic container of water with a black background behind it. A flash on either side. Then flip them and select half of the image copy it, flip it and merge to make to look symmetrical.


My setup and process for making cream drop photos.
Jeff Campbell
I’ve got to say I’m both surprised and thrilled with how these turned out and the positive
reactions from the group. I’ve had a number of requests from folks asking “How….”, so here is
a short overview my setup and technique. I first saw this described in Corrie White’s ebook
“The Ultimate Guide to Water Drop Photographs”, available on her website
Stuff you’ll need
• A clear straight sided plastic container at least 6” x 6” x 6”. Bigger would be better for
keeping flash glare off the back, but bear in mind you only get a few shots before it
clouds up and you have to change the water. I’m using a bagel storage container from
Walmart, but a small fish aquarium is more commonly used.
• Off-camera flash(s). A flash mounted on the camera would have too much reflection off
both the front and back of the container. I tend to use contrasting color gels on the
flashes (orange on one, blue on the other).
• Black plastic taped inside the back of the container. I used a “For Sale” sign, painted flat
black, and cut to fit.
• String stretched across the top to act as a placement guide for the cream dropper.
• A camera and lens capable of close-up photos with about a 4” field of view. I’m using a
Fuji X-T2 with Tamron 90mm 1:1 macro, but 1:6 to 1:4 magnification is all you’ll want.
• A tripod to keep your hands free.
• Cream and a coloring agent, preferably washable as there will be stray drips. I used Half
& Half (a.k.a. table cream), but I’m curious how heavy whipping cream would work. I
also use liquid food coloring. It’s getting hard to find these days, but it’s easier to mix in
the cream than the gel type dyes.
Setting it up
• My “studio” is in my basement where I can dim the lights to keep ambient reflections
and glare to a minimum. This helps to achieve that invisible black background.
• I fill the tank with as much water as I’m comfortable carrying/moving without sloshing it
on the camera or flashes. You’ll want it at least 4” deep.
• Prop a ruler against the fish line to use as a focus aid and for framing the image.
• Turn down the room lights and take a test photo to check for flash glare. I use one flash
at a time so I can tell which one may be causing the glare. Once all the flashes are
positioned, take a final test shot of the ruler to check exposure and focus. Zoom in to
look for any water spots or bubbles on the container. Ideally, you’ll see nothing but the
ruler and a pure black background.
The shoot
• You are only going to need a few drops of each color of cream so pre-fill the droppers
with just enough for a single image. Any extra is likely to end up in the tank as a big
Fish line acts as a
guide to quickly
place the dropper
into the focus zone.
Black paper
“snoot” to keep
stray light off the
black back ground
Optional flash
above the water to
show items above
the surface
Primary flashes to
light the plume,
placed to minimize
glare on the
container front and
cloud. Place the droppers where you can easily and quickly grab them after triggering
the camera.
• This is going to happen fast. Corrie White used a remote trigger with her foot so that
both hands were free for dripping. I programmed the camera to shoot at 1 second
intervals for 10 seconds. The first frame or two will be empty, the middle few will be
the good stuff, and the last few will likely be a cloudy mess.
• Turn down the lights, put the first dropper into position with one hand and trigger the
camera with the other. Start dripping, you’ve got maybe 5 or 6 seconds before the first
drops sink out of frame and/or get too cloudy.
• Take a few minutes to check your photos and allow the cream to settle to the bottom of
the tank. I can do two to three shoots before the stray cream becomes objectionable
and I have to change the water.
The 4 smaller images on the left are from the same shoot and show how the cream expands.
The larger image was made by mirroring the last small image.
Post Processing
Global Adjustments. I use Adobe Light Room for global adjustments. I
prefer to use Raw files, but jpegs work if you can get the exposure close
in the camera.
• In the Basic Panel, I use the color picker and click on a white
cream spot to set white balance.
• Use Auto for the Tone adjustment then pull down the blacks to
help hide any glare and stray cream clouds. I also pull down the
highlights, push up the whites, and bump up both clarity and
dehaze to get a translucent look with bright highlights.
• I try different tone curves, but generally end up using the “Strong
Contrast” setting.
• You can use the spot healing brush for minor cleanup, but if I’m
mirroring I prefer to wait and use the clone stamp tool in
• Right click on the image and select Edit in Photoshop.
• Copy the layer.
• From the top menu, click Image – Canvas Size and change the
width to 200%.
• Use the move tool to drag the base image to one side of the
canvas and then move the copied image to the opposite side.
• Select the copied image and from the top menu click Edit –
Transform – Flip Horizontally
• Use the rectangular marquee tool to select an area the full height
of the canvas and about half its width.
• Click the Add Layer Mask icon to convert the selection into a layer mask. Click on the
link icon between the layer and mask icons to unlink them. This allows you to move the
mask without moving the image.
• Select the move tool. Hold the shift key while dragging anything to ensure they only
move horizontally and the right and left images stay aligned.
• Select the copied image and slide it towards the center of the canvas. This will start to
cover the base image, but don’t worry. Select the mask and drag it towards the center,
revealing part of copied image and hiding part of the base image. Position the mask
edge so its centered between the right and left images. You’ll know it’s right when the
edges on both sides of the mirror line are perfectly aligned.
• Keep moving the copied image and re-centering the mask until you are happy with the
• When you see something you like, go to the history panel and click the snapshot icon to
temporarily save the image. Then keep adjusting to see what else is hiding in the image.
When you are done, or if you just want to revert to a previous snapshot, go to the top of
the history panel and click on the various snapshots to see which you like best. Note,
these snapshots are not saved when you save the file – they will be lost when you close
• Crop the canvas to fit your new image, Save and Export.

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