Monday, January 9, 2012

Making a Splash: The How-To!

Im going to do a little tutorial on how to create a splash shot. When I first saw these splash shots trending on Flickr, I was so into it, I did a series of them a year or two ago and had so much fun! The thing about doing the splash shots is that they're not as hard as they look... it's really actually pretty simple. Here's what you'll need:

1. Digital SLR camera with a shutter burst setting. If you have an SLR, you should have a burst setting, some move faster than others. My current camera can shoot up to 7 frames per second, which makes doing a splash shot really easy, because it's all about capturing that perfect splashing moment.
2. Small Ball or Object. I've used bouncy balls, hard plastic balls, marbles, even candy. The size, weight and shape of the object that you use will effect the size and shape of your splash.
3. Cup ... or some vessel to hold your liquid
4. Coffee (cold coffee, don't scald yourself), milk, tea, some type of liquid ... I find that milk or coffee turn out best on camera
5. Daylight, and lots of it. You need to shoot this in a well lit room or even outside because your shutter speed will need to be really fast .. the faster your shutter, the less light your camera lets in, so the more available light, the better.
6. Towels. You're probably not going to get your best shot the first try, so bring a towel to your set because you'll be cleaning up you're mess a few times.

Today's objects:

So now that you have what you need you can begin to set up. A splash shot can have a fairly simple set because the splash will be the real subject anyway, but I always like to stage things up a little. Just remember whatever is in your set, will probably get splashed. I usually lay my camera flat on the surface that Im shooting on, sometimes I'll lay it on a book for a little more height, you can always use a tripod too, somehow I find that Im usually too lazy to bring mine out. You'll want to position your camera far enough back so that you can capture a fair amount of space about the cup, depending on how tall your splash gets. Once your set is up and your camera is in place focus your camera on the outer rim of the cup. You'll want to refocus between every splash you make. 

Now adjust your camera settings. Your shutter speed should not be any slower than 1/800 of a second. 

My settings in these shots were 
Shutter: 1/800
Aperture: 2.8
ISO: 1250

Beware that an ISO this high can give you a really noisy (grainy) looking shot, depending on the camera you are using. If you are using a Canon Rebel or the Nikon equivalent I would NOT recommend using an ISO higher than the 600-800 area. 

Also keep in mind that an aperture of 2.8 has a shallow depth of field, if you are going to use an aperture this wide open, pay careful attention that your focus is just right. 

You can throw/drop your object and hold down the shutter at the same time, that's usually how I do it, however if there's an assistant available (husband, child, house guest, etc.) certainly use them! Hold down your shutter and then drop your ball, wait until the splash is complete before lifting your finger from the shutter. Now check out what you have captured! It usually takes about 5 splashes to feel satisfied with what you have, and you'll probably have several of these: 
Here is a snap of my favorite assistant at work, drying some spilled coffee from our set. It's really important to clean you set thoroughly between shots, because the last thing you want is a perfect splash but coffee stains all over the front of your pretty cup from your last splash. 
I will leave you with one last capture from today's splash session. I hope you have fun trying this one out... I have a feeling you will! If you have questions, please ask, and if you do try it, please share! 

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  1. love! I've never tried this, but might have to with milk and my next batch of cookies. Great breakdown!

  2. Thank you! Laurie, can't wait to see what you come up with!

  3. This was so informative. Thank you! I can't wait to try this. I have a nice camera and no clue how to use it to it's ability. Thank you for explaining in a way that my simple mind can understand.

    1. I hope you try it, Beth! I've been thinking of hosting photography lessons in the spring/summer, inexpensive and fun... mostly as a way to get to know people :)