I am trying to capture the droplets of water while being sprayed on a subject through a spray bottle. What I mean here is - when I am spraying the water on my subject, I want to capture the droplets of water while still in air.

I tried doing this experiment at home, and I was not very happy with the results I got. It was a low-key setup. I was using the normal study lamp to light my subject's face, and flash set to 1/128 power. I was using Canon 70D with 18-135 kit lens. ISO was set to 200. Aperture set to F/22, Shutter speed set to 1/200, and zoom enough to capture my subject's face in the frame with some free space around to capture the droplets of water being sprayed on the subject with a normal spray bottle.

What I was trying to achieve is something like this picture.

Please let me know how can i achieve this, and the lighting setup to get this result.

I will share the link to the picture I got. - https://copy.com/Trk6AtMLV3uoqHRV This is the link to the image i got, but it is tightly cropped, and post processed in Lightroom, and Photoshop. I am still not very satisfied with the result.

  • 1
    As you stated you tried experimenting but didn't get the results you were hoping for, perhaps you could post what you tried? (the photo, that is) Nov 3 '14 at 23:12
  • Sure @MitchGoshorn, I will share the link to the picture. This is the link to the image: link This was the best out of 20-25 shots that I took. And also, I cropped the image, and processed it in lightroom, and photoshop to make it look what it looks right now. Thanks.
    – Vik
    Nov 4 '14 at 0:58
  • The target image that you shared looked as if the spray was backlit, at least, in part. So, I'd sync a flash or set up another desk-lamp behind your subject's head, too.
    – B Shaw
    Nov 5 '14 at 3:35

Freezing motion is about controlling the light, more importantly it's about controlling the amount of time the light will strike the sensor. To do that, you have two basic options:

  1. Shutter speed
  2. Flash duration

Shutter speed with ambient light is pretty tricky unless you have a lot of really bright light. The better way to go about this is to control the flash duration with no ambient light. I wrote up a tutorial on this approach a few years ago, but basically you need a sturdy tripod, a cable release or remote, and a properly configured flash. In the latter case, the lower powers typically have shorter durations and short duration is what you really need.

So, set the camera up on a tripod and aim at subject. Set the shutter speed to a long one (a second or two) at low ISO. Set your flash to aim at the subject, trip the shutter, squeeze the water, fire the flash (I use the test button for this).

Long story short: if the only light source is the flash then you freeze the motion.

  • If there's no ambient light, why bother with a long shutter speed? Seems like any shutter speed up to the camera's flash sync speed should do the trick.
    – Caleb
    Nov 4 '14 at 19:45
  • @Caleb - Long shutter speed gives you time to manually fire the flash. As I said, I use the test button the flash, I don't trigger it from the camera.
    – Joanne C
    Nov 4 '14 at 19:46
  • Thanks -- I read that, but somehow didn't absorb it.
    – Caleb
    Nov 4 '14 at 19:48

I have done freezing water motion shots before. It is quite simple to do once you understand the concept. You need to light the water with flash only. The flash duration is "fast" enough to capture motion. And you should be shooting in a very dark room. Set your camera to manual focus on the spot where the water will appear along, manual exposure with f8 as a start, go with a higher # if you found the water is not in focus, shutter speed does not really matter but 1/125s is the typical setting.


In order to capture such small objects moving quickly through the air, you'll need a much faster shutter than 1/200. Begin by lowering you aperture, start with f5.6 (up 4 steps) and increase your shutter to 1/1600 (down 4 steps) and try again. If you are still getting blur with the drops, increase the ISO and step the shutter down more.

Continue increasing the ISO and increasing the shutter until you get the desired result. If the noise becomes too much, lower the ISO one stop, lower the F number, and increase the shutter.

If you still can't get a good shot, you'll need to increase the amount of ambient light and start over.

Good luck

  • Thanks for your answer. In this setup It was not possible for me to go faster than 1/250 s of shutter speed. I was using a table lamp to illuminate the subject from left side, and to capture the water droplets, i was using the flash off-camera at the lowest power 1/128. Now, to sync my flash with my camera, it was not possible for me to go faster than 1/250th of second. But i will try what you suggested.
    – Vik
    Nov 4 '14 at 1:18
  • 1
    You want to do what John suggested. You don't need a fast shutter if you cut the ambient light in favor of the strobe.
    – Robin
    Nov 4 '14 at 19:33

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