Photographing Creative Portraits with Water in a Home Studio

Tired of the same ol’ same ol’ in your portraits? Try including a splash of water. It’s a lot easier than you might think and can definitely add a bit of novelty to your work. It can be a bit tricky, but with this tutorial from light-hearted photographer Gavin Hoey, you should be able to give it a good go:

Water can be a tricky element to work with in a studio, not only because it’s the mortal enemy of photography equipment, but also because you need a certain amount of technical know-how to get the right look. One of the keys is understanding the exposure triangle: how, aperture, ISO, and shutter speed work together. Another is to know how to effectively operate your flash gear.

For example, Hoey, using a strobe light, recommends setting the flash to a low power to make the flash duration as short as possible. (The faster the flash, the crisper the water.) To keep from straining the flash, he bumps up to an ISO of 400. (You can generally get away with bumping up to ISO 800 on most quality DSLRs.)

Beyond that, you’ll need to find a way to contain the water. (You don’t want a major clean-up episode after every shoot.) Hoey uses a kiddie pool and some black plastic sheeting. Whatever you use, just remember to make sure the water splashes away from the strobe and the camera and toward whatever protection you’ve rigged up.

setup for portraits with water

Other Tips and Tricks

  • Don’t underestimate the usefulness of using a meter to make sure you start out at the right exposure. Sure, you can do it by trial and error, but that will take away from your overall shoot time.
  • Use high speed shooting mode (sequential H on the Olympus) to get as many photos as possible from a single run.
  • Have your model wear black.
  • Be nice to your model by warming the model up. (Even if you really want the facial expression of someone being shocked by a cold splash, your model’s good humor will be key here.)
  • Keep a lens cloth on hand.
  • And most importantly, don’t forget your towel!!

Gear Used

black and white portrait with water

Shooting with water can be a bit tricky, but if you have the right gear, a model who’s a good sport, and put a few of Hoey’s tips and tricks into practice, you should be able to get some fun shots.

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One response to “Photographing Creative Portraits with Water in a Home Studio”

  1. I want to thank you for posting this article and video. I learned a lot and had fun with the kids recreating this. We ended up doing this on the front porch in broad day light too.

    I posted photos on my business facebook page.

    Thank You
    Jeremy McFarland
    Digitally Exposed Photography

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