How to do Flash Studio Photography with Water Splash - Setup

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Here is a little video on how I did the flash photography with Canon Speedlites while dropping items into a tank of water.


With a white background, I used a Canon Speedlite 580ex II on the left and right of the fish tank with water. They were set to manual 1/128sec.


I had a Canon Speedlite 430ex ii on a chair behind the fish tank pointing towards the white background so it would come out pure white. This was set to manual 1/64th of a second (I would of done 1/128 but the 430ex ii can only go down to 1/64). You want to go 1/128 so it freezes the splash mid air.


I also used another Canon Speedlite 430ex II in front of the tank at a 45 degree angle to fill the shadows on the front of the object your dropping. This one isn't totally necessary cause you can angle the side flashes a little to help hit the front of the object, but I had the flash available and I liked the results better when using it.


I only had to squeegee the tank splashes once every 10 or so drops when using white cause its really easy to remove the spots in Lightroom with the exposure brush. But on the black background, it was a totally different story. I had to squeegee every single time or the spots on the side of the tank would appear as bright as day in your photo, making it much harder to remove them in post. I bought a squeegee from WalMart for $1.50, and cut the handle off (since otherwise the handle would hit the end of the tank before I was done wiping it off). With a black background, you dont need to flash the backdrop. But I found that the top of the splash (above the waterline) was not bright enough in the photo, so I used the flash that used to be for the backdrop, and put it on a light stand pointing down into the tank to flash the water splashing up. Pretty much, in both cases (white and black), I used 4 flashes. You could really get away with less, but I had the flashes so why not use em.


I used simple wireless triggers for the flashes since Canon's infrared tends to have issues. (especially since one of the flashes is not in the line of sight with the camera). I used PT-04 Wireless Flash Triggers found on eBay, they're pretty cheap, I got 5 receivers and a transmitter for $79 (I bought the dual hot shoe triggers). I also like using the wireless triggers so I don't have to waste using a 580ex ii to trigger the other flashes. I also have a Canon 7D which I could of used to trigger the flashes, but like I said, the flash behind the tank is not in the line of sight with the camera so infrared isn't really a great option. The _only_ disadvantage of buying the cheaper flash triggers on eBay is that you lose ETTL functions from the camera. Using Canons built in wireless functions is great when you need to constantly change the flash ratios and exposures like in a portrait studio setup, but to keep ETTL while going with radio wireless triggers, you'll have to spend $220 each for a PocketWizard or Radio Popper. The ones on eBay that don't support TTL is just fine when you are running everything manual.


I had the camera tethered to Lightroom 3 (Beta 2) so I could see if the shot was perfect. I used the Lilliput 7" HDMI monitor (you can buy these on eBay for a little more than $200) tethered to the 5D Mark II with an HDMI to Mini HDMI cable. The reason I have both a computer and a monitor is because it tends to take too long for the image to appear on the computer before I'm ready to take the next photo. Sometimes I'll even shoot over and over without using the squeegee just to see if I get a good shot in those takes, the problem is when I do that, it takes a long time for the computer to catch up. With the LCD monitor, I can preview the shot to see if its acceptable or not, if it isn't, immediately take another photo. If it looks good, then I check the computer (after the couple more seconds it takes to catch up) to see if the photo is perfect.


Make sure the camera is set to manual focus, and focus it to the dead center of the tank (you'll probably need 2 people to focus, one person to stick their hand in the middle of the tank, and the other person sets the focus. I had the 5D Mark II set to 100mm, f/13, ISO 125, 200/sec.


  • The most beautiful life 4y

    Thanks for sharing
  • Eline Fauconnier 4y

    nice work!
  • Eline Fauconnier 4y

    how do you focus? The back is black so you don't have a point where you can focus on? Need help please, try to do something like this :) Thanks
  • Muhammad Basil 4y

    Thanks for sharing !!
  • xlbod 4y

    Very instructional, thx for sharing. Look forward to future tutorials
  • Eline Fauconnier 4y

    great job!
  • Roser 4y

    This is super usepul! Thanks for sharing!!!
  • Hector Rodriguez 4y

    Nice gears you have there Louish. Especially the window cleaner
  • Ray Deakin 4y

    Terrific description and video. Thanks so much for sharing
  • Butxi 4y

    What is the model of the trigger that you have in the camera to shot all flashes?
  • Louish Pixel 4y

    Butxi At the time, I was using cheap ebay triggers from a company called iShoot - They are not reliable at all. Now, I only use RadioPoppers JrX.
  • Kurt Tolman 4y

  • Glenn Pfab Photo 3y

    Great images and tutorial!
  • Ruel Calitis 3y

    WOW. Thanks, I was looking all over the web for this tutorial. Thanks for sharing your info.
  • Enoels 3y

    Great tutorial, I'm not sure if I will be able to do it, since it seems to use a lot of flashes, which I don't have, but I hope I can do it someday. Thanks for the video.
  • Louish Pixel 3y

    Enoels You could do it with one flash on the left, and stick a mirror on the right. you don't need this many flashes. I use this many cause I have that many. if you have less, just play around with bouncing the light.
  • Enoels 3y

    Louish Pixel Wow, that's a great idea, thanks!
  • Nikos Kolokotronis 2y

    It is a very nice and inspiring tutorial for many people out there.
    You can have the same results and better control with only ONE speedlight.
    Remove the plastic base of the fish-tank and place a nice white sheet. Also try a white sheet on one side (left or right)
    I would not suggest a mirror (it causes many troubles, no need to explain that further... :) )
    A took this shot a year ago as I describe above...(
    I used one speedlight.
  • Graeme Willetts 1y

    can i ask the fish tank that you used? I can't seem to find one at a reasonable cost with flat sides like that. Great tutorial and love the idea. Thanks so much for sharing.
  • Louish Pixel 1y

    Graeme Willetts I just bought it at walmart, $10
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Uploaded on April 15, 2010
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