Water splash – behind the scenes photography tutorial and shoot

Water splash – behind the scenes photography tutorial and shoot



Ok, here we have a behind the scenes picture of the lighting setup for one of my favourite shoots of all time: my first water throw shoot with Jacinta.

First off a word about the setup. You don’t really want to be throwing water around a photographic studio, for obvious reasons. I personally normally set up at a dance studio which is on the third floor of an urban building complex so naturally my normal studio facilities, along with most of you, wouldn’t be adequate for this. The simple answer? A mate’s back deck.

In comes the (then) large little man: JQH, ever my right hand man and the bloke I look to the most to help me out with shoots. From hot sweaty work mixing hideous amounts of fake snow to holding coats in risky city shoots, hand modelling on pianos to being a test dummy in a moving motorbike shoot JQH has helped out with many of my epic shoots and this time it was by providing the deck (plus a hand with the gear).

By using a ground level back deck we were able to minimise the amount of equipment exposed to potential water tosses and with strict control over direction of tossing we were able to provide a safe working environment for all. The night time timing allowed for full control over light and shadow and not having to worry about ambient light.  A black sheet served as a backdrop.

I then set up a large softbox to camera right about 45deg in front of the model and another hard, bare strobe at about the same angle on the opposite side of her behind her. The lights were setup roughly to fire into each other with her being in between. I was hoping this setup would allow for some strong backlighting of the water sprays while allowing nice contouring of the body. As usual I just set up the lights on whatever power settings I felt like and with Jacinta as a lighting doll played with distances/angles/power ratios/apertures etc until the desired result was achieved. I can’t remember exact settings but exact settings are useless, you will always have a slightly different setup with differently powered lights and will have to find your own settings that work for you.

One more word, a lot of people mention that they wish they had a sync speed fast enough to freeze the water motion as they assume that I am using a very fast SS here. Well the good news is that I’m not and I don’t, you don’t need it. It’s the flash that freezes the action, not the shutter speed so feel free to set the SS at a safe sync setting of 1/100th or so and away you go. So long as there isn’t too much other light around (ie you try to do it of a daytime or have strong ambient light) then you will get a nice sharp capture of the water, if it is too blury for you then try reducing the flash power (and adjusting apertures/distances etc accordingly) so as to try to achieve a faster flash duration, as that is what is going to be freezing your motion.

Finally at the bottom here I am going to embed a youtube video on the same subject by one of my very favourite photographers, Chase Jarvis, for more info on the video and Chase’s own tutorial on the technique please check out his blog post:


Feel free to fire away with any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them. And here are some more images: