A water droplet on a flower stem, reflecting a flower head.

MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY

Creative macro photography: shooting flowers reflected in droplets of water

Get a fresh take on flower photography using a macro lens and the power of refraction to create striking shots. Capture detail within a droplet of water and experiment with reflections. For this technique you'll need a macro lens, and ideally a tripod and remote shutter release – if you have a Wi-Fi-enabled camera, such as the Canon EOS 90D, you can use the Canon Camera Connect app on your smartphone to frame the shot and trigger the shutter. For the most controllable lighting, it's handy to use an external flash such as one of the Canon Speedlite range.

Setting up

With this simple technique you can capture truly striking shots, reflecting a detailed subject in a delicate water droplet.

You can use this technique outdoors (if you have the option) or indoors. The advantage of setting up indoors is that you have more control over the lighting and there's less risk of a breeze disturbing the water droplets. You also don't have to get up early to shoot the morning dew!

In addition to a macro lens and a tripod to keep your camera steady and avoid camera shake, you'll need some flowers, plus some glycerine (available from a pharmacy, the baking aisle in a supermarket or online) to create long-lasting, highly reflective droplets. You'll also need a bright source of light – either from a window or an off-camera Canon Speedlite flash.

Magnification

A Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens.
Any macro lens is suitable for this technique – the images on this page were shot on the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens, but the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM is another great alternative for DSLR cameras with APS-C sensors.

Focus your macro lens at its closest focusing distance to achieve the highest magnification. Even at life-size or 1:1 magnification, the water droplets will appear small in the frame, so you may want to crop the shot in editing software afterwards. The lens will need to be positioned close to the droplets, so make sure it doesn't cast a shadow across the picture. If you're using a lamp or an external Canon Speedlite, you'll have more control over the direction of the light. Another way to avoid shadow is to use a macro lens with a built-in Macro Lite, such as the Canon EF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM or the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM.

Adding drops

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Shooting in Aperture priority (Av) mode means you have more control over the depth of field, but be prepared to experiment with aperture to alter what is in focus and what isn't. Move the flower closer to change the composition within the water droplet and use the depth of field preview button before pressing the shutter to see what effect this will have on your shot.

Using glycerine instead of water will create shinier, more viscous drops that stick to their support for longer, giving you more shooting time to capture the perfect shot. And using a faster shutter speed will enable you to get as many shots as you want in a short amount of time. Dip a needle or toothpick into the glycerine and use this to transfer the liquid – this way, you'll be able to position the droplets where you want them and add as many as you like. Experiment with different sized droplets and clusters of them to produce more creative compositions.

The technique

Compose your image by shooting wide – this helps ensure that the background remains blurred while the water droplets are in sharp focus.

Manually focus on the drops and move the flower in the background closer until its refracted image is rendered sharply in the liquid. Shoot in Aperture priority (Av) mode so that you have more control over the depth of field, and choose an aperture of f/8 to start with. The trick here is to keep the flower in the background blurred while its refracted image appears sharp, so be prepared to experiment with the position of the flower and the aperture. Keep the droplets parallel with the camera to keep all the drops sharp.

To improve sharpness, use Live View mode so that the mirror movement won't jar the camera, and take the picture using your camera's self-timer, a remote shutter release, or the Canon Camera Connect app on your smartphone if your camera works with it. For additional advice on how to get started with macro, and for further inspiration on new tricks to try, download the Canon Photo Companion App for iOS or Android.


Written by Marcus Hawkins and Tamzin Wilks

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