Ripple effect: shoot abstract photography in the bath

Abstract Photography Tutorial: how to shoot ripple effects

Abstract Photography Tutorial: how to shoot ripple effects

Believe it or not the bathroom can be a great place for creative photography. Here we’ve captured the magical quality of water ripples, and combined them into a contemporary grid.

We created the ripples by simply dripping water from a soaked cloth onto the surface of (clean) bath water (for a different take on this, see our quick tutorial on photographing water splashes for dramatic effect). There’s plenty of other ways to make great ripples too, so it’s worth experimenting with different methods and heights.

The trick to capturing the ripples is to use off-camera flash placed at an angle to the surface of the water. Make sure the bath water is only a few inches deep, and use a smallish aperture, such as f/11, for a large depth of field (learn more about aperture with our free f-stop chart). This will ensure everything is sharp.

The high speed of the flash will freeze the motion of the ripple (if you like this, you might also enjoy our tutorial on how to shoot water drop photography at home).

You can process the images however you want, but for this project we felt that a split-tone effect suited the subject, and we were able to easily do this in Adobe Camera Raw.

Remember that cameras and water don’t mix, so be very careful, especially if you’re suspending your camera above the bath water, as we did.

Abstract Photography Tutorial: how to shoot ripple effects - step 1

Step 1: Get flash in the bath
Set up an off-camera flashgun to light the water from the side. This will help to capture sharp, clearly defined ripples. Switch to manual mode, expose for 1/200 sec at f/11 and experiment with the flash power to get a balanced exposure.

Abstract Photography Tutorial: how to shoot ripple effects - step 2

Step 2: The ripple effect
There are plenty of ways to make great-looking ripples from water drops. We soaked a flannel and gently squeezed it from a height of about three feet. This creates well-defined circular ripples that are easy to control.

Abstract Photography Tutorial: how to shoot ripple effects - step 3

Step 3: Make split-tones
Use Adobe Camera Raw to convert the images to monochrome using the HSL / Grayscale tab, then make the highlights yellowish and the shadows bluish using the Split Toning tab. Open the images in Photoshop and arrange them on a grid.

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