Water Droplet Set with Bob Coates

Words by Bob Coates
Edited by Eryka Bagwell

I decided to take a crack at photographing water droplets again. This time thanks to my Platypod tools I was able to tighten up the set. No need to have a tripod sticking out into my space as I had before. Using the Platypod supports also made it easy to place my speed lights close to the action. I shared the set showing how I used each piece. Here’s the list.


Let’s start with the gear that can make your foray into water droplet photography easier. In the list below you’ll find necessities and niceties. I’ll note which is which. When I mention brand names, it is because of the ones I am using.

1 - Three Godox Speedlight Flashes. * If you are just starting out you could try using a single flash unit. Three adds lots of creative lighting options.

1a - Godox MF12 Macro lights (2) mounted on the front of the lens. Again this would be optional but adds lighting possibilities.


2 - Godox trigger. This is paired with my camera and controls the output of the flash units. It can control flash output to all units so you don’t need to adjust individually.

3 - Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III camera with M.Zukio 12-100mm f/4.0 lens.

4 - Platypod Ultra stands - I have three supporting the flashes. The small footprint of these allows me to work everything in tight.

5 - Platypod eXtreme - Used as the ball head and camera support. It’s a larger and more versatile support which still has a small footprint. I like this because I don’t need a tripod cluttering the space in front of the set.

6 - Platyball Elite - You can use your choice of ball head. The Platyball has a very strong mount with no lens creep after it is set.

7 - Goosenecks - holding the flashes in place but allowing for versatile positioning of the flashes.

8 - Platypod Magic Arm - Used to support the Pluto Trigger.

9 - Pluto Trigger - This device makes it possible to perform many additional ways to fire your camera. In this case it is triggering the camera, and each water drop individually from the Pluto dropper.

10 - Pluto Dropper - Container with circuit board that through the Pluto APP controls that sizes and timing up to three drops to help have somewhat consistent droplet collisions.

11 - Small light stand - Supports the dropper. You can also work with a light stand just off the back of the table set as well.

12 - Spirit level - Used to get the dropper level. Helpful to get consistent droplet collisions. Also used to tilt the reservoir a little away from the camera to get a better waterline.

13 - Tape measure - It’s a good idea to record settings when you have success. Height of dropper over water and flash and camera distance from splashes can be helpful when trying to replicate the set in the future.

14 - Measuring cups - Helpful for mixing and pouring solution into dropper.

15 - Xanthan Gum - increases the thickness of the water drops. This gives a smoother look to the drops and aids in less tiny splashes which need to be retouched.

16 - Container - Container for catching droplets and splashes. You only need plain water, no need to thicken. If you want a different brighter look you can add a small amount of cream, half and half or other liquid. In this case I had good results with almond milk to turn the reservoir white.


In addition, you will need towels, lens wipes and a tray to capture the overflow liquid. Each time you release another set of drops the water will overflow. I use a chop stick to set focus.

If you would like to see how I worked making the solutions, timing, Pluto Trigger and more. It’s a four part series of articles I wrote for Photofocus.


Here’s a link to Part 1:

Water droplet set. - Platypod equipment made it easy to tighten up the area in which I was working.

water droplet photography blue B132343 - Almond milk was added to the water to turn the column opaque

water droplet photo B132239 - Water thickened with Xanthan Gum dropped into black container with tap water. Color comes from gelled flashes bounced off black background