Skip to main content

photo & video

One Flash Splash Photography

Lesson 9 of 11

Water Impact Photography

Gavin Hoey

One Flash Splash Photography

Gavin Hoey

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

9. Water Impact Photography
It’s time to give gravity a helping hand. When moving water hits a solid object things can get messy but the photography gets a lot more interesting!

Lesson Info

Water Impact Photography

you'll notice that the black glossy floor tile has put in a repeat appearance. This is going to be the base for a very interesting and potentially very wet shot. I think this is perhaps the wettest we're going to get during this session. Maybe on top of that. I've got a bottle which is full of red water. Just standard tap water with the red food coloring in and of course, my white background, that's still not changed. Let me take a picture of this and show you how it looks. And then we'll go through what we've got here. So here's how it looks. The current exposure looks about, right? So for the technical bit here, the power of my flash is just over One 128th power. And that's giving me the nice combination of a slightly vignette id edge and that great reflection in the tile as well. So that looks really nice. And of course the backlight coming through, that red liquid looks fantastic. So previously we've been using various means of gravity or dropping things in to create our splashes t...

his time, it's a little bit more man made. Inasmuch as the theory is really simple. I've got a cup and I've got a bucket of water and I'm going to throw physically throw water at the side of this bottle. What should happen in theory is that I hit the side of the bottle with the water, I pressed the shutter and I get a dramatic splash as it impacts the side of the bottle. Now to make that happen, there's gonna be a few things that we need to do and I think perhaps the first place I should probably start is around the other side. So around we go. So think about what's going to happen, what is going to come in this direction, it's going to hit here and then probably keep traveling that way. And although you can't see what's over there, let's just say there's things over there that I don't want to get wet. So to protect that end of the studio, I've got just a very cheap tarp falling or piece of plastic or anything really that's water proof that we can hold up in the air. Now, obviously, I can't stand here, hold this and press the shutter and throw the water. That's really not possible. So, I could put this on a boom arm, clip it all in, clamp it in and just do that. Or if you've got a willing volunteer, you can actually ask someone to hold that for you. Which is rather exciting. So, that's what we're gonna do. So my I say willing my volunteer is my wife Sam. So I'm going to come and hold the end of this for me and she's gonna hold that up in the air. Okay? Now she is in the firing line. The danger zone because water is going to come this way. And the the heart with this is obviously to communicate. Don't just throw it until they're ready, but also don't throw too much water. The temptation is just to fill this up with water and throw it. But that's the wrong thing. You need a little bit of water less is more. It's also worth taking a picture now. Just so you have a major everything works and you gotta clean dry base in case you need that for maybe photoshopping in later. Remember that bottle is quite heavy. I can't throw enough water at this to move it. So that's a good shot to begin with. Okay, so Sam are you ready? Okay. You might wanna hold it a bit higher. just saying, okay, so I've got a little bit of water, I'm gonna throw it in and when it hits the bottle I'll press the shutter. Here we go. Uh huh. Poor. Okay, well water went over me, water went on the background, I can see it and I heard it hit the background, but the results are fantastic. You get a really dramatic shot and of course, like all smashed photography, you can't repeat that exact shot. They're all gonna be different. So let's have another go. Are you ready? You're gonna hold it that high, You're not gonna get any other what's up to you? That's fine. Okay, here we go. And I kind of missed about that one. That one went a bit in front of the bottle, but nonetheless, that worked quite well. They're all different. Here we go, Let's try. I'm gonna aim for the base of the bottle that's just coming out and I say I'm aiming, I'm hoping that's got a bit more water in there. Yeah, here we go. Oh, wow, okay, so as I get a wetter and wetter tile, so it splashes up from the water that's already on there, it looks quite dramatic to say the least. Uh let's try going a little this way, that was pretty good, that felt good, but I've just got the edge of the glass in the shot, so obviously you've got to watch out. The temptation is to really throw it in and as you throw it, sorry, there's a bit of water in there because you throw it in, so you end up with yourself in the frame and you really don't want to go too far in because we're gonna have to phone Photoshop that out or just end up with a lost shot so backing up slightly and here we go. I completely missed with that one. That was a complete miss, but even a complete miss actually looks quite good. Who knew? Okay, let's try one last shot that definitely hit the tarpaulin, but I pressed the shutter a little bit early. These are things that happen. The timing is tricky because you're trying to do multiple things at once. We'll do one more same. Here we go. Mhm. But what you can do is take the left side from one shot and the right side from another shot. So if you have one successful one less successful shot, you can combine them together to create a final image, which we might do that in a minute. But I think first let's change this bottle for something else. So I've switched out to a different bottle with a different colored water inside. I'm gonna check it in focus of course, because once again manual focus is the way to go. So we'll get this in focus. I'm actually gonna focus on the writing. I think this time just to make sure that's in nice sharp focus. We'll take a test picture. That looks good to me. Yeah, very nice indeed. I've got a little bit of space either side, even a little bit of space at the top to capture the splashes. Remember you can always crop into your shots but you can never really crop out again, so get it right as far as you can in camera. And I'm looking at this thinking that is one skinny bottle to actually aim at. I'm thinking I should have gone for a wider one but never mind, I'm not the one that's standing in the danger zone, so Sammy ready. Here we go. Let's get some water and test shots. Okay here we go. 123 note it. Let's have a little look, boom. Yeah I got it perfect. Well I say perfect so perfect. I'm gonna do it again. Mhm. Okay, missed a little bit there. I think that's quite nice to see you get the feeling that sometimes you miss and you look at the pictures and you think no that's pretty good. Let's just keep going. I think we'll take a couple more. That's great. Let's try a little bit more a bit early with that one that felt early a step further back and that really just through my timing, it was a slightly out, that's my excuse, I'm sticking to it. Let's just capture some water. They were, wow. Okay. Yeah, big splash. I'm gonna try and get one that goes past it horizontally. Here we go. That didn't hit the bottle so much as go around the bottle. But I think that kind of work nicely. It just got the neck of the bottle there. That's pretty good. Let's say less is more, not too much. Well that missed that went right across the back, totally missed the bottle. Looks good today. Okay, now that was way off. Let's just keep going, hang on, Don't even don't even look at that one. Yeah, That was a little at the front again, the good depth of field F11 is really helping save me. And of course I could take one half of that shot and another half another shot and combine them all together. I'm going again. Here we go. Mhm. I'm keeping on going. That's pretty good. Yeah, that's nice. I like that one. That looks really good when you're looking closely look at the detail in these, that's when you really start to see the quality that you're getting with these shots. Absolutely amazing moments frozen in time. The water looks like glass. That's fantastic. There's a reflection below. Absolutely beautiful. I've narrowed it down to three images, so I've got this one which was my test shot, but also my clean background or floor. It'll I've got this one which is a nice splash. Now, I like the splash at the top here. That looks pretty good. I also like the writing that I can see in the bottle and there's a few kind of wet patches over here, so that's not so good. So, let's fit that back onto the screen. Also like this one, this one doesn't have the wet patches, but does have a more dramatic splash coming in, not that great on the left hand side. So all of these pictures have got something going for them. And I want to bring them all together to create one final photo. So the first thing to do is to make sure that all of these are selected to make sure they are all highlighted. If you haven't seen this already, then by selecting them all, they are all connected. So if I change one thing they all change, then I'm gonna make some general changes. So the first thing you might think I'm going to do is actually crop them because you'll notice there's some bits and pieces here that need cropping. No, I'm actually gonna leave that until the very last thing because you can't crop out once you've cropped in, you kind of locked in. So make that the last thing you do, I'm gonna change the temperature. You've seen me do it before. I like this sort of bluish color. It works well with the look and feel of these images. So something a little bit more like that, I think will pop up the contrast a little bit. We'll probably pull the blacks down slightly, we'll definitely put some clarity and some texture into there. Everything looks a little bit dark, so maybe I'll just tweak my exposure, definitely some color as well. Now, normally when you're adding color, you don't wanna go nuts, but, you know, actually it looks quite good with a lot of color, so it really helps to bring up the greens and the blues. So for this one, I'm actually gonna go a little bit more heavy handed with the colour personal preference. I'm always gonna put some noise reduction in whether you see it or not. Some noise reduction will be added into all of my images and I'm kind of happy with that. I don't think there's really too much else I want to do. Again, I could spend a lot more time editing, but this isn't a bit I want to edit, it's the combining them together. So once again, make sure that three of three in this case are selected because I need all of these images bought out of camera raw and into Photoshop, because we're going to start to build this up as one complete image in three separate layers. So we've got our clean image, I've got my light splash, but interesting writing and then my bigger splash that I want to work. So that's gonna be my base image. This is the one everything is going to build upon. So with that let's go get something like this image. Maybe let's start here and I will select it all and then go to edit and copy. I can close that image down. It's done its job. I don't need to save it and then choose edit and paste. Now if you've seen some of the other videos, you know what I'm gonna do next and that's to check that things are actually lined up by dropping the opacity down. Now. In this case this is a big heavy bottle. Well it's not big but it is heavy filled with liquid. To the point that the small amount of water I was throwing wasn't enough to really shift it. However, it is still possible to get small shifts, particularly modern cameras with sensors that are image stabilised floating sensors effectively. So it's always worth a quick check. Do I need to move anything around? And also watching out as well if there's water splashing, the water will appear to be part of the bottle, but it never is. So in this case I'm going to say no, I think I've I've nailed that quite happily. Okay, that's fine. So what I want to do now is to hide this whole layer. So let's go to layer a layer mask and hide all because this is the one I want to work on. This is the best image of the bunch, but I can't see the writing and I want that splash up here that I'm not seeing on this shot. So I'll get a paintbrush. I'll make sure that my foreground color is white. The opposite of the layer mask. The layer mask is black. White reveals black conceals. Anyway, then let's come in here and make sure my brush is around about 50% hardness. That's a good place to start. I'll make it a little bit smaller and just see if I can just bring through the writing something like that. I need to again use a bit of artistic license just to say, well, ok, those are nice, but they don't look right. So let's bring those in. You can have a little bit and kind of feather it into the writing. Maybe something like that. And you know, those bits don't quite fit. So maybe we'll yeah, we'll do something like that. If it looks right, it is right. And there isn't that right and wrong because water, the more you do with these, the more you realize that it goes absolutely everywhere for no obvious reason whatsoever. So I've got the writing back through that looks nice. Let's make sure I'm still on white. I am. And then we can just add in the bottle and with this. But I'm gonna make sure I actually go over the edges. So I get the wraparound feel for the water. I'm not going to try and follow the edge of the glass, I'm going to go over the edges. So it all comes in something like that because it all adds to the, the effect and we'll build this up. Now, it gets a bit more tricky where water combines. So in these areas here, I'll need a smaller brush and we'll just build this up lots of small cliques. Because I'm gonna need to try to sort of blend these in a little bit just to see how they go. And I don't know how they're going to go. It's not until you start working on anything. Oh, it's going to form together like that. There we are. That looks like it may have actually happened. Okay, so there we are now we have the writing and we also have the biggest splash coming in from the top of the bottle. And by chance we've we've lost those little um these bits out here. So what are these? It's worth mentioning these because you will get these, this is where water has splashed and hit the tracing paper background and left damp spots. Okay. This is why I'm using tracing paper because I can roll a bit more down, cut it off and we're good to go again. So if those were a problem, you could obviously clone those out or you could just use the clean shot from earlier on. Speaking of which, let's go grab that clean shot. Here it is. Before any of that started. This was my test shot. It's my clean shot. The background is clean, the tile is clean, everything is clean, select and all edit and copy. Close it down. It's done its job and then edit and paste. So when I pop this in again, I should really just double check is it in the right place? Yeah, I mean it's not moved, it really hasn't moved at all. So again we'll apply a layer mask up to layer layer mask Heidel and it disappears. And this time all I'm interested in is the lower part of the picture. So paintbrush, make sure that white is my foreground color. Make this a nice big brush and I'm gonna use the square bracket, the right one to make my brush bigger. And then just paint. There we go and it's clean and dry. I want to be careful that I've got to watch out for a little bit like this that area there. Now you might think I want to bring that back in. I want to keep that now if I do that, you have to remember that it should appear in the reflection as well, so you know, you would need the reflection but it just gets a bit too complicated to edit that in. So sadly it's gonna go if you've got the time, by all means, bring those in. And of course there's always more cloning you can do, there's always bits to clone out. You never get a completely clean floor tile, but we're not gonna go through the fine points of that, we're going to leave that pretty much as it is. So we've built this up in three layers, we've added a bigger splash, we've added a clean base, but obviously the right hand side, you can see the edge of the cup coming in here, you can see the edge of the tiles. I don't need this much space around this image, so I'm gonna get my crop tool set to a three by two format that's perfect and we just crop this in. I think I'm gonna leave it somewhere on the third on the left, something like that, and we'll try and just leave as much as we can down there. Yeah, I'm kind of happy with that. Let's commit to that as a crop and there you go, there's my final picture completed.

Class Description


  • Capture the hidden beauty and random nature of splashing water.

  • Use a single flash to light shots with both black, and white backgrounds.

  • Find creative ways to combine everyday objects and water.

  • Understand how to enhance splash images in Photoshop.


Photographers are often looking to capture images that are dynamic, exciting, and most importantly unique. If that sounds like you, then this class opens the door to creating eye-catching photos that will never, EVER be the same twice. Best of all you won’t have to leave home to find them and you probably already own everything you need to get started.

Splash photography is the art of taking something as mundane as water pouring from a glass bottle and turning it into an image that’s packed full of stunning detail. Water turns to glass, tiny droplets appear frozen in the air and if it’s done well, the closer you look at a splash photo, the more detail you’ll see.

This class takes Gavin’s years of experience photographing splashes and condenses them down into easy-to-digest segments. Starting with his essential gear, props, and backgrounds, Gavin will help you take your first splash photo. He’ll then grow that knowledge, improve the basic technique, and show you how it can develop into some amazing and colorful splash imagery.


  • Any photographer who’s looking for an exciting and fun photography challenge

  • Students, teachers and photographers who have a water-themed project in mind

  • Photographers who love simple, graphic images that are packed with fine detail

  • Everyone who is big on creativity but limited with gear


Adobe Photoshop CC 2021

Adobe Camera RAW


Gavin Hoey is a freelance photographer, Olympus UK ambassador, and trainer of all things photographic. Primarily focusing on photography education, Gavin was an early YouTube adopter and created a popular photography training channel before joining forces with Adorama in 2012. He’s now the most-watched presenter on AdoramaTV where his videos focus on the art of lighting and portraits. Gavin is still creating at least one video tutorial for AdoramaTV every other week and the channel has grown to 1 million subscribers.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

DNG Files

JPG Files

Photoshop Action – Instant Triptych

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes