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https://alphauniverseglobal.media.zestyio.com/Alpha-Universe-photo-by-Mahesh-Thapa-starvingphotographer-Macro-Water-Droplets-Image-1.be110857376e1c1dc5afaa178864837f.jpg
Photo by Mahesh Thapa (@starvingphotographer). Sony α7R IV, Sony 90mm f2.8 G Macro lens.

Macro Photography At Home: Exploring The World Within A Water Droplet

During these times of social distancing, I’m discovering new ways to stay creative within my own home. I’m definitely not a macro shooter by design, but necessity has made me into one. This is the first of a series of tutorials where I’ll share my journey into everyday macro at home with you. With my camera and a macro lens (I'm using a Sony α7R IV and the Sony 90mm f/2.8 G Macro), sound knowledge of photography fundamentals and a few homemade tools, I’m hoping to create some photographic art on a small scale. 

There is no substitute for learning from a master (like this Macro Quick Start Guide by macro pro Caroline Jensen). However, sometimes I feel it’s equally helpful to get the perspective of a novice and ride along on the journey of discovery and synthesis. I hope you’ll join me as I try to set up and photograph everyday things I find in my home and backyard.

"With my Sony α7R IV & Sony 90mm f/2.8 G Macro lens, sound knowledge of photography fundamentals and a few homemade tools, I’m trying to create some photographic art on a small scale."

Because I’m so new to macro, I’ve been doing a ton of research online, so you won’t have to. None of the ideas I present are novel and so many creators have brought them to light much more elegantly than I am about to. However, I do think it’s the process that’s most important. If you can learn a little bit of that from me, then I’ve accomplished my goal.

I love macro shots of flowers, but I wanted to do something different. Recently, I discovered the magic of water droplet imaging. I’m not talking about taking pictures of plants with water sprayed on it. I’m referring to shooting through a single or a few droplets of water to frame something special beyond it.

The image below, for example, was made with a flower petal, a drop of water and a single rose. Let me first share with you the equipment I used and how I set everything up. Then I’ll go over my camera settings.

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Photo by Mahesh Thapa (@starvingphotographer). Sony α7R IV, Sony 90mm f/2.8 G Macro lens.

I’m using a Sony α7R IV with the Sony 90mm f/2.8 G Macro lens. I set it up on a simple table-top tripod. I took another table-top tripod and put a Lume Cube as a single source of light. I’m also using a couple of Helping Hands clamps to position the subject. Finally, a small syringe with tap water serves as my source of droplets. It could have been better with a narrow gauge needle which would have allowed for finer control over the water droplet, but I didn’t have one, so I made do with just the syringe. I’ve chosen to photograph the entire set up in a light booth I had, but that’s not necessary.

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Positioning the water droplet on the flower petal with the syringe.  

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Helping Hands are extremely useful for home-studio macro photography.

Now for the setup. I positioned the flower and petal about six inches or so apart. The Helping Hand clamps are…well…very helpful in achieving this. I carefully used the syringe to place a drop of water on the petal then I positioned my single light source so that most of the light fell on the flower and a small amount spilled over onto the petal. I used a Lume Cube, but a small flashlight can work as well. Position your camera so that you’re looking through the droplet to the flower beyond. I found that f/8 – f/11 works best and helps avoid uneven softness of the flower caused by the shape of the water droplet. That’s it!

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The complete setup in the home studio light booth. The Lume Cube is on the table top tripod on the right.

Here’s another image where I used the same technique. Instead of a flower, I placed an image of my wife and myself. It made an amazing anniversary gift! Here’s a pro tip: The image you want to showcase in the droplet needs to be positioned upside down.

Alpha-Universe-photo-by-Mahesh-Thapa-starvingphotographer-Macro-Water-Droplets-Image-2.jpg

Photo by Mahesh Thapa (@starvingphotographer). Sony α7R IV, Sony 90mm f2.8 G Macro lens.

The possibilities of shooting macro with water droplets like this are endless. Once you have the fundamental technique down, try experimenting with different subjects. I think you’ll find that it’s addictive and exploring the macro world is just as revealing as exploring a grand landscape.

Mahesh Thapa is a member of the Alpha Imaging Collective. You can see more of his macro images and follow him on Instagram @starvingphotographer.

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