I know that the right way to photograph bursts is to use special equipment that allows you to precisely control the shape of the splashes. However, such installations are not only expensive, but they are also very difficult to find (I have found only models designed for macro photography).
That is why most still life photographers work with the equipment that they have at hand. Here is one of my tricks.
This method of creating a splash will not give you absolute control over its shape, but you can remove relatively similar splashes (even several at a time), as well as create a splash in scenes where just throwing a sugar cube into a cup simply does not work. Plus, this method is very fun!
You will need:
- A small platform on wheels (I made mine from a piece of thin plywood and two pairs of wheels from LEGO; you can make a large platform using furniture wheels or even a skate).
- External stop (in my case, this is a wooden block glued to the table and used to stop the moving platform).
- A container with liquid (a cup of tea, a glass of wine or a can of colored water) and other elements of your still life.
- Double-sided tape (to protect those items that should not move).
Also, as with any other burst shot, you’ll need a tripod and an external flash.
The plan is this: place the composition on a moving platform and use the external stop to mark the place where it should be photographed. Then roll the platform back a little and push.
The platform rolls, and then abruptly stops when it hits the stop, but the fluid continues to move under the action of inertia, forming a beautiful curved splash.
To shoot splashes in motion, set the flash to low power (1/16 or lower). This provides a very short impulse that will freeze fluid movement. Also set the camera to burst mode (high length) to take multiple shots in a row.
3. Test shooting
I highly recommend taking a few test shots: this way you will know how much you need to push the platform, and which objects are too light to not be fixed (I glued almost everything, just in case).
Now make a composition of cups or cans of your choice, make sure everything is fixed, make sure that liquid will not get into electronic devices when splashing, and have fun!
Finally, select the best image and polish it a bit: adjust the colors and contrast, remove unnecessary drops and voila! Now we have the final shot:
This technique is not perfect, but it is available to everyone, it is cheap and relatively controlled. Using it is much easier to get such bursts compared to the results that you get by pouring liquid by hand.
It can also be very useful in scenes with transparent glass (where an object thrown into a vessel will be clearly visible). And I hope you will have fun trying it.
Get inspired and good luck!