Adding Dew Drops to Enhance a Macro Photograph :: Digital Photo Secrets

Adding Dew Drops to Enhance a Macro Photograph

by David Peterson 7 comments

If you look at two macro photographs of the same flower, leaf, or spider web and the only difference is that one has a dew drop on it and the other doesn't, the dew drop photo will be favored every time. That small bit of water adds so much to an image between light and reflection that it always draws the eye in to examine it a bit closer. It seems like photographers who capture these images are out there after every rainstorm waiting for the perfect light and drops to complete their nature image. Are they really wearing their galoshes and trekking through mud to find the right flower sprinkled in dew? Some might be, but I assure you, many are not. So, what's the trick up their photo-sleeve? Read on.

Besides finding the right lighting, finding perfectly placed dew drops can be like the proverbial needle in a haystack. Unless you want to head out after every rainstorm or deep into the fog, it's easier to do what the pros do. Add your own water! Like actresses fake their own tears, photographers fake their own dew. That perfectly placed drop on a leaf or web is not by happenchance, but by spray bottle.

What's more important than finding the dew is finding the rest of the photo. The subjects can be varied: a flower, leaf, spider web, tree bark, grass, or even a ladybug's shell! First and foremost, they are your goal, unless you are completely zooming in on the drop itself. Find the subject, choose the lighting, perspective, composition, all while considering the dew drop's placement. How will the light strike it? What reflections will occur from which angles?

Creating Your Own Rain and Dew Drops

The moment I mentioned that most dew drops captured by pros are created, you likely put two and two together and figured out that a simple spray bottle is the trick. This is not rocket science, but it is a trick of the trade that people often forget. When was the last time you left your house with camera, tripod, filters and a spray bottle in hand? Getting in the habit of keeping a spray bottle and some water on hand will help when you're out there. I can imagine how many times a photographer went to photograph a flower and thought, man, this would be so much better with a dew drop. Maybe not every time, but often enough. Be prepared.

Enhancing the Spray Drops

If you play enough with water, you know that drops come in all sizes. So, how do you get those big drops to form? A trick of the trade is to add glycerine or organic dish soap to your mix. Kind of cool, huh? Glycerin makes the water particles stick together, thereby creating bigger drops. Play with different amounts and dilutions until you get a knack of what works for the images you want. Think of it as your own science experiment.

Not Just for Nature

Drops of water aren't just in nature. Where else might you want to create "fake drops"? Condensation on bottles and glasses. Raindrops on a car's hood. A window. Keep an eye out for drop-opportunities! They're out there more than you might realize and can make for some great photography.

A Word About Macro Photography

In order to create these captivating images, an understanding of macro photography is in order. Your DSLR has a setting for it, usually the flower icon. But, there's much more to setting it on Flower mode. I have other posts on perfecting macro photography, but for the purposes here, I'll touch on three tips that are dew drop related.

  • Lighting can have a huge impact on the reflection and "response" from your dew drop. Try different angles and see how the subject and drop are best represented. Does the drop create a reflection? Is it transparent?
  • Macro means close up, right? Well, when you're that close to a subject, you want it to be beautiful. Find the flower or feather or whatever that is flawless so that the emphasis is on the dew drop and its impact on your subject. A brown spot on a petal can be a big enough distraction from a perfect image.
  • Don’t forget the rule of thirds. Unless the subject is meant to take up the whole frame, which often happens in macro photography, keep your subject to the left, right, top or bottom third of your frame. If the subject does take up the whole frame, then see about having the dew drop on the left, right, top or bottom thirds of the frame. Think each shot through as part of your composition.

Get Out the Door

Morning and evening light, as almost always, are when you want to head out the door. Pack a spray bottle filled with glycerin water (not for drinking, mind you!), and notice the impact it has on your images! Be sure to comment here and let me know how it goes.

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  1. ANNA says:

    Thanks for these point & shoot images. Now I know my pics are not so bad.I love macro.

  2. Craig Gordon says:

    Spraying water, or water and glycerin will not create natural dewdrops. Its a whole different thing with different physics. Yes , you can cheat and create the dewdrops, but not by splashing water droplets of any size or consistency on the object. Dewdrop form by condensation, not by rain or spray.

  3. Liz says:

    And, a spray bottle taken along on a photo field trip to a very old cemetery will work wonders. A spritz of water on a very old stone,so worn by the elements that it is pretty much unreadable, will reveal the engraving well enough to get a decent shot that will show name and dates.

    Thanks for the dew drops tip, David :-)

  4. maria martins says:

    hi David, I have tried water spray. But I didn't know the glycerine water. Where I can find it? Thank you I am going to try .

    • Mitch says:

      glycerine can be found at a hobby supply store. Check the candle making section

  5. Kokodi Morobe says:

    Have always liked those drops on pics.Now I have the know how.Great idea! I like it.
    Thank you David!

  6. Toni says:

    I have a spray bottle in my camera bag at all times. Love it.

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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.