Whenever you don’t know what to do, taking photos of ink in water is a good idea, at least in my book. You can get tons of gorgeous shots, and each one will be unique, which I find especially fun about it. If you want to make the most out of this technique, Steve Kazemir has a video for you. He shares some tips to help you pick everything: from container to photography gear; and make your shoot enjoyable and your photos truly outstanding.
Lots of people use a fish tank to pour the water and ink in it and take photos. However, it’s a lot easier to go for a smaller, square-shaped plastic or glass container. Since “ink in water” photography requires you to pour clean water after every few shots, it’s much simpler and quicker to do it with a smaller container. Oh, and even more eco-friendly since you won’t be wasting so much water.
Black background looks great in this type of photos (of course, feel free to experiment. For his shoot, Steve placed a piece of black foam board in the back and black cloth on the bottom, but you can use a proper backdrop or improvise as you please. I often use black fabric for things like this, tape it to the wall, and let it cover the wall and the surface I shoot on.
You will need two flashes, one on each side of the container. Steve diffused his with umbrellas. He also added two pieces of foam board to block the flashes from illuminating the background, and added another piece on top so that the flashed only illuminate the container and the background stays black.
Filling the container with water
You will need regular tap water, no big philosophy here. But you’ll see some bubbles, so leave it to sit for a bit before pouring the paint. If there are still some bubbles sticking to the walls of the container, you can use a squeegee, an eyedropper, or a toothpick/chopstick to get rid of them.
You’ll need regular house latex paint for this shoot, but remember that you need to water it down. Otherwise, you’ll just get blobs of paint if you pour it into the water as is. That’s not really photogenic.
To dilute the paint, you’ll need a small bottle with a spout on top and a syringe to pour the paint into it. You can find these bottles in a dollar store, or just recycle one (we usually have them at home, containing alcohol, acetone, hydrogen peroxide, etc). Mix the paint with water in your bottle, shake it, and you can pour it into the container straight out of the bottle.
As for the ratio, 1:1 will get you little “tentacles” or “drips” of paint in water. You want to try with ticker solution for “clouds,” so go for a 2:1 paint to water ratio for this effect. Again, don’t be afraid to experiment, it all depends on the paint you’re using.
Once you set everything up, you’ll find that focusing properly isn’t exactly a piece of cake. But it can easily become. Just put something into the container with water, focus on that, and take some test shots. A ruler works best as it gives you the feeling of your depth of field and you get the idea of how much you need to adjust the aperture to get everything in focus.
What I particularly love about this setup is that you can improvise and recycle pretty much everything. You can DIY the background and even the flash modifiers. As I mentioned, you can also use a bottle you already have at home for diluting the paint. You don’t need expensive gear either: you can go with any camera you have, cheap speedlights, and a kit lens. In fact, that’s what Steve did in the video. So, the next time you’re looking for something to do: this could be a great idea. Make sure to follow Steve on YouTube for more fun videos, and share your photos with us if you decide to attempt this.