Wonderful Photo
Of The Day

How to Photograph Refracting Dew Droplets

Focus stacking is a very useful technique for increasing your depth of field while still maintaining an appealing level of background blur. The focus stacking tutorial creates a solid foundation for the technical aspect of stacking. Armed with this knowledge, we can explore a method to photograph flowers through refracted dew droplets.


Chrysanthemum refracted through a dew droplet

Required Items

You will need the following items to create these photos:

  • Camera
  • Macro lens
  • Flash (preferably off-camera)
  • Dry mat (optional, but recommended!)
  • Small daisy type flower about 2-3cm in diameter
  • Nice heavy early morning dew on your grass :)

Cameras set up with off-camera flashes and custom diffusers

The photo above shows my typical macro flash setups. Both are nearly identical. Note that the flash is both above the lens and off-center.

You're going to need to be shooting at around 2:1 to get close enough (68mm of extension tubes on a 100mm macro lens is fine), although I'm normally shooting at about 3:1 with my MP-E 65.


Set your flash to E-TTL and Flash Exposure Compensation to its normal position (+1 FEC with the 430ex). The amount of reflections you will get in the drops vary a great deal, but they tend to be less with lighter colored flowers, presumably because lighter flowers take less flash power to properly expose.

Carefully set the mat down on the ground and kneel on it to spot an interesting dewdrop (preferably smaller than 2mm) or a group of dewdrops.

Carefully place the flower about 2cm behind the drop in a vertical position and then find the dewdrop in the viewfinder. (If you need to move the flower, remember: the refracted image is upside-down when viewed through the drop.)

Rest the camera on your hand as low to the ground as you can. Take several pictures while moving the camera forward ever so slightly until you have photographed the entire focus range containing all of the dewdrops themselves and their respective refracted images. Make sure you keep the FOV the same throughout all the shots and do not rotate the camera while taking the photos.

Finally you'll need to focus stack the images using CombineZM.

Below are the three pictures used to take a single composite photo. Notice how the focus is slightly different in each individual shot.

Side droplet refractions in sharp focus

Center droplet in sharp focus

Blades of grass in sharp focus

Completed focus stacked image

Brian Valentine

To view more of Brian's work, click here.