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DIY Studio Water Photoshoot

Water is amazingly photogenic. Kids are amazingly photogenic. Put the two together and you you'd better get your camera ready.

This setup is perfect for any kid who likes to splash. The setup is not for the faint of heart, but is well worth it to get pictures like these.

To get started, you'll need some supplies:

Reflecting Pool Supplies

(4) 2x4's or 2x6's, depending how deep you want your pool

(12) 3" wood screws

(1) Painter's tarp - the thickest type that the hardware store has that you're willing to pay for. The thicker, the less you'll have to worry about leaks.

Photography Supplies

Large black cloth backdrop (or sheet, if need be). Minimum of 4'x8', but the bigger the better.

Backdrop stand

Diffused flash on a stand

Reflector (or white foam board)

Before you say "I don't have photography lights!", you can do this outside without the lights. I'll discuss this option later. I did this in my unfinished basement and I preferred doing it inside because it's easier to control the lighting.


Chop Saw, Miter Box, or Hand Saw


You can choose the size of your basin to suit your location. 4'-6' is plenty wide, but the deeper you can make your basin, the better your pictures will be. My pool was approximately 6'X8'.

Ok, let's get building!

We'll be forming your 2x4's or 2x6's into a rectangle that will form edge of the basin. Cut your 2x4's to the designed lengths to make your rectangle. Lay the boards on the ground in the shape of your basin. The 2" side of the boards should be on the ground so that the tall side forms the walls of your pool. Screw the frame together - I suggest 2-3 screws at each joint.

Hint: Make sure you don't build your frame bigger than your backdrop can cover. You'll need enough backdrop to cover the length of the pool plus the height of the vertical backdrop portion. You can see in my pic below that I originally made mine too long...

How to make indoor reflecting pool for photography

Wood frame for reflecting pool corner detail

Now drape your painters tarp over the wood frame. Make sure your tarp hangs over

all 4 edges by at least a couple inches. You won't need anything to weight down the tarp, the water will do that nicely for you.

Set up your backdrop holder next. If you don't have a real backdrop holder, a couple bar stools will suffice. If you're using natural light, make sure your backdrop is placed so that the sun will hit your little one's face. Hang your backdrop and lay it on top of the painter's tarp.

Optional Hint: If you think your little one will prefer not to sit completely down in the water, you can use a glass 9x13 under the backdrop as a little stool for them to sit on. Don't put anything on top of the backdrop--it'll distract from the picture.

It's finally time to add water!! Fill 'er up. If you're in you basement like I was, consider hooking a hose up to your hot water heater to make the pool a little more comfortable. With a black backdrop, this is a dramatic shot and the side lighting will help that. Next get out your reflector on the other side. This will help bring a little light back onto the dark side of your kiddy's face.

Here's a picture of my setup. You can see it looks pretty messy from back here, but it all cleans up in the real shots.

Picture of studio setup for kid splash photography

As you take practice shots, pay particulate attention to the place where the backdrop comes out of the water. It's tricky to keep the light from reflecting off this edge. But you don't want that, it distracts from the illusion that there's nothing in the shot but the child and the subject. So just keep making small adjustments to your light and reflector location until you've minimized that line of light as best you can.

Finally, you're ready to take some pictures. Start with a few pictures with the water and kid still and peaceful. These are when you'll get the best reflections. Next move on to the fun ones. You can use a big fan to put a just little motion on the water. If you've got a wild child, tell them to let loose and splash to their heart's content. You'll have to keep reminding them to keep their eyes open and facing the camera to get the best shots.

Optional Hint: If your model doesn't seem inclined to splash around, you can add use an assistant to toss a small object into the pool to make the splash. Bonus points if you pick something that matches the backdrop as that'll distract less.

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