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How to take water portrait photography using a kids paddling pool

Monday 3 June 2019

Like most people, I spend way too much time on Pinterest. I get lost in a sea of really cool and creative portrait photography. From using light in interesting ways, to practically climbing in to rose bushes to get some beautiful romantic flower shots, there’s just millions of ideas out there. One photo I found was of a woman who was wearing a gorgeous ball gown but what was different was she was sat in a swimming pool. I loved it and instantly wanted to create my own version. Only problem was… no swimming pool. Here in the UK people don’t have pools at home and I couldn’t see my local swimming baths allowing me to get into their pool in a dress whilst people tried to do their laps around me. 

So it was back to the drawing board. What if I didn’t do a full length photo, but a portrait instead? Meaning I didn’t need as much water. Instead of a swimming pool, how about a kids paddling pool?
So with a lot of time and a lot of help, this was my final creation. A portrait of me in a pool surrounded by flowers. I’m really pleased with how it came out as it was a lot of effort, but I think looks really cool, and maybe even Pinterest will like it (go on, give this girl a pin). 

Therefore I thought I’d put together behind the scenes and tips guide on how I did it, in case you want to have a go too, as it is a lot of fun.

5 tips for doing a water photoshoot

Bigger isn’t always bigger

I started off by buying a pretty big paddling pool. One big enough for me to fully get into lying down. However I realised some problems with this. First, it takes ages to fill and of course wastes a lot of water in the end. Second, if you want to fill with flowers, well you're going to need a lot of flowers! I found that the flowers I had just floated away in such a vast area. So I actually went out a bought and second, smaller pool (here if you want a similar one- exact pattern of demented Nemo I found in a local store). One where I needed to stick my legs out side of the pool so only my back could fit in the water. Somewhere around 220-270 litres is a good size for this. 

Use warm water

Water straight out of the hose is bloody freezing let me tell you! So not only is it uncomfortable but actually from a safety point of view make sure to at least make your water luke-warm. The first time I attempted this, it was so cold and I was in the water for maybe 10 minutes, and when I got out all of a sudden I got head rush and went really dizzy and nearly fainted. I think it must have been the shock of going from so cold to standing up quickly? So after that we boiled pans of water and added it to the water to make it mildly warm. 

Not all flowers float

So it turns out not all fake flowers float. There's not really a accurate way to test which will until you buy them but I had two different varieties, one that was more fabric based and one that was a little more paper like. The paper ones sank and the thicker, stiffer fabric ones float, so when in doubt, pay a bit more and go for thicker flowers. Oh also related to the flowers, but really for any props you are using- make sure you have enough. When in doubt buy too many! I actually had to go out and buy more flowers as I really didn't have enough on first attempt. 

Get help

A lot of portraits of me I do, I do all by myself, using a tripod and the Canon remote app on my phone. I’ll set up the camera settings and then set up the scenes and pose, click, and then sort of throw the phone out of shot. Glam eh? But with this, you really need help! So yes, my mum was the "photographer" for this if we go by who clicked the shutter, but I set up the camera first, did test shots and prayed she didn't drop it in the water! But even if I’d had a horizontal arm for my tripod so I could have taken a top down photo remotely, I needed help setting up and filling the pool as it takes ages, and also the flowers really need to be placed around the models head after they are in the water. Oh and the flowers float away all the time, so you need someone to keep re-positioning them in between shots. 

It is quite faffy to do this shoot, so make sure you have time and patience! 

Do it in the shade

Bright sunshine shining on water does not work well for photography. The blow out, the reflections, the annoying shadows- a sunny day is great for many things, but photography it is not. Either wait for a cloudy day or find some shade to do set up your pool.

Post Production- Before and After

Edited in Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop

So there you have it. My water portrait photoshoot. Like I said this was quite faffy when I did it, but now that I know what I need to do, I'd say it would be quicker next time. Half the battle was actually getting the right size pool and then having enough flowers to stay around my face. Having someone on hand to bring them back towards you is such a big help!

I have quite a lot of ideas I'd like to try out with water so watch this space for more of this and if you'd like to see more behind the scenes, let me know in the comments. 

Also if there's anything you think I've missed that you need to know to be able to do this, also just ask away in the comments. 

1 comment:

  1. This is amazing. I love the result but wow did you have to put in a lot of effort!

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