Soap bubbles aren’t just fun to play with. They’re also quite visually engaging. Have you always wanted to photograph their soapy psychedelic swirls? We’ll show you how to achieve awesome soap bubble photography results.
So how do you photograph soap bubbles? Don’t worry, taking pictures of bubbles is surprisingly easy. And since you get to be like a kid again, you’ll enjoy this project.
9. How to Make Perfect Soap Bubbles for Bubble Photography
To be successful in bubble photography, you’ll have to learn how to make strong soap bubbles. You’re free to use regular soap. But it’s likely that those bubbles will quickly burst while you’re shooting. To lengthen the lifespan of your sphere, you’ll need to create your own soap solution for the project.
First, add two tablespoons of liquid soap (hand soap or dishwashing liquid) into a half cup of water. Next, mix in a few drops of glycerine and leave it for a few hours. Glycerine is what gives the bubbles strength and makes them last longer. You can usually purchase it at local drug stores or even cake shops.
You can also buy a small bottle of bubble solution. It’s usually available in your favorite supermarket’s toy aisle. And they last just as long as your homemade solution.
8. Set up a Desktop Studio
For consistent results, you’ll want to set up an indoor studio. The good thing is you don’t have to buy professional equipment to do it. In fact, all you need is a table, a tripod, a background, and a light source.
First, arrange your table next to a wall. Then tape your background (preferably black construction paper or cloth) against the wall and let it roll over the counter. Now all you have to do is place a tripod in front of your setup and you’re done. Check out our article on shooting with minimal gear for some tips.
Alternatively, you can buy a mini studio online. It’s already complete with different backgrounds and even includes a set of mini lights. It also lets you light your subject from different directions. This should give you plenty of shooting options.
7. Set Up Your Lighting
Once you finish your studio, it’s time to install lights around it.
There are many ways to illuminate your soap bubbles. Of course, the best option is to use a professional softbox and a beauty dish. These types of light sources diffuse the light evenly and give you consistent results.
You can use an external flash unit to provide adequate light for your image. Fit it with a diffuser and set it on a mini tripod. Then you can use white cardboard to let the light bounce off the flash unit and onto your subject.
You can also use LED panel lights if you have them. They’re not only portable, but they also don’t get too hot.
If you don’t have any of the items mentioned above, you can always light your studio with just a regular lamp. Make sure you have one with an adjustable neck so it shines directly above the bubble.
Then tape wax paper to the hood to help diffuse the light. Just remember to turn it on only when you’re taking photographs. Otherwise, the wax paper may get too hot and burn. It’s not ideal, but it works.
6. Choose the Right Lens for Bubble Photography
You’ll be taking close-up images, so it would be best to use a macro lens. If you don’t have one, you can buy a macro attachment for your regular lens instead. It could be in the form of extension tubes, bellows, or reversal rings. They’re affordable, and they mount seamlessly onto your lens.
Alternatively, you can use a telephoto lens. You’ll have to be relatively far from your subject, but it lets you take close-up photos. If you don’t have a telephoto, your kit lens would suffice. Just extend it until you reach the maximum focal length. It should be about 55mm or 85mm, depending on the brand.
It effectively functions as a telephoto lens, allowing you to zoom in from a reasonable distance. Unfortunately, using a regular lens doesn’t guarantee that you will be able to shoot your subject close enough.
To offset this potential issue, you can create bigger bubbles.
5. Stabilize Your Camera
Since you’ll be taking macro pictures of bubbles, you’ll need to stabilize your camera.
The best way to do this is by setting up your camera on a tripod. Depending on the lens you have (a telephoto, macro, or kit lens), you’ll have to adjust your distance until the bubble looks big enough in your frame.
It also helps a lot if you use a remote to trigger your device without touching it. Doing so ensures that you don’t introduce camera shake while shooting. Apart from motion blur, you could also easily throw off your focus when you touch your camera.
If you don’t have a remote, you could use your self-timer instead. Set it to two seconds and wait until the shutter clicks. However, you should only use this as a last resort since this method isn’t time-efficient. Keep in mind that bubbles only last for so long until they pop.
4. Find the Right Settings
To ensure that your bubble images are sharp, use a small aperture between f/11 and f/16. The deep focus these narrow apertures produce allows you to photograph the entire bubble.
Meanwhile, shutter speed settings mainly depend on the strength of your light source. If you’re using strobe lights or a powerful flash unit, feel free to go as high as 1/250 s. If not, 1/60 s would suffice to create a good image.
Of course, you can also choose a slower setting. But remember that time is of the essence when shooting bubbles. If you go too slow, the soap bubbles might pop by the time you finish the exposure.
As for the ISO, it’s best to stick between 100 to 800. If your light source is bright enough, use 100 to prevent noise. But if your light isn’t as powerful, you’ll have to compensate by using a higher ISO. Just try not to go beyond 800 to keep your photo noise-free.
3. Start Blowing Bubbles
Once everything is ready, you can now officially begin your bubble photography project.
First, pour your solution into a shallow bowl or even a small bottle cap. Then place it in the middle of your tabletop studio. As soon as your camera is set up, start blowing bubbles with a straw and take photos.
To create soapy spheres, stir the solution with the straw. Then place it right in the middle of the bowl and blow. It will take a few tries, but you’ll eventually create the ideal bubble. If you see tiny bubbles forming, pierce them with a pin or stir the solution. Otherwise, they’ll cling to the main bubble and pop it.
Some bubbles last for just a few seconds. Others can last for more than a minute. Since you don’t know how long it will take before they burst, take photos right away.
2. Experiment With Different Lighting
There are many ways to configure your lighting for your soap bubble photos. The easiest is setting it up at a 45-degree angle from the bowl. Since it illuminates the subject from the side, it creates shadows that add dimension to your image. But if you want to light up the entire sphere, place your light source directly above it.
To ensure proper exposure, place your light source a few inches from the bubble. And remember that the heat coming from the lamp will make the bubbles burst faster. Only turn it on when you’re ready to shoot.
1. Use Burst Mode
To make sure you get a cool picture of bubbles, consider using burst mode. This useful feature allows you to shoot continuously for as long as your finger is on the shutter button.
Some cameras let you take a series of photos automatically. But if yours doesn’t, you can either turn on burst mode by flicking a knob or by accessing it through the menu. Consult your manual if you don’t know where to find it.
For burst mode to work efficiently, you’ll need to use a relatively fast shutter speed (at least 1/60th of a second). If one exposure takes a few seconds, your bubble will have already burst by the time the camera is ready for another photo.
It’s also essential to find out your camera’s frame rate. While expensive options can take 24 frames per second, others can only take about five frames per second. Of course, the faster your camera can shoot, the more images it will produce.
The process of shooting bubble photography is very easy. And it takes a bit of patience to get the perfect bubble. But you’ll get used to doing it after a while. Just have fun and experiment with different ways of taking pictures of bubbles.
You even have the option to do it outside if you want. Although you’ll have to deal with more variables, you can still end up with endlessly surprising results.
Examples of Bubble Photography
Bubble photography is one of the topics we cover in our creative photography course Wow Factor Photography.
Below are some of the photos taken by our students. If you’d like to learn more, check out the course here.
And don’t forget to watch our awesome video too!