Photo ideas: soap bubble photography

Follow this simple soap bubble photography project and learn how to shoot cool psychedlic macro photos. All the ideas and inspiration you need to get creative at home

There’s so much more to macro photography than conventional photos of insects and flowers – and you don’t have to travel far to find something more creative to point your digital camera at If you’ve never tried it before, photographing the surface of soap film is a simple way to create close-up art – all in the comfort of your kitchen. The only problem is, the form and colour of soap film constantly change, which can seem challenging to capture with your camera at first. Follow this easy step-by-step guide, and you’ll be shooting psychedlic soap bubble pictures in no time…

In addition to a DSLR and tripod, you need:

Soap and glycerine

Using standard soap bubbles ?or washing-up liquid without an additive means your medium won’t last very long – in some cases just a few seconds, and this will be further shortened by stretching the soap film over the wire loop. So make your own mix with 6 parts liquid soap and 1 part glycerine. You’ll create a strengthened film with an extended lifespan.

100mm macro lens

A focal length of at least 100mm enables you to get close to the film without running the risk of disturbing it. While this won’t fill the frame completely with colour, it will give you space to manoeuvre the camera around the wire loop.

Black background

Using a black piece of cloth ?as a backdrop is essential to absorb reflections and help to stop light bouncing back at the soap film. It ?also increases the contrast and colour intensity.

Wire loop

The simplest way to create the film is to make a wire loop out of garden wire. Create one loop with ?a diameter of about two inches. Another larger loop underneath that will act as a stand. Your final loop should look like two stacked loops connected by a single piece of wire.

Camera settings and technique:

1. Find the best location

The colours created by soap film only appear when hit by light from a certain angle, about 45 degrees, so it’s important your location is by a window, out of direct sunlight. If you’re using artificial light, make sure that it’s bounced off a wall rather than used directly.

2. Aperture and shutter speed

Set your camera to manual exposure (M) so you can specify both aperture and shutter speed. As you’ll be shooting at high magnification, depth of field will be minimal – so you need to use a small aperture to extend it as much as possible. Set an aperture of f/10 and a shutter speed of at least 1/60 sec.

3. ISO setting

Now you’ll need to set the ISO. This will vary depending on the light levels and could be anywhere from 100 to 2000. Higher settings mean faster shutter speeds, which are useful when trying to capture a moving, morphing substance like a soap bubble. The trade-off is more digital noise in your pictures. Finally, mount your camera on a tripod, and with manual focus selected, focus on the wire loop (autofocus will struggle with translucent soap film, and hunt for the nearest solid object).

4. Seeing the colours

With the basic set-up covered, now comes the real fun! Dip the wire loop into your soap mixture and place it onto the black cloth. Now, move around the wire loop to find the angle at which the colours appear. You may need to tilt and rotate the wire to find a good position that reveals a nice effect. Once you’ve found the best effect, adjust your SLR on the tripod and focus on the most attractive patterns in the soap film (they tend to be at the edges of the ring). Only around 1/5th of the frame will be sharp, but you can crop into the image in Photoshop CS or Photoshop Elements to get the image you want.

After a few seconds, the colours start to expand across the film, creating swirls. Wait for this to settle before starting your sequence of shots. The longer you leave the soap film, the more the patterns and colours break up, giving a lovely marbled effect.

Top tip: use live view

A good tip is to use your DSLR’s live view feature at x5 magnification and carefully focus in on the detail. Now, using a shutter release cable, or your DSLR’s timer delay feature, shoot away. Even if you shoot in burst mode, each frame will look completely different.


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