Find out how to make stunning abstract photos at home by mixing oil and water with a simple, colourful backdrop.
If you look closely at the world around you, you’ll often find great ideas for photographs where you least expect them. Take this striking abstract image, for example, which was inspired by watching oil floating on the surface of water while preparing spaghetti one day.
The circles of oil formed attractive circular patterns and shapes in their own right, but here we’ve added some vibrant colour into the creative mix.
Exploiting the properties of refraction we took our oil and water off the hob and into a shallow glass dish suspended on two small boxes.
Underneath the glass we placed some coloured paper that we lit with an off-camera flash (a simple table lamp will also work). The colours from the paper were picked up by the oily circles and created wonderful patterns, colours and shapes.
This is a great photography project at any time of the year, but now the days have become shorter, colder and darker you can easily set this up in the comfort of your home.
If you choose the right colours, the oily circles can take on a wonderfully festive appearance too, perfect for a seasonal screen saver or even a framed abstract to grace your walls. So read on to find out how it’s done…
01 Get ready to shoot
Fill a clean shallow glass dish with about 2-5cm of water. Support the dish so that it’s 10-20cm away from the coloured card – use small boxes to elevate it. Drop some cooking oil onto the water a few drops at a time and watch as the bubbles separate into attractive circles that refract the colours below.
02 Camera settings
To light the coloured paper on the table top, use an angle-poise lamp or a flashgun fired with a remote trigger. Support your camera so it’s close to the surface of the liquid. We reversed the central column of a tripod, so the camera ‘hung’ above the water. Use a macro lens and focus manually.
03 Multiple exposures
Experiment and move the oil around until you get the circles in the right position. Take lots of shots and try using different coloured backgrounds. We combined three of our shots into one image using layers and Blending Modes in Photoshop, which enhanced the sense of depth.
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