Here is a simple but effective technique to produce and photograph otherworldly images resembling the swirling surface of Jupiter, or unusual 3D shapes with flat, angular, surfaces. To prepare the bubble mixture, you need a ratio of around 1:3 of washing-up liquid to water. You may need to experiment to get the right consistency. I did not use glycerine, but it is supposed to hold the bubble shape for longer and improve color and swirls. Add between a teaspoon to a tablespoon.
I used a straw to generate the bubbles, but you can use a bubble wand. Initially I used a large, grey bowl full of bubbles, but then discovered that a small black saucer also worked perfectly well. Bubbles stand out on a dark background, and there are fewer reflection problems. Put the camera on a tripod (I use a humble Nikon D750), set the camera to ISO 100 to reduce the amount of noise, then experiment with manual settings. My aperture was set between f/5.6 and f/11, and my shutter speed ranged from 1/40 to 1/1,000 sec. I used a Sigma 105mm macro lens to fill the frame.
Look for patterns and colors to emerge and focus on these (before the bubbles pop!). You could experiment with stacking images during postproduction: you would need to take a series of shots zooming in, focusing and zooming out. But you will have to work quickly. Be patient and do a little experimentation to get the desired effects, but the results can be quite rewarding.
Deborah's four steps to shooting your own bubble planets
01 Prepping your kit
You’ll need washing-up liquid, warm water, a dark bowl or plate, scrunched-up tin foil and a straw. Optional items include a bubble wand, glycerine (in the baking aisle), and a black backdrop.
02 Your light source
Diffused light from above, such as a conservatory, is ideal. Scrunched-up tin foil can reflect light if it’s dull. In calm weather, you could shoot outdoors – the golden hour would be a good time.
03 Creating your bubbles
Tilt the bowl or dish at a shallow angle. Using a straw, blow bubbles. Once you have a bubble, keep the straw inside it, and continue to blow gently until you have many bubbles in one formation
04 Focusing the shot
With the camera on a tripod, you can either focus through the viewfinder, which is quicker with bubbles, or use Live View. A cable release or wireless trigger can also be used to minimise shake.