Home photography ideas: Fun family portraits in the bath!

Watch video: Home photography ideas – fun family portraits at bathtime

If you're stuck working from home while also trying to home school your kids, we have a great photo project that will both entertain and educate them, as well as get them clean!

Taking photos of people in water can be a great route to interesting photos, and this technique you can be done safely and in the warmth at home. 

As most of us don’t have the luxury of an indoor swimming pool in our own homes, let’s look at how to shoot in your home to take some great water babe portraits in the bath!

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Kids often hate posing for photos, but give them an excuse to splash around and have fun in the bath, and you’ll be able to take some great portraits. We added some safe-for-kids bubble bath, but found we got better shots showing the hair underwater when the bubbles had dispersed.

(Image credit: Future / Peter Travers)

We used a DSLR, 50mm prime lens and flash. With our model’s head submerged but with the face above the surface, we lent over the bath and composed and focused from above. She moved around, swishing her hair and we tried smiling, moody and eyes closed. Follow the steps below on how to get set to take some vibrant shots.

It goes without saying, but we’re obliged to say it anyway; electrical items like cameras and flashguns and water don’t mix. Wear your camera strap around your neck at all times and take care to avoid splashes reaching you and your expensive camera kit!

01 Bath time!

(Image credit: Future / Peter Travers)

We’ve recruited our little model in her swimming costume and she was only too happy to play in the warm bath water! We added some safe-for-kids bubble bath, but found we got better shots when they’d dispersed a bit so you could actually see her hair under the water.

02 Camera and lens 

(Image credit: Future / Peter Travers)

We’re shooting with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a fast Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM prime lens. This offers a good focal length in the tight space of a bathroom, and the fast apertures mean we don't need to pump up the ISO, even in low light indoors.

03 Flash in bath

(Image credit: Future / Peter Travers)

We took our photos at night-time, and used a flashgun on our DSLR's hotshoe to give our portraits that little extra pop. But you could shoot in the daytime and use window light, just increase ISO for a good exposure. We used manual flash control to set the right power when working so close to our subject.

Our flashgun is a Canon Speedlite, but a strobe from any manufacturer will do the same trick. By using a flashgun it gives you much more power and control over a built-in pop-up flash.

04 Direct light

(Image credit: Future / Peter Travers)

We tried bouncing the flash off the ceiling when lent over the bath (above), but found that direct flash-light reduced reflections in the water and captured brighter results. So we turned the flash around to point directly at our water babe.

We then set the flash power to 1/32 – you need low power as you’re so close, plus light bounces around the white bath and reflects off the water. Baths are actually great places for brightly-lit portraits!

05 Exposure settings

(Image credit: Future / Peter Travers)

Our exposure in the end was at f/2.8 so facial features remained sharp, yet the bath water and hair behind were blurred. We used a shutter speed of 1/60 sec for shake-free shots, and ISO100.

06 Blue waters

(Image credit: Future / Peter Travers)

To enhance our final images, we edited our Raw images colour temperature to boost the cool, blue feel and water colour, boosted the contrast, and reduced highlights. We also removed any blown white highlights of the flash light reflecting on the water’s surface by using the Spot Healing Brush tool in the Photoshop workspace.

Read more: 

Stuck at home: 11 photo projects to try indoors during the COVID-19 crisis
DIY photography hack: add camera stabilization to ANY camera body!
Photography tips and techniques videos

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Peter Travers

The editor of PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine, Peter 14 years of experience as both a journalist and professional photographer. He is a hands-on photographer with a passion and expertise for sharing his practical shooting skills. Equally adept at turning his hand to portraits, landscape, sports and wildlife, he has a fantastic knowledge of camera technique and principles. As you'd expect of the editor of a Canon publication, Peter is a devout Canon user and can often be found reeling off shots with his EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR.