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Creative Abstract Photography with Food Coloring and Milk

Creative Abstract Photography with Food Coloring and Milk featured image

Like any art form, photography thrives on experimentation. Creative abstract photography with food coloring and milk is a simple process, but it produces vibrant and immediate results. Using ingredients sourced from the pantry and the fridge, this is a fun project with plenty of room for creativity.

photography with food coloring and milk
f/5.0 1/125 ISO 100 x 2

A bit of history…

Ever since they were discovered, humans have been enamored by the creative possibilities of dyes. Dyed flax fibers found in the Republic of Georgia in a prehistoric cave have been dated to 36,000 years BP.

The earliest dyes were obtained from animal, mineral and vegetable sources. Rare resources that produce brilliant and permanent colors like Tyrian purple and crimson were highly sought-after in the ancient and medieval world. As technology progressed, so did artistic mediums, creating more accessible and safe dyes and pigments.

Creative Abstract Photography with Food Coloring and Milk
f/2.0 1/50 ISO 500

The practice of adding colorants to food itself is thought to have started in Ancient Egypt around 1500 BC. Candy makers would add wine and colored extracts to their wares to make them more visually appealing to customers.

Nowadays, a variety of safely consumable dyes are readily available in grocery stores, cooking shops, etc. The vibrancy and behavior of these colorants has fascinated many, with food dyes being adopted for artistic purposes too.

How to make abstract photography with food coloring and milk

You will need:

  • a camera with a macro lens or extension tubes etc
  • a tripod (optional)
  • 1/4 of a cup or so of plant-based or dairy milk
  • food dye in a range of colors
  • dish soap (optional)
  • a white dish or bowl
  • a mixing utensil or two
  • paper towel or a sponge or cloth to clean up any spills

Setting up

The first step to creating abstract photography with food coloring and milk is to prepare your canvas – the milk!

Sit your dish or bowl on a level surface exposed to a decent amount of natural light (or you could use flash).

Pour your plant-based or dairy milk into the dish so that the dish is covered by a few millimeters of liquid. Make sure you have a sponge or cloth at the ready to wipe up any spills.

food coloring and milk photography
f/5.6 1/200 ISO100

Next, set your camera up. You want it primed and ready for action as you drop the food dye into the milk.

For this project you can use a tripod to keep the camera steady, freeing up a hand to adjust the dye. You can also hand-hold your camera, whichever feels more comfortable. You can angle the camera any way you like, just as long as it is focused on the milk-filled dish.

Now for the dye!

Once your camera is ready, add a few drops of dye into the milk. Start taking photographs, gradually introducing more dye as needed.

As the dye spreads, try adding different colors to create a more layered effect. You can also stir the dye with a mixing utensil, cultivating intriguing shapes and forms.

Creative Abstract Photography with Food Coloring and Milk
F/8.0 1/125 ISO 400 | f/19.0 1/125 ISO 400

To create a sense of movement in your abstract creations, try blowing on the milk/dye through a straw, or fanning the concoction with a fan.

You can even add a little water, dish soap or vegetable oil to create separation within the dye and milk mixture.

Creative Abstract Photography with Food Coloring and Milk
f/8.0 1/125 ISO 400 | f/13.0 1/125 ISO 400

Once you are finished with a batch of food dye and milk, you can start again with a fresh bowl! Just remember to add the dye gradually so as not to over-saturate the mixture too quickly.

photography with food coloring and milk
f/3.5 1/250 ISO 400 | f/22 1/125 ISO 400

Conclusion

Photography with food coloring and milk renders visually fascinating results. With a few simple ingredients, photo-worthy abstract images are created in a whirl of unrepeatable patterns and layers.

I’d love you to try creating abstract photography with food coloring and milk and share your results in the comments below!

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Megan Kennedy
Megan Kennedy

is a photographer and writer based in Canberra, Australia. Both her writing and photography has been featured in numerous publications. More of Megan’s work can be viewed at her website or on Instagram at ejekt_