Photography is about freezing a moment in time, it’s not usually meant literally! Well unless that is you intend to freeze an object in ice so that you can photograph it. This can be a great way to give product photography a bit more variety and is simple to set up.
The materials needed to do this are simple household objects, and of course, most everyone has a freezer. You don’t have to go to the Arctic for this, ice photography can be done in the warmth of your own home! Let’s take a look at the steps needed to create your own frozen object photography.
The concept behind this photo was “Frozen Assets”. A blue gel was used to create the blue tint to the ice.
Select a subject for your frozen object photography
The first step you’ll need to take is to choose an object to freeze. This object needs to be small enough to fit inside a box that will go in the freezer. A strong object is best, after-all it needs to survive the freezing process. The object should also have some point of interest. Why are you freezing this particular object? So what kinds of objects might be worth trying? Consider the following:
Food – Raid the freezer for things to freeze! Fish works great, you can get some from a fish market and then freeze them.
Money – Both coins and paper money can work well when frozen, though if the value of the paper money is high freeze at your own risk.
Metal objects – The way ice freezes around metal, especially things like metal screws can create great patterns in the ice.
Flowers – Another still life favorite, this time frozen for some ice photography for a different twist.
Freezing metal objects in ice can create nice textures. The ice is well picked up by the flash here.
Freezing the object
The next step is to freeze the object, this process takes a few days. It’s best if the object sits in the middle of the block of ice, so follow these steps. You also need a box large enough to freeze it.
Add around 1cm of water to the box you’re going to freeze.
Put the box in the freezer and allow the water to freeze, this will take a day. The box needs to be on a flat surface.
Take the box out of the freezer and add the object on top of the ice.
Add a new layer of water to the ice, again 1cm. Do this quickly to avoid the ice melting, and floating to the top.
Once again allow a day for the water to totally freeze.
Now repeat steps 4 and 5 until the thickness of the ice is to your liking, and the object is sealed inside the ice.
Make sure the base of the block of ice is wide enough so you can stand it upright without it falling over.
The process of freezing the object takes several days, which will ensure that the object is in the middle of the ice.
Preparing an area for ice photography
The area where you will photograph the block of ice needs some preparation. The ice will produce a lot of water as it melts so have a towel to mop up it up or place the ice on a tray to catch the water before it runs away.
The location where you shoot is up to you, although I recommend you use a table. The ice is going to be backlit so either make sure there is strong window light available behind it, or enough space to put your own lighting behind the block of ice.
Make sure you have something to prevent the melting ice from making a mess. You will need to have lighting set up for this.
Sculpturing your ice block
Now you are ready to do some frozen object photography, but first, you need to get your ice block. To do this take the box to the sink, place it face down, and run some water over it until the block falls out. You can push on the back of the box to force the ice out if necessary.
You now have a rectangular block of ice, the texture of the ice will look great but not the shape. In order to create shapes with the ice, you will need to melt it. The following are some ways you can go about doing this.
A hair dryer – This method can melt the ice by blowing hot air at it. The process is slow, and you need to be careful when working with water and electricity.
A heated metal object – Heat a metal object and then place it on the ice on the area you wish to melt. Once again be careful not to burn yourself.
Tap water – The sledgehammer of ice melting, this will melt the ice fast especially if you use hot water. Run the tap over the area you want to melt, being careful not to melt too much of the ice away.
Blow torch – A more extreme version of the hair dryer, this will melt the ice fast so be careful with it. The block of ice will need to be secure to prevent it falling over, and be careful using the blow torch.
One method to give the ice more shape is to melt it under a running tap.
Using lighting to enhance your result
In order to bring out the texture of the ice, you will need to properly light it. The three options available to you are natural light, spotlights, or flash. The light will backlight the ice, though in order to light your object you also need some side or front light. If you want to experiment further you could add colored gels to your light source to change the color of the light coming through the ice.
Natural light – If flash and desktop spotlights are unavailable this is your best option. Use some strong natural light, for example, light shining through a window will work.
Desktop spotlights – These can be used to shine light through the ice and if you have more than the one you can use an additional light for some side lighting.
Flash – This form of light is the strongest, and gives you more scope for experimenting. The main light source should backlight the ice. A second light source should light the object in the ice. You need to be careful of light reflecting off the ice though.
Using lighting to change the color of the ice can work well. In this case, fish was frozen in the ice and a blue gel used on the backlight.
Why photograph an object frozen in ice?
It takes time and preparation to photograph objects in ice, so why do it? The main reason is that it’s fun to experiment with something new. This can give your still life photos a unique twist. You can take some photos of frozen objects in ice, and use them in conjunction with other ice related photos to make a series.
Go out and try this technique and share your experiences in the comments section below. Have you already taken photos like this? That’s great we’d love to hear how you go about photographing ice, and the type of objects you’ve frozen for ice photography!
This photo has a more minimal feeling. The ice is lit by the flash units, and the background was exposed to be black.
If you only light the back of the ice your objects will be silhouetted which can look neat too.
is a specialist in creative photography techniques and is well known for his work with a crystal ball. His work has featured magazines including National Geographic Traveler. With over 8 years of experience in lensball photography Simon is the expert in this field, get some great tips by downloading his free e-book!
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