How to Photograph the Sheer Beauty of Soap Bubbles

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Most of us are fascinated by soap bubbles and love playing with them since childhood. Watching bubbles float in the air and burst is a pleasure every child and even adults enjoy. Soap bubbles have an exciting range of color and textures. When light shines onto a bubble it displays vivid color that changes swiftly. Even though we see them on regular basis, we never actually observe them so closely to enjoy the thrilling beauty they hold within.

They are stunning, amusing and mesmerizing but extremely short-lived. Soap bubbles usually last only for a few seconds and then burst either on their own or upon contact with another object. So how can you capture these beautiful soap bubbles and keep it forever? Let’s find out.

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What gear do you need?

First, we’ll talk about the camera gear you need for photographing soap bubbles. These photos can be taken with any DSLR or even compact camera if it is capable of firing an external flash. And for the lens, it’s better to use a macro lens but if you don’t have one, any lens will work fine.

Get or make a large light source

The most important aspect of soap bubble photography is the light source rather than a camera. It requires a large light source. If you have a studio light with a large softbox or beauty dish that will work great. But if you don’t have one, it doesn’t mean that you can’t take this type of photo. It can be done by using off-camera flash with a DIY softbox too.

For a DIY softbox, make a frame of two by two feet by using wood or iron wire and wrap it in white cotton cloth or butter paper. This frame, combined with an off-camera flash, will give the same impact as studio flash with a softbox.

And if you don’t have an external flash, you may place this frame near the window (or hang a white bed sheet over a window) and use sunlight as your light source. The possibilities are endless, you just need to use your imagination.

Steady the camera

You will also need a tripod so you can fix your camera on it and free your hands to blow bubbles. If you have a shutter release cable (remote trigger) it would be great to use that as well.

Other supplies

Other than this, get a piece of black cloth or black paper to use as a backdrop. You’ll also need soap solution to blow bubbles. You can buy it from local stores or make it at home by adding two tablespoons of liquid soap and one tablespoon of glycerine in half cup of water and leave it overnight.

Workflow

Okay, now we have everything, let’s start shooting. First, switch-on your music system and start playing your favorite album. It’s not necessary but it’s always good to listen to music while you shoot.

Now pour soap solution into a small bowl and place it on a table. Put a black cloth or black paper behind the bowl and set up your light source. Your light should be very near to the bubble (just 2-3 inches). If you want your bubbles to look like a floating planet, place the light source right above the bubble otherwise place it at 45 degrees downward.

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Set your camera on the tripod and attach the shutter release cable. Set a narrow aperture between f/11-f/16, so you can get deep depth of field and get the entire bubble in focus. Focus manually and change other settings like shutter speed and ISO according to the light. Now use a straw to blow bubbles and start clicking.

Problems and Solutions

Once you blow the bubble, you’ll notice that it doesn’t have the swirls of colors which you were expecting. Wait a few seconds, and the colors will begin emerging, which is your cue to start clicking pictures.

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Also, keep a close watch on the surface of the bubble. If it starts looking transparent, it means that the bubble is about to burst. To increase its lifespan, use a straw and blow on the bubble slightly. This will also add some unique texture to it.

If you are using homemade soap solution which you made using the formula I talked about earlier, soap bubbles will have a longer life but if you are using other soap solution, bubbles will burst in very short time. If that’s happening, adding a few drop of glycerine will increase its lifespan.

I also discovered that the temperature and the humidity of room play an important role in increasing the life of a soap bubble. If the temperature of the room is hot or atmosphere too dry, the bubbles would burst very quickly. This happens because soap bubbles have a layer of water between two thin layers of soap and when the water evaporates, it bursts. This is why it has a shorter lifespan in hot and dry environments.

So, by adding glycerine and lowering the temperature of the room, you can increase the lifespan of the bubble up to five minutes. Soap bubbles show a whole range of colors and textures from their formation until they burst. Every second you’ll find different colors and patterns and you can get lots of different shots with just one bubble.

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Post-processing

If everything has been set up properly, there is no need for heavy post-processing. Just level adjustments, some cleaning, cropping and sharpening would be enough and your image end up looking like scenes from the movie Interstellar.

At last, keep trying until you get the desired results and share your photos in the comments below.

Here’s a graphic for those who want to save or share this post on photographing bubbles on Pinterest.

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Ramakant Sharda is an iOS App publisher, author, and a passionate photographer based in the beautiful “Pink City” of India, known as Jaipur. His work has been published in various magazines, newspapers, and blogs. He writes about photography and also teaches photography in his workshops. Check out some of the masterpieces at ClickManic.com or download his free app for iPhone and iPad 30 Days to Become a Better Photographer.

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