Soap bubbles always fascinate us as a kid. Not just the kid, even adults love to play with them. Blowing bubbles and watching them float in the air and then burst is exciting and a pleasure to watch. We all played with the soap bubbles at least once in our lives, even though we see them almost every day, but we never observe the sheer beauty they hold within them.
Yes, soap bubbles hold an exciting range of patterns and colors. When you see them against a dark background, it shows vivid colors and textures that change rapidly. Soap bubbles are fabulous, charming, and fascinating, but unfortunately, they have a short life span. Usually, they last for a few seconds and burst when someone touches them or most of the time on their own.
But we can shoot this sheer beauty of soap bubbles to keep with us forever. Let’s find out how we can do so.
Gears we need:
First, let’s talk about the gears we need for this photo series. We can take these photos using any DSLR, compact camera, or even a mobile phone. If you use a DSLR, try to use a macro lens because soap bubbles are tiny in size, and with a macro lens, we can click from a very close distance. If you don’t have a macro lens, use any lens that you have.
Most mobile phones already have a macro mode, so you don’t need to use any special lens or attachment.
In soap bubble photography, the light source is more important rather than a camera. This photography needs a big size light source. You have many different choices for the light source. You may use a studio light or a flash or a continuous light source like an LED light, or if you don’t have these, use a window light.
If you are using LED light or window light, you need to use high ISO because we need to shoot with a narrow aperture like f/16 to get a deeper depth of field, and we can’t use a slow shutter speed as colors in the soap bubbles change rapidly. So if you have studio lights or off-camera flash, it’s better to use them instead of continuous light.
If you are using a studio light or a flash, use it with a large Softbox or beauty dish. If you don’t have a softbox or beauty dish, don’t worry. You can make a DIY Softbox and use it with a flash or a continuous light source.
To make a DIY Softbox, create a two-by-two-foot frame using an iron wire or wood. Now wrap this frame with butter paper or white cotton cloth. This frame will give the same impact as studio flash and softbox. You may use this frame with an external flash or a LED light, or you may place this frame near the window and use the window light as a light source.
Other than this, you need black paper or a black cloth to use as a backdrop. To blow soap bubbles, you need a soap solution. You can get it from the local market, or you can make it at home. Just add two tablespoons of liquid soap in half cup of water and add one tablespoon of glycerine to it. Leave it overnight, and your soap solution is ready.
Now everything is ready, let’s start shooting. Take a small bowl, pour soap solution into it and place it on a table. The bowl should be two or two and half-inch size. Place a black paper or black cloth behind the bowl. You can see and capture the colors of soap bubbles against a dark background only.
Let’s set up the light source. If you want to capture the soap bubbles like a floating planet, your light source should be near the bubble (just 2-3 inches). In our case, the light source is the softbox or the frame we made, not the actual light or window. So place the frame right above the bubble.
Fix your camera on the tripod and focus manually on the soap solution bowl. Set the aperture to f/11 or f/16, set shutter speed to 1/125 seconds, and set ISO according to the light. To get the entire bubble in focus, we need such a narrow aperture. As soap bubble is constantly changing, so we need at least 1/125 shutter speed.
If you are using a shutter release cable or remote, attach it to the camera. Now all you need to do is blow the bubble using a straw and capture the picture. For mobile shooting, you don’t need to set aperture, shutter speed, or focus. Mobile will do it automatically.
Problems and Solution:
Soap bubbles will not have these fantastic colors immediately after you blow them. You need to wait and after a few seconds, colors will start emerging and then you can start shooting.
If you are using a readymade soap solution, you may notice that the soap bubbles burst quickly. If it’s happening, add a few drops of glycerine to the solution, it will increase bubbles lifespan. If you made it yourself using the above formula, you would not find this problem as we already added glycerine.
Also, the temperature and the humidity of the room play an important role in the life of a soap bubble. If the room is hot and dry, like we have in summers, the life of the bubbles would be concise. Soap bubbles have a layer of water between two thin layers of soap and when this water evaporates, the bubble burst. That is the reason it has a shorter lifespan in dry and hot environments.
To increasing the lifespan of the bubble, add some glycerine and shoot in a cool room. By doing this, your bubble will last for two to three minutes and you can click a lot of different shots with just one bubble.
Also, take a closer look at the surface of the bubble. When it starts getting transparent, it means that the bubble is about to burst. Use the straw and blow air on the bubble gently. It will increase its life add some unique colors and texture to it.
If you are doing everything correctly, you don’t need to do heavy post-processing. Just some level adjustments, cropping and sharpening are enough, and your image looks like a sci-fi movie scene.
So, start clicking and add some fantastic colorful photos to your portfolio. Good Luck.
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Blog Credit: Ramakant Sharda
Ramakant is an Award-Winning Photographer, Author, Mobile Apps Publisher based in the beautiful “Pink City” of India, known as Jaipur. Many of his works have been published in magazines, newspapers, and international blogs. He writes about photography and also teaches photography in his workshops. He has published three (so far) coffee table books. Get his latest book Mastering High-Speed Photography.