How to Shoot Otherworldly Macro Photos of Soap Bubbles

How to Shoot Otherworldly Macro Photos of Soap Bubbles

There are certain subjects in the macro world, which are so fascinating and absorbing that almost every macro photographer will point a camera at them at some point. No matter how many photos you take or see of these subjects, their charm does not seem to wear off.

Getting Started

But let’s start at the beginning: With the bubble solution. Most recipes you’ll find will be based on dish soap as it works very well for this purpose and is widely available. Mix 1 part soap with 2 parts water. To increase the longevity of your bubbles you can add sugar (raw sugar, corn syrup, honey,…) or glycerin to your solution.

Next we’ll need to think about how we shoot the soap. There are two basic possibilities: We can film/photograph a soap bubble as a half-dome, or we can shoot a plain film of soap on some kind frame.


To light the subject evenly and really bring out its vibrant colours, a large and soft light source will be essential. But if you don’t have a softbox, don’t worry: simple solutions such as a bedspread over two chairs or a a couple sheets of parchment paper between your light source and the bubble can deliver great results, too.

Behind the diffusion layer you will need a strong light source. For still images an off-camera flash is the best solution as it’s controllable and strong enough for this purpose. If you want to shoot video or in case you don’t have a speedlight handy, you can use a strong lamp (or even multiple lamps behind the same diffusion sheet) to illuminate your shot.

You’ll want to position the light source as close to your bubble as possible or vice versa. The closer light and subject are, the more of the subject will be illuminate. Now is also a good time to make sure that you’ve got a clean background without any distracting structures. If you’re background looks cluttered or busy you can use a black piece of fabric or cardboard for a clean black backdrop.


An important part of this project is a convenient workflow; having to move around a light box on a stand to blow a new bubble, every time one pops, can soon become frustrating and this is supposed to be fun after all!

Another thing to note before we get started is that it’ll take a few seconds for a the soap to settle and reflect the vibrant colours that we’re after. So if you don’t see results immediately, just give it another moment…

I used my camera on a tripod for all images and sequences shown in this article and highly recommend to do so too, not only for filming, but for photography as well; it makes for easier focusing and eliminates hand shake. Your lens should obviously be set to manual focus, as always recommendable with macro photography. Use the self-timer function or an intervelometer to avoid motion blur.

Soap Bubbles

For the soap bubble sequences I positioned a round and black base filled with bubble solution on an end table with a softbox right above, only a couple inches away from it. There was basically just enough space left to fit in the bubble between the container and the light source.

Best results are yielded with the light source centered above the bubble. This made it difficult to access the vase without moving it and shifting focus between bubbles. To work around the problem I manufactured an extra-long straw, using I lighter to veld the plastic and duct tape to stabilize the seam. This allows me to blow new bubbles without touching the set-up and film with a pre-focused lens.

 set up the frame right above the vase filled with bubble solution. To create a film I only have to lift up the vase and dip the frame in it. Once the camera is pre-focused, this process can be repeated as long as your soap lasts without or only very minor changes in focus.

In this case we need the light source next to, or above the camera, shining directly at the soap film.

Lens & Camera Choices

Even though a great image is taken by the photographer and not by ones camera, the right equipment will always be beneficial. To take the best footage possible we will choose a set-up that fits the specific requirements of this project: a good amount of working distance while strong magnification. Therefore a macro lens with a long focal length, such as 100mm lens would be a good choice.

I decided on a telephoto-lens on extension tubes. The reason for this decision was mainly that it is my sharpest lens and that the range of working distance and magnification ratio made it a perfect fit.

To get even closer, without loosing working distance or depth of field, I used a 2x tele-converter. However, using such a converter comes at a price: it multiplies the original aperture by its own strength, which causes a significant lack of light and can result in diffraction softening.

I want to encourage you to stay creative and be adventurous! A bit of alcohol for example makes for even more psychedelic patterns and I’m sure there are other substances that will have cool effects. By blowing air at the bubble (not directly, just past it) you can create unusual patterns as well.

Original Article: Petapixel.com (Maximilian Simson)