How to: Shoot psychedelic soap bubble shots at home

Comments Comments
Inspired by the two week Covid-19 quarantine, Australian Geographic photographer Chris Bray has developed a set of 14 creative, easy-to-follow, indoor photography projects to inspire you and push the boundaries of your photography, and better yet, they don’t require any fancy gear, so you can dive right in!
Chris has kindly given us this first tutorial to share with you, and if you enjoy it, flex your photographic muscles with the other 13 in his ebook '14 Indoor Photography Projects' on Apple Books and Amazon.

Challenge one: Soap bubbles

Who knew soap bubbles had such spectacularly psychedelic trance-parties swirling across their surface?!! With a little setup and practice, you’ll soon be snapping photos that look quite literally out of this world.
What you'll need
  • Dishwashing detergent mix 1 part to 6 parts water. 
  • Straw to inflate the bubble.
  • Sheet of paper as makeshift soft-box / diffuser.
  • Torch or remote flash.
  • A macro lens is ideal.
SET UP: Pour a little mixture in the mug, insert straw and practice inflating a single bubble that rises up the sides to form a bulging cap on top.
The colours show up on parts which are reflecting a bright white surface, the bigger (and closer) the better: A flash inside a soft-box or behind a diffuser or even just a sheet of paper held 5cm above between a stack of books piled on either side!
Place the mug towards the front so you can shoot as perpendicular to the bubble as possible thus maximising the area that will appear sharp, despite likely having to use a small f/#, giving a shallow depth of field.
Mount a torch or flash to illuminate the paper from above - I just hung my torch from my tripod and shot hand-held!
CAMERA SETTINGS: If using a torch, Aperture (Av or A) mode dialled down to your smallest f/# to start with. Set exposure compensation to +/-0 (normal brightness) and adjust ISO so you’re getting shutter speeds of at least 1/100th sec to prevent movement blur (the patterns move fast!) and camera shake if hand-held.
Use AF-S (‘one-shot’) or manual focus (not tracking) and keep re-focusing on the best pattern, as close as possible. If the torch is bright enough (i.e. shutter speed >1/100th sec), increase f/# for more depth of field and use a safer 1/200th sec.
If using a flash, Manual (M) mode, 1/200th sec, ISO 4-800, f/8-11, depending on flash power. If too dark, boost ISO and/or drop f/#.

TROUBLESHOOTING: Can’t focus? Try manual focus, or maybe the camera is too close. Blurry? Check shutter speed, increase ISO if needed. 

EXTRA TIP: Glycerin (or corn syrup) makes bubbles last longer. Use 10:1 detergent:glycerin.
Chris Bray is an award-winning, Australian Geographic nature photographer and global Lumix ambassador who runs small-group photo tours to the most extraordinary wildlife experiences on Earth. Chris grew up sailing around the world then led several world-first arctic hauling and sailing expeditions and now lives on Christmas Island where he’s created a new eco-lodge, Swell Lodge. Check out more of his work at, and don't forget you can get Chris' ebook '14 Indoor Photography Projects' on Apple Books and Amazon.
comments powered by Disqus