Self-Education | Macro Photography
Creating New Worlds with Macro Photography
Photography is all about shifting perspectives and creating visual representations of things from your own unique point of view.
Macro photography makes the impossible, possible. Tiny details are suddenly not only visible but highly defined! I came across a tutorial recently that talked about how to use a macro lens to photograph bubbles and had to try it out for myself.
My first attempt was terrible! I followed the instructions but wasn’t getting the results I wanted. So here is a quick rundown of how I created my soap bubble planets. I’d love to see how yours turn out!
Setting Up for Soap Bubble Planets
- Liquid soap (I found colored soap worked better than clear)
- Glycerine (I went to 3 different stores before I found this so just order it online)
- An external flash
- A softbox or beauty dish
- Black cloth or paper
- Macro lens
To make the bubble solution, I mixed 2 cups of water with 1 cup of liquid soap and 2 tablespoons of glycerine. I later added more random amounts of liquid soap to the mixture to see if it made the bubbles last longer…I think it did!
Try to do this in a cool, dry room. Heat and humidity will pop those bubbles so fast.
Set you camera on the tripod (you don’t want to handhold this, it’s too tricky to get focus locked and keep blowing the bubbles) and put your supplies on a table with your black backdrop behind the subject. Macro photography means using a lens that is created specially to see tiny details, but those lenses are notoriously tricky to focus. Turn off auto-focus and save yourself a big headache!
I put my Godox Ad200 in a 26″ softbox. I started out using a much bigger softbox but I didn’t like the results. Mount it as close to the bubbles as you can!
Camera and Flash Settings
You’ll need to remove all ambient light from affecting your image, so shoot with a narrow depth of field.
My settings varied as I figured out how to shoot the bubbles best, but most of the images were shot at f/16, 1/500, and ISO 320. I used a Canon 100mm 2.8 lens on a Canon 5d Mark III camera.
So how about that flash?
I assumed when I started that I would need the flash to be at full power since my aperture was so narrow! But I found that 1/4 to 1/8 was plenty. I also got creative and added some MagMod Gels to some of the images to enhance the colors even further.
How to Create the Best Bubbles
Grab your straw and start blowing!
I first poured a little bit of bubble solution into the bottom of a black coffee mug turned upside down. But there was ring of white on the bottom of the mug and that looked like crap so I found dark plastic lid from some tupperware thing and used that instead. I poured the solution into the lid and put my straw in the liquid and started to blow. Eventually I got the hang of making pretty big bubbles! The glycerine helps hold them together for longer so often the bubbles lasted fo 10-30 seconds.
My first few shots were pretty blah. The colors were there but they were just like horizontal lines of color. Boring! I finally realized that the swirls of color happen when the bubble is moving. I tried gently shaking the table, blowing a little air from far away, and finally blowing very gently through the straw into the bottom of the bubble and taking pictures as the air flowed around the inside of the bubble.
This made my little planet come to life! Macro photography is freakin’ magic.
Editing to Perfection
These images require very little editing
I pulled them into Lightroom and adjusted sharpness, texture, and clarity on all of them. On a few I played with the HSL slider and curves adjustments. I took them into Photoshop and flipped some around to see them from different angles and applied a little bit of Infinite Color Panel to a couple just to see what would happen!
Try it Yourself!
I’d love to see what you make using this tutorial! Send me a photo on my Facebook page or tag me on Instagram. Happy planet-building!