The Fine Art of Shooting Bubbles
Art is serious business. In my experience, many artists act as though they are the most important people on the planet. I guess they must be, right? In that spirit I wanted to be super-important too, so I chose the lofty subject of bubbles to help me gain entree into the rarefied world of The Most Important People on the Planet.
Let’s take a look at this image of soap bubbles. Click on it for a larger view:
Once you get over the deep philosophical implication of it, I’ll show you how easy it is to create “art”. The first step is to get good at blowing bubbles, or enlist an assistant to do same. I went to the Dollar Store and picked up one of those “bubble swords”. It’s a long plastic container shaped like a test tube, and it comes with a plastic”wand” in the shape of a giant needle eye. You dip it in the soap, take it out, and blow…..bubbles, baby.
The only trick here is lighting. I went overboard and used studio strobes, but speedlights will work just fine. It would really help if you can trigger it off-camera….in fact…..just do it. You can get really inexpensive triggers at Amazon or eBay. I picked up the Cowboy Studio triggers on Amazon for a little over $20! That price includes a hot-shoe transmitter AND a receiver!! If you only have one speedlight, place it at camera left, and place a reflector at camera right so that it reflects back onto the bubble, which will be in between the speedlight and the reflector. OH……you want to have a black background, definitely!
If you have 2 speedlights, you’ll have more fun. Same idea….place them camera left and right facing each other. Or, point the speedlights at opposing white walls or large pieces of white foam core board for some large, soft light.
Now blow bubbles in between the 2 speedlights and snap away! In terms of exposure, you can usually get it right by the second or third frame. I usually set my shutter speed at 1/125 for flash. It’s well under my camera’s sync speed, but fast enough that ambient light isn’t an issue. Remember, the flashes are supplying the stop action, not the shutter. So you have to set you exposure for the FLASH light, not ambient. That means you can’t use your meter, unless you have an incident light meter. Since they are too expensive at @ $200, you have to do it all manually….but it’s easy. Shoot, chimp (look at the photo), adjust aperture, shoot, chimp, etc. Incident meters were crucial when shooting film, because you could measure flash strength and set your exposure accordingly. With digital cameras, you just look at the LCD after the shot!
You’ll discover that even with a white flash, you’ll get some interesting patterns in the bubble.:
Bubbles are a random event. You have to shoot a lot of frames to get some that are interesting, but you will get some! Once you get the hang of it, try putting some color gels on the flash heads for….er…color! I pointed my flash heads at opposing white walls away from the bubbles, for a large, soft colored light source.
Click on each image for a larger view:
I used Lightroom 3, but ANY image editor will do. You will want to bring down your shadows to get some nice rich saturation, and speaking of which, bump up the saturation to get some real vivid color. I typically increase the Blacks, increase the Exposure a bit to compensate, and increase Saturation. Every image is different so you’ll just have to use your own judgement.
There you have it. Now you’re an Artiste!! The best part is, you can now act like the most important person on the planet.