Colour bubbles – oil and water macro photography

September 02, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Ever seen photos like this and wondered how and if you could recreate them?

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Until about a year ago i’d seen these and thought how amazing and interesting they looked. So i set myself a challenge to see if I could recreate something (anything) like what i’d seen! I researched on the internet and eventually came up with some idea of what i should try. A little bit of trial and error later and i decided to write my own blog post on how to create images like this.

Equipment you will need:

  • Camera with either a macro lens or extension rings. Alternatively the macro setting on a point and shoot may work though i have not tried this.
  • Glass bowl or dish
  • Glasses or supports for your glass bowl (so that you can get your colour under the dish of oil and water).
  • Water
  • Oil
  • Something colourful to use as your colour base.
  • Tripod can be used, although for the images in this blog i did not use one.
  • Plenty of light – either natural or artificial.

Step 1

Choose some colourful items or striking patterns for your base of the image. I used feathers, smarties, torn up tissue paper and an old black and white photo.

Step 2

Set up your bowl with a small amount of water in. Place your colour under the bowl. Then add a little oil to the water.

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Step 3

Photograph what you see!

Its as simple as that!

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Patriotic red, white and blue created with two feathers.

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A ring of smarties

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A black and white photo

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Torn up tissue paper

A few points that may help you.

  • You will probably need to switch to manual focus so that your camera focus’s on the oil droplets rather than the items below them.
  • The further your water and oil from the object below the more blurred and abstract the colour will look in the image.
  • I opted for a fairly low F stop around 5.6 so that the background colour was just colour and not an obvious object. Here in the 1st photo I used a higher F number and realised i could make out the shape of the smarties too much. So I dropped the F down to 5.6 for a more blurred effect. oil and water macro photographydf7_0905lowres oil and water macro photographydf7_0908lowres


You can experiment with whatever you wish to use under the dish. You will find that letting the water settle gives you bigger oil droplets whilst agitating the water will give you more smaller droplets.

Have fun!




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