Tons Of Fun Photographing Oil And Water

Posted: August 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

I’ve seen many images posted in various websites of mixing oil and water and always thought they were really cool images. For what ever reason I never took the time to photograph oil and water. So I finally decided to take some time and give it a go. Here is how to do it with simple basic household items.

What’s needed

1) Clear glass pie dish or clear baking dish.
2) Cooking oil
3) Water
4) Multi colored photo, fabic, wallpaper, etc.
5) Two tall drinking cups
6) Butter Knife

I fill the clear glass pie dish with about an inch of water and add maybe a half cup or oil. I used a stool to set up my system on, but a small table will also do. The two tall drinking cups are placed underneath the pie dish at the outside edges to support the dish. You can see below the pie dish I have a print of one of my fall multi colored leaves. You can use fabrics or wall paper, that has lots of colors. I set up inside next to a window for lots of light, but you could do this outside as well.

Set up your camera overhead, and get the front of lens parallel to the water. I used an f/stop of f/8 and my shutter speed worked out at 640th of a second at an ISO of 1600. I wanted a fast shooting shutter speed that would help stop moving bubbles.

You may pour the oil on the water and get lots of bubbles or in my case I only had grape seed oil on hand and when I poured it on the water it just created a slick on top of the water, but not a lot of bubbles. I used a knife to swirl the water fairly hard to help create some more bubbles and create a swirl of lines and bubbles.

I would start swirling the water with the knife in a fairly quick whirlpool motion, and then pull out the knife and look through the cameras viewfinder and study as the swirling bubbles and lines passed through the frame. The bubbles and lines will be going pretty quick at first, but just wait and the movement will slow down.

I’m looking through the viewfinder and as the water would slowly move through the frame, I would see all kinds of interesting designs of bubbles and lines, and when I see something I liked, I would fire the shutter with a remote. The fast shutter speed is needed to stop the action.

When the movement of the water stopped, I would start moving the water in a circle again with the knife.

You will get some nice groups of bubbles that will pass like the ones in the two images below.


With the movement of the water you will get lots of compositions moving though the frame, and you will get interesting swirling lines like this next group of images.

Now you can just shoot whatever bubbles you may find just randomly floating on the water and move the camera and tripod around, but I like to be able to just set up the camera in one place and move the bubbles though the frame and having unlimited artistic composition to choose from.

If you choose to do it this way try and get the highest shutter speed you can to stop the movement of the bubbles. Raising the ISO will help with the higher shutter speed. If your shooting in direct sunlight you will have plenty of light for a fast shutter speed and may not need a higher ISO.

This is a lot of fun, and you will have tons of interesting artistic artwork.


Website, Workshops and E-Books

You can buy my images from a select group at

To see my processing videos click here

To save 15% on Topaz products click here

If you like this post share it below through your social media groups.

  1. Helen Cherry says:

    This is another of those things I keep meaning to do too Mike… so many photos to take.. so little time !

    • Thank you Mike for this informative video, I will attempt re-capturing your image, I have been shooting on auto, but since you have stated the details of your processing I will try manual 🙂
      In friendship, Irene on Facebook

  2. Greg says:

    Mike, I believe you could take a handful of dirt and make art out of it! Yeah, you’re that good- Greg N.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s