Photography How to Create Amazing Abstract Oil Photography

The most amazing photos are combinations of simple things. When you wash up dishes, you will get annoyed by the oil sticking to the glass tray. In photography, you can use those water and oil droplets to your advantage.

Macro water photography is a diverse area and can boost your creative energies. In the project below, we show you how to use water and oil to create colourful, abstract images.

Water and oil have properties that make them repel and attract each other at the same time. This allows us to design a new water abstract, made up of bubbles and colours.

What You’ll Need

  • Camera
  • A macro lens or extension tubes (I used Kenko products)
  • A set of chairs (milk boxes are another good option)
  • Sheet of glass
  • Tripod
  • Dish Soap
  • Glass cleaner
  • Paper towel or a rag
  • Newspaper
  • Colourful materials for the backdrop
  • Cooking oil (I use vegetable oil, but other types work just as well)
  • Water
  • A spoon or eyedropper

1. Gather the Materials

Before we get started, we have to gather a few materials together.

To get a colourful and vivid photo, you will need a backdrop. Look for coloured cardboard paper or magazines, tea towels, posters or wallpapers. Any exciting material can work. You can even download a few photos on your tablet and use it as a backdrop for your oil and water photography.

I’ve found that the stronger the colour of the material, the better. It adds a greater degree of contrast and depth to the image. Duller toned elements like brown or black won’t reflect light as much. Aim for brighter colours for the best results.

Keep in mind that the background of your photograph will be blurry. Don’t worry too much about picking out detailed patterns and shapes in your materials.

Next, you need to suspend your subject over the background with a transparent layer of glass. This is to create a good distance from the backdrop.

I sourced my piece of glass from a large photo frame I found at a charity store. Aglass bowl or even an unused fish tank will work too. Grab some glass cleaner and give your glass a good wipe-down. We don’t want any dust bunnies or fingerprints making an appearance in our photographs!

2. Minimise Mess

Oil can be a messy substance to work with, so preparation is vital. Try setting up your rig for this project outdoors on flat and even ground.

Always have some paper towel or an old rag at the ready in case of any spills. Use a spoon or eyedropper to apply the oil to the water in small, even doses.

I recommend placing a layer of newspaper beneath your work site to protect the floor from spills. If you use your tablet as a backdrop, make sure you cover it in a protective case!

3. Set up Your Photo shooting Scene

It’s time to set up for your shoot. Grab your pair of chairs and place them a small distance apart from each other. Then set your piece of glass between the chairs, forming a small bridge. If you don’t have enough chairs, you can use milk or juice boxes too.

Take a few pieces from your colourful materials and place them on the ground beneath the sheet of glass.

Depending on the height of your chairs, you may need to elevate your coloured materials. You can use something like a few books or bricks so that the backdrop fills the frame of the camera.

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