Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fun with Fizzy Fruit Photography


Bright, high key, fizzy fruit shots are a great item to cross off your photography bucket list on a rainy (or snowy) day. While they may look difficult, you can get great results with just a few simple supplies. This post will walk you through the basics of creating fascinating fizzy fruit shots.

Supplies for Shooting Fizzy Fruit

You can shoot fizzy fruit shots with a point-and-shoot camera or a DSLR. If you use a point-and-shoot, you will want to shoot on the macro setting (tulip symbol), which allows you to focus up-close and take detailed shots. If you use a DSLR, you can use a dedicated macro lens, if you have one. If not, you can use your longest zoom lens (zoomed in to its farthest focal length, like 200mm or 270mm etc.) or you can use accessories to turn your 50mm or kit lens into an inexpensive macro lens. (Read specifics on how to use close-up lenses, extension tubes, or a reverse mount adapter for close-up photography.) All of the photographs in this post were taken with a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens with a +10 close-up lens (or a +4 and a +10 stacked together). A tripod and remote shutter release can be helpful, but you can also shoot hand-held if you have a fast lens (wide aperture like f/1.8) and good lighting.

The blur of bubbles adds to the feeling of motion in this shot.

Lighting can be as simple as a flexible desk lamp or pedestal light. You want something that you can position directly behind the fruit, so that light is shining straight through the fruit and into your camera. I have had great luck with a simple column light, shown below, which is just a light bulb inside a frosted column. A single piece of tissue paper was used over the light to act as a diffuser and make the light softer and more evenly spread out.

Finally, you will also need fruit, a container to hold both the fruit and the liquid, and a fizzy liquid. For a long time, I was confused when reading peoples' comments that they had used lemonade for these types of shots. I finally realized the lemonade in England or Australia is not the same as lemonade here in the US and that a closer equivalent would be sparkling mineral water. I have also had some luck with Champaign, but the bubbles were not as furious or long-lasting.

For containers, you want something glass with at least one straight side to shoot through. This is a great item to look out for at thrift stores, as you can often find old vases for next-to-nothing. My favorite, shown above, is a very narrow vase with two straight sides that I found at a hobby store for less than $10 USD.

As for the fruit, you want something that you will be able to cut into thin slices. The thinner you can slice it, the more light will shine through, making it easier to photograph and capture details. I would estimate my slices were between an eighth and a quarter of an inch. Citrus works particularly well, but you can experiment with all kinds.

Once you have gathered your supplies, you want to arrange your light source so that it is behind the vase or container and will be shining directly at your camera. My pedestal light was large enough to simply rest flat on the table, but you could also use a stack of books to prop up your light to get the right angle.

Tips and Techniques for Shooting Fizzy Fruit

Pour in your fizzy liquid, grab your fruit and your camera, and you are ready to go! The biggest difficulty I found when taking these shots is that the movement of the bubbles caused the slices of fruit to bounce and spin around inside the vase. If you are able to shoot at a quick enough shutter speed (like 1/250th of a second or faster), then this won't be a problem. Otherwise, you will want to find some way of anchoring down your fruit while you are shooting. My improvised method was simply to use my left hand to hold the fruit steady against one wall of the vase and then shoot with only my right hand. An easy alternative would be to set up the tripod for the camera, hold the fruit with one hand or with tongs, and use a remote with the other.


As for settings, I chose to shoot in Aperture Priority with ISO 200 and a wide aperture of around f/1.8-3.5. I used the slightly narrower apertures of f/2.8 and f/3.5 near the end of the shoot, when I was trying to get a little more focus and definition out of the bubbles.

You may also want to consider using Exposure Compensation to overexpose the picture slightly (from one third to one full stop in the positive direction on the scale). This will help the background become a more true white and brighten up the fruit as well. Experiment to see what look works best for you.

At +1/3 exposure compensation, the kiwi fruit is still fairly dark in this photograph.
+1 exposure compensation makes the fruit much lighter and more vibrant.

Try for a mixture of really close-up as well as farther back shots. You will also see differences if you hold the fruit up against the front of the vase compared to the back. If you feel like your bubbles are running out of 'oomph,' let go of your fruit or bounce it around a little bit, to bring back the internal fizz.

You will find that your depth of field (the area of the subject in focus) will be very thin, both from using a wide aperture and from shooting your subject up-close. Play around with having different parts of your fruit in focus – the bubbles in front vs. the bubbles around the sides, for example. Even out of focus bubbles make for interesting compositions.

Focusing on the bubbles in front makes the bubbles along the sides become little out-of-focus dots and bokeh.


There are many different ways that you can setup to shoot fizzy fruit, and this is only one example. The orange, below, was shot in a wine glass against a black tri-fold board backdrop (read more about the humble tri-fold board for photographs ). In this case, the fruit was lit from the front by very bright, direct sunlight streaming through a nearby window. This natural light was enough to even light the fruit and give it a different feel against the dark background.

Don't feel confined to just shoot fruit either. All kinds of objects can look more interesting with bubbles. (I used two of the lamps for the colored pencils, below: one from behind to light the liquid and bubbles, and one from the front to light up the pencils themselves.)

Experiment and have fun it! See what you can come up with, and feel free to post a link in the comments to any successes you might have.

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