Flowers And A Soft Drink: Bubbles And Color Together

We don’t normally speak of soft drinks and flowers in the same sentence, but there is a very cool technique that brings these two unlikely subjects together. Actually, you can use any kind of seltzer water or flavored water that is carbonated. Put the carbonated clear liquid in a glass or plastic container with clear and flat sides, and when you submerge the flowers in the liquid the bubbles cling to the petals. This is a unique subject matter for macro work, and with dramatic lighting the results can be quite beautiful (#1, #2, #3, and #4).

All Photos © Jim Zuckerman, All Rights Reserved




I prefer shooting through good glass only because it is optically superior to plastic. Don’t use a rounded glass container like a gold fish bowl because the glass will distort the flowers and make it impossible to achieve good focus. An inexpensive way to go is to get a small plastic aquarium. This is what I used the first time I did this technique and it cost just $10. It took about a gallon of soda to fill it.

I recommend using warm soda or carbonated water because it holds more bubbles. The only problem I had was that the flowers would float to the surface when I tried to submerge them, so I had to weigh them down to the bottom of the container. There are many ways to do this. Any type of small metal clip that has some weight will work, or you can use a safety pin stuck through the stem and then attach something with weight to the pin such as car keys. Once you get that worked out, the rest is easy.

Getting The Images
If you are using a plastic container, you will get the best quality images by making the axis of the lens perpendicular to the plane of the side of the container. When the lens is used at an oblique angle, image quality suffers. This is less true if you shoot through quality glass such as a glass aquarium.

I prefer to use flash when doing this kind of photography because it’s easy to freeze the movement of the bubbles or the flowers and still use f/32. With off-camera flash I can easily change the angle of the light for different effects, and reflections in the side of the container won’t be a problem. I put the flash on ETTL and set the camera to Manual mode, and when I select a small lens aperture the exposure is perfect. I trigger the flash wirelessly using a Pocket Wizard (



Alternatively, you can use soft and diffused light, early morning or late afternoon light. When I was first using this technique, I noticed the beautiful sunrise lighting coming in through my living room window, and I set my small aquarium on a table to take advantage of it. Each bubble glistened from the warm, golden light and it was truly stunning.
I use a tripod, of course, because that ensures my pictures will be sharp even with a long shutter speed. Bubbles are constantly floating to the surface, though, and that can add an interesting quality to these unique portraits of flowers (#5 and #6).

marry's picture

Who thought soft drinks could help create such awesome pictures? Well, I already have a Stoelting soft serve machine - I couldn't survive the summer heat without it, so I have plenty of soda to use in order to take my shot. How about using colored drinks? Do you think it will work as long as the soda is not opaque?