Oil & Water Images

What You’ll Need

  • Foam Core for base support

  • Bricks for Support

  • Clear Plastic or Glass Dish

  • Vegetable Oil

  • Water

  • Colorful Scarf or Fabric

  • Two Work lights or one light and a reflector.

The Process

  • Place bricks on floor close enough to hold the dish

  • Place a colorful scarf or fabric on the floor between the bricks for your background

  • Place dish on top of bricks. Dish should be about 8”-12” above the floor.

  • Add enough water to cover the bottom of the dish about 1” deep

  • Add several drops of vegetable oil on the top of the water so they are separate and of varying

  • sizes.

  • Place one light on one side of the scarf and a light or reflector on the opposite side

  • Attach your shutter release cable to your camera

  • Connect your camera and macro lens or telephoto lens to the ball head or horizontal center pole of your tripod.

  • Place your tripod over the dish so that the lens is parallel to the oil on top of the water.


  • A bubble level on the camera’s hot shoe will help to insure the lens is parallel to the oil.

  • Your lens should be about 30” above the oil. Watch to see that any writing on the bottom of the dish is not in your image.

  • Focus your camera manually so that your lens focuses only on the oil on top of the water.

  • If your camera has “live view” use it to check focus sharpness and clarity.

  • Be sure your camera and lens are both on manual focus, not auto focus, before you take the

  • image. The background should be blurred but the oil should be sharp.

 Initial settings:

  • Aperture Priority or Manual

  • ISO: 100 – 200.

  • Shutter speed 1/25 or faster (the oil drops move around somewhat)

  • Set your aperture to one stop down from wide-open.

  • Using your cable release, take your image.