How To Do Frozen Object Photography At Home

How To Do Frozen Object Photography At Home

In an earlier tutorial we looked at some of the ways you could make close-up photos indoors. Now I’d like to share another idea with you – frozen object photography.

This is an ideal stuck at home project because you can do it with stuff most people already have.

These are the sort of photos you’ll be able to make after reading this tutorial:

Frozen object photography
Frozen object close-up photography
Frozen object photography

The idea itself is simple to execute. All you need in terms of material is fruit, an ice cube tray and water.

You’ll get the best results with a macro lens. But you can create similar photos using something like an 18-55mm kit lens or 50mm prime lens with an extension tube. A short telephoto lens matched with a close-up lens is another good alternative.

I used a large silicon ice cube tray to create my frozen objects. If you don’t have one you could use a small plastic container instead.

Whatever you use, fill it up with fruit to get the best results.

The ice cube should look something like these, depending on the shape of your tray or container.

Frozen object photography ice cubes

I used raspberries and slices of lemon. Other fruits that could look good are fresh berries or segments of small citrus fruit like clementines.

Of course, you are not limited to fruit. Feel free to use your imagination when it comes to subject. Run with the idea and see where it takes you!

Keep frozen object photography simple with natural light

I deliberately used a setup with as little specialized equipment as possible. I could have made it more complex, but I wanted to show you how to get great frozen object photos with minimal equipment.

Because of that I used natural light.

Flash is great if you have it as it’s much easier to use low ISO and small aperture settings. Plus you can take photos at night if that’s the most convenient time for you.

If, like me, you intend to use natural light then find a place to set up close to a window. These close-up photos look stunning in diffused light. So choose a position where the sun isn’t shining onto your workspace.

Here’s my setup.

Still life photography setup

I placed two pieces of white foamboard on my desk to create an all white environment. You can use any paper or card for this, although card handles the water from the melting ice cubes better. Keep a towel handy to mop up meltwater!

The benefit of this setup is that it’s easy to swap out the card in the background for one of another color. I used black as well as white for my photos.

Frozen object photography white background
Frozen object photography black background

You can of course experiment with any colors you like.

What if I don’t have any close-up gear for frozen object photography?

If you don’t have a macro lens, extension tubes or any of the close-up photography gear mentioned in this article you can still try frozen object photography. The key is to use larger blocks of ice so you don’t have to get so close to make an interesting photo.

For example, here’s a photo I created of an autumn leaf frozen in ice some years ago.

Leaf frozen in ice

If you want to see this idea taken to another level then check out the frozen flower photography of Bruce Boyd and Mo Devlin.

Depth of field in close-up photography

Depth of field is much narrower than normal in close-up photography. You’ll need an aperture setting of f11 or f16 for the best results.

Because of this you’ll need a slow shutter speed if you’re using natural light and keep the ISO low (to around 100-400) for optimum image quality. It’s essential to use a tripod.

If you’re handholding the camera, on the other hand, don’t be afraid to use ISOs like 3200, 6400 or even higher if your camera can handle it.

It’s more important to get sufficient depth of field, and a higher ISO lets you set a smaller aperture. You might even like the slightly grainy effect you get at these ISO settings.

Extra shooting tips

Here are some tips to help you get the most from your shoot.

Experiment with the composition and angle of view. Move the ice cube around to find the most interesting aspect. It’s fascinating to watch the ice slowly melt and reveal more of the subject.

If you’re using a tripod try and set your camera at eye level. I set mine up on a desk and as a result I needed to get down on my knees to look through the camera’s viewfinder. That gets uncomfortable after you’ve been doing it for a while.

A better setup would be to use your dining table. Put some cardboard on top first so you don’t scratch the surface. Place a chair on the cardboard to hold your still life setup. Then set up your tripod on the table as well so the camera’s at eye height. That will save your knees and your back!

Use manual focus. Most of the time you’ll get the best result by focusing on the part of the ice cube closest to the camera. If you switch to Live View on most cameras you’ll see the scene with the current aperture setting applied, so you get an idea of how much depth of field there is. Or you can look through the viewfinder if your camera has an electronic viewfinder.

Remember this is playtime. Don’t take it too seriously! Enjoy it, and don’t be afraid to get experimental with your post-processing. In Lightroom Classic, for example, add Clarity and Texture to bring out the textures of the ice.

Why not take the photos one step further and export them to a plugin like Exposure or Silver Efex Pro when you’re done? Try out effects like borders, color casts, textures and light flares. Remember to have fun with it and not worry about whether you should be doing this or not. If you don’t have a particular plugin then download the trial version and use it.

I created these photos using Exposure X5.

Exposure X5
Exposure X5

Build on the ideas in previous tutorials. Take your best photos into Adobe Spark and create graphics from them. You make something good enough to print out and hang on the kitchen or dining room wall. Again, have fun and experiment and see what you can come up with.

Adobe Spark

Further reading


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About Andrew S. Gibson

Andrew S. Gibson is a writer, publisher, traveler, workshop leader and photographer based in the UK. He started writing about photography while traveling in Bolivia, and has been published in many prestigious photography magazines including EOS magazine, where he worked as a Writer and Technical Editor for two years. He is inspired by meeting new people, seeing new places and having new experiences. Check out his photography ebooks here.

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