How I Turned My Bathtub into a Magical Forest Pond

How I Turned My Bathtub into a Magical Forest Pond

Sometimes shooting on location, or even finding the ideal location, can be so difficult that a photographer has to rely on their own ingenuity to bring their vision to life. Here is how I turned my tiny bathtub into a forest pond for a magical shoot, with some tips on how you can do the same thing.

This was a shoot I’ve wanted to create for a long time. I had the perfect model, the perfect makeup artist, and a vision in my head dying to become a reality. What I didn’t have a was a pond. And if I had found a pond, it was below freezing here in Colorado, so it wouldn’t have done me much good. I had a kiddy pool, one of those plastic numbers you can get from Walmart for a few bucks, but that would have to be used outside and, as I mentioned before, it was freezing out there.

That left me with a couple of options: I could either wait until the weather warmed up, or think my way to a new solution. Since patience is a virtue I do not possess in any significant measure, I chose ingenuity. And a bathtub.

Model: Charlee Johnsen MUA: Kat DeJesus

Model: Charlee Johnsen MUA: Kat DeJesus

Model: Charlee Johnsen MUA: Kat DeJesus

The main problem with bathtubs is that they’re in confined spaces, they’re relatively small, and they’re entirely the wrong color. My bathroom is also super tiny, which makes having several people in the space rather... intimate. To make a shoot like this one work, you’ve got to think your way around those issues.

Here is a list of each problem, how I overcame it, and how you might do the same.

Tiny Bathroom Problems

  1. Decide to compose the shots by framing them tighter and making the images much more intimate

  2. Forgo large light sources for smaller ones

    1. I used a cheap constant light in a small soft box, but you could easily bounce a speed light off a wall or the ceiling, if those light patterns work for you

      Notice the tiny corner of the softbox in the bottom left of the frame?

  3. Keep the crew to a minimum
    1. In the bathroom it was just me, the model, and the makeup artist. We were the only ones who would fit, anyway

    2. Use minimal gear There was no space for tripods, tethering cables, computers, light stands, or anything else. It was just me, a camera, and a cheap little constant light. If tethering is a must, you could put the computer in a different room and use a wireless tethering system.

  4. The Bathtub

    1. If I wanted the shot to look believable, I could not have the white tub showing in any way. Ponds also don’t have milky white water, and I wanted the model and the greenery to be visible through the water, so the milk bath thing would have been a no-go.I used several garlands of plastic leaves as a buffer between the model and the bottom of the tub. This disguised the color of the tub, gave the green-ish cast I wanted, and left the water nice and clear.

    2. Because the space is so tight, the sides of the bathtub also had to be hidden. My model is about 6ft tall, which left her squished right up against the top of the tub, even with her legs sticking out, so the sides of the tub also had to be hidden by greenery. If the plastic plants can sit on the edge of the tub and droop over to cover the sides, that works. If they keep slipping into the water, duct tape can solve that problem for you.

    3. You’ve got to be comfortable with a relatively tight crop. I had a great model who could really work the small space, so that was fine with me, and I was able to get around the lack of angle variability by making sure the water was up high enough to leave more space open, and by framing very, very carefully.

    4. Use something in the foreground to give additional depth and make the image feel like it’s really on location.

      Covering this poor girl in scratchy plastic plants

  5. The plants and wildlife

    1. A forest pond would have living creatures and plants. I found some plastic plants with similar characteristics to water-based plantlife at a local craft store, and bought some floating faux lily pads from Amazon. The lily pads were kind of foamy and worked beautifully. Amazon also has some faux fishes you can use if you want, and compositing is always an option.

We tried a few things to add additional interest, like adding light through a prism to cast some interesting colors and shapes, so think about ways you can build the scene to fit your story and add visual interest and believability.

Model: Charlee Johnsen MUA: Kat DeJesus Retouch: Kate Woodman

Model: Charlee Johnsen MUA: Kat DeJesus Retouch: Kate Woodman

These fairly simple steps allowed me to finally create the images I’ve been carrying around in my head. If you’ve done a shoot like this one, link the images from your Fstoppers profile below so we can chat about how you created them. If you plan to do a shoot like this one, let me know if this helped!

Nicole York's picture

Nicole York is a professional photographer and educator based out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. When she's not shooting extraordinary people or mentoring growing photographers, she's out climbing in the New Mexico back country or writing and reading novels.

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Hey, that's lovely. What a great result.

Were you inspired by the "Pre-Raphaelites"? I must see the exhibition at our National Gallery

In part, yes. I would love to see the exhibition, such beautiful work!

That's awesome, I did a whole series/exhibition like this a few years ago, but I love your use of lilypads.

These are beautiful!

This is incredible.. Thank you so much for the inspiration.. Will do a similar shoot for the debut cover of my new magazine Pretty Petal Mag.. Really looking forward to it..