How to Create Cosmic Photos and Timelapses with a Sheet of Glass

What do you get when you combine condensed milk, food coloring, and hydrogen peroxide? No, not your favorite holiday cookie recipe, but rather a stellar way to make cosmic effects. To see how, check out this video from Joey Shanks:

If you stick to standard photography and haven’t yet played around with digital art, you may very well ask, “Why in the world should I do this?” If you’re an old hand at photo composite work (or someone who loves new and interesting challenges), you might be at the opposite end of the spectrum: chomping at the bit to try it out.

To explain, most graphic designers and digital artists have found themselves needing an original cosmic element or brilliant space background for their composites at one time or another. And while there may be plenty of great stock out there to pull from, it never hurts to have a collection of originals, especially since once you get good at it, you’ll have more control over the outcome. (Not to mention the fun that can be had in the experimenting.) Since it’s a bit difficult to get out to space and take the shots ourselves, Shanks has found the next best thing: simulating the effect in-house.

Materials Needed

  • a piece of flat glass
  • stands with clamps to hold the glass in place
  • a stand with a c-clamp so you can shoot directly down
  • condensed milk
  • food coloring
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • an intervalometer (if you’re shooting timelapse)
  • editing software, and possibly some great filters to go with it (Shanks uses Red Giant filters)
  • a secondary light source to highlight more of the dust
  • lots of patience and creativity

Creating cosmic effects

Although the possibilities may seem endless, Shanks cautions about getting too carried away with your chemical reactions:

“Be careful about mixing alcohol…don’t be bringing bleach in, making mustard gas, or anything like that. Simple water-based stuff works just fine.”

With any luck (and hopefully no inadvertent mustard gas creations), you’ll soon have a portfolio full of comets, stars, black holes, and colorful nebulae you can use in future composites.

Space Special Effects

Stills and timelapses can be created from these chemical reactions.

use a sheet of glass to photograph cosmos

Photos like this work well in composites.

What do you think? Is it worth going through all the trouble just to get homemade space shots?

Like This Article?

Don't Miss The Next One!

Join over 100,000 photographers of all experience levels who receive our free photography tips and articles to stay current:

Leave a Comment

Personalize your comment with an avatar from Gravatar.com!

New! Want more photography tips? We now offer a free newsletter for photographers:

No, my photos are the best, close this forever