Sometimes I see a photograph, and I wonder how it was done, what tricks or special equipment (if at all) did the photographer use to achieve the result? In most cases there is no way of asking him, and I have to guess and speculate on how it was done.
A few days ago I did a few flower macro shots, and posted one of them in a couple of forums. In the responses I’ve received I saw some questions as to how I did it, so I decided to write a post about it.
I used Canon 100 mm f2.8 Macro lens, a light tent, and two flashes – the main one from the right side, and another flash from the left side. I set the second flash to be much weaker, so it would make the back side of the flower just a little brighter.
I didn’t want big depth of field so I set my aperture to f5. On the contrary, I wanted to be able to control what exactly will be in focus.
The shutter speed was 1/200 of a second, but it is not important in this case because I didn’t use ambient light – only strobes.
Since I had total control of my lighting, and I could set it to be as bright as I wanted to, I used ISO of 100, the lowest ISO on my Canon 40D. As you probably know, the lower your ISO setting, the less noise you’ll get in your photo.
Of course I used tripod. This is an important point. You might think that shooting at speed of 1/200sec doesn’t require the use of tripod, and under certain circumstances you might be right. For example when using wide angle lens with fairly closed aperture. But in my case I used telephoto lens (100mm) with f5, which means that even the slightest movement will shift the focus from where I want it to be to another random location. So, the conclusion is that in macro shots tripod is almost always an essential piece of equipment.
As you can see on the shot I sprayed the flower with water. Water drops are a very nice touch to many natural subjects, not only flowers. Sometimes photographers photograph the water drops on their subject in such a way that a reflection of something would be visible in the drops, and it makes for great images. In my case I wanted to achieve the exact opposite – I didn’t want any reflections in the water drops in order to focus the attention of the viewer on the flower, and to achieve that I photographed my flower in a white light tent.
And finally, the background. In the shot above and in one of additional examples from that photo-shoot below you will see that my background wasn’t plain white. But what was it? It is easy – I used one of my calendars with colorful photos as the background. When shooting macro, DOF is so tiny that a photograph placed 30 cm behind the subject becomes totally indistinguishable collection of colorful splashes, which makes for a nice background.
Below you can see a few more examples from that shoot
I hope you learned something from my experience.
As always, feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section.
P.S. For those of you who wonder, the flower’s name is Morning Glory
This is another photo-sharing post. Recently I had the time to revive my small home studio, so while I was at it, I took some photos… actually I took a lot of photos, most of which aren’t worthy of sharing.
Here’s the only two I liked:
This photo was taken inside light tent with two flashes (one from each side). I call it “Almost Symmetrical”. Nothing much to it, just having fun 🙂
Click on the photo to enlarge.
And I also liked this abstract photo, which is really a closeup of glass filled with cold bubbling mineral water, with yellow light in background.
Recently I was learning a lot about lighting and together with that I am now slowly making my way into the still life photography. I made me my own little studio. Well not really a studio, but a table and some accessories so that I can try and photograph still life. For one of my sessions I decided to shoot a glass with liquid in it. It turned out to be not a simple task as glass reflects absolutely everything! So that particular session wasn’t successful at all, but I didn’t give up, and after working on it for a few weeks, I finally got my lighting straight and about a week ago I made the following image:
Photograph by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.
It looked pretty darn good to me, so I posted it on PhotoSig to try and get some critiques. To tell you the truth I was hoping to receive more compliments than critiques. I actually received some compliments, but there were two critiques that simply opened my eyes to still life photography, and I would like to present here several tips from those critiques. But first take a good look at the photo above and try to see what is wrong with it.
… ok, now, when you have your own opinion on my photo lets see what improvements I could have made to that shot.
The highlight on the glass seems stronger than the highlight on the pepper, and therefore takes away more attention – reduce the highlight on the glass.
The pepper that was chosen is not flawless, but it is also not an old one so that little imperfections that it has don’t emphasize its age, and only disturb the eye of the viewer.
Pepper has a darker are due to my lighting imperfection. I should have put a reflector near the pepper to light better that area.
There is a reddish area at the foreground that should be fixed.
The definition of the foreground (the contrast) could also be better.
The glass is poorly separated from the background. In order to better separate it, two black cards can be placed at two sides of the image (outside the composition). They would throw a black reflections on the glass contours, making it better separated from the background.
The background darkens towards the top of the photo. A reflector or soft box could be placed on the top to fix that.
Now I also received additional and very useful tips that I sure will use in my still life photography (when appropriate of course!). Here are some of them:
Always dilute the liquid to make it less dark
When possible slightly crumple some foil small enough that it can’t be seen and place it behind the drink, so that it will add sparkle to the liquid.
If you want to add bubbles to the liquid, then add glycerin and use straw to make a bubble.