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It's a small world, and capturing it with a photograph can be challenging. In this course, photographer, author, and teacher Ben Long takes you on a fantastic voyage into the realm of the tiny, detailing the gear and shooting techniques necessary to capture extreme close-ups of everything from products to posies.
After touring the possibilities of macro photography, the course details essential gear at several price levels, including lenses, flashes, and other accessories. Next, Ben explores the special challenges of macro photography: dealing with moving subjects, working with extremely shallow depth of field, focusing, lighting, and more.
The course also explores advanced close-up tools and post-processing techniques, such as using Adobe Photoshop to "stack" multiple shots to yield wider depth of field than a single shot can convey.
Macro lighting is a little bit different from lighting at normal scale, because when you're dealing with such small subjects, it's really easy to flood the area with light. That said, macro subjects often need a little lighting boost to bring out details around edges, to show more texture, to reveal more contour. And, that's true with lighting in the real world. It's just you got to be careful about how much light you throw into a scene. That's why, very often, just natural light and a reflector is a really good way to go, because it's a a light easy to control (amount of light).
That said, I'm ready to try something else with this image. I've done a couple of things here. I pulled that leaf out of the way that was bothering me. Did the same thing you saw in last movie. I just pulled it back, and twist tied it around. I've bolted my flower down a little bit more sturdy, because I kept bumping it, and it was moving around. As I look at the image -- let me just shoot one real quick here, -- I'm struck by something else, though. First of all, it's a busy image. I still . . . what's great about this natural light is it creates all of the shadows and highlights. The problem with my image is it has all the shadows and highlights in it.
There is just too many lines going in different places. There's these things in the background, but I don't want to disassemble the flower yet, so I'm just going to have to leave those. Maybe I'll try later to frame the mount or something. I think right now the best way to calm this image down is to go to a shallower depth of field. I'm still at f/16, so I'm going to dial that back, maybe not all the way to full open, but I'm going to go down to maybe 56. On this lens, full open would be 28, so I've still got a little latitude if I don't like this.
Then I take my shot here, and I end up with softer depth of field, which I like. I'm going to go ahead and go all the way open. And, just so you can see what my boundaries are, so I'm going to dial that down to 28. That's good. Unfortunately, now I've lost too much detail on the stamen cluster there in the center, so I'm going to back to 56. I think this is where I'm going to sit, aperture-wise. I like this. It feels like my eye is wandering a little bit. Yes, I've got nice light in the center. I would like to play that up some more. I can't reflect more light in the center, so I'm going to move to some active lighting.
Now, my subject is very small, so I'm going to start with trying something with a small light. And, I happen to have here a gorilla pod light, which is one of these little things. You may have seen a gorilla pod as a camera support. It's got these nice articulated arms, so you can wrap around things, and attach it to different supports, but instead of having a camera mount on the top, it's got a light. So, I'm going to stand it up, just like a little tripod. One thing that's cool about these lights is they have magnets in the feet, so if you got something metal, you can just stick it to them.
What I'm thinking is I want more light in the center. Now, I could start by trying this, and just shining some light down on there, but whoa! That's awfully kind of garish, and overwrought, and looks very lit. One thing that's nice about these gorilla lights is they are dimmable. It's got a little knob here that I can turn to lighten up the image. So, let me grab a shot here, and you can see what this looks like. So, that's pretty nice. It just looks a little too artificially lit to me, has too much brightness coming in right there in the center.
So, I could try coming up further back. The easiest way to dim a light is to move farther away, but I've got another idea. Couple of movies ago, we saw how cool backlighting can be, shining light through a flower. And, we saw that when we were looking at our flower from this direction, directly into our light. So, I'm just going to try some backlighting of my own from down below. I'm going to try to get this positioned. Oh my! I just broke my gorilla pod. These just snap apart, and snap back together, so if you pull it apart, it's no problem to put it back together.
So, I'm just going to shine that right up there. And now, what I get is this. Okay, that still looks artificially lit doesn't it? It's actually looking kind of radioactive. I'm going to turn that down. This is not a bioluminescent flower. I'm going to turn that down a little bit, take another shot. That I'm liking a lot more. That's actually starting to look pretty natural. It looks like that part of the flower has just caught some light. It's definitely helping to lead my eye into the center of the image, which again, is the point of everything that we do in our photographic choices, is trying to control the viewer's eye, whether that's composition or lighting.
It's to try and make sure that they know where the subject of our image is. So, what you've seen here is me building up a shot through natural light observations, figuring out what I like about the light, what I don't, figuring out what camera position gives me the highlights and shadows that I like. I ended up with too many shadows, so I brought in a reflector. Reflectors are most often how you're going to fill in areas that are too dark, fill in areas that have too much shadow. And then, I've added an active light to actually just put a strong blast of light into a particular area.
I often use this to deal with the fact that, when I'm shooting AT shallow depths of field, backgrounds go very dark and diffuse. Take a look at this picture of a stack of dimes. This is actually several stacks of dimes. So, I've got those two in the front, side by side, and then there is another stack in the back. I took one of my little gorilla lights, and hung it from a microphone stand, and shined it, shined it down into the middle of the image. that lit up my background a little bit. It's what gave me the nice highlights in the middle. So, being able to direct a very fine amount of light into an area can be critical at times.
You can pick up these gorilla lights anywhere that you find gorilla pods sold, so camping stores, maybe even Radio Shack, something like that. You can certainly get them offline. So, we're going to continue to work with reflectors and active lighting throughout the rest of this course, as we explore more lighting options when working with small objects.
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