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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.
I've set up for a macro shot with the twin light. So, I have got a massive gear here that should look familiar to you by this point. I've got my Kirk Enterprises tabletop tripod setup here. I put my geared head on it, and I've got my slider on it, and I've got all the stuff, because really, it's a luxurious way to work. I have got it all here. There's no reason not to. I have got a lot of fine camera motion and sturdy control. I have put the 65 mm macro, the 1-5X Macro, on my 5D Mark III, and I've got the twin light mounted on the end.
My subject for this shot is right here in front of me. We found a dead bee, and it was sad, but then we realized we could immortalize the bee. So, we have set him up here on top of this weird, little, some kind of seed pod, or something; it's all covered with thorns. And, it is just sitting in this vase. The vase is not here for any aesthetic reason. It's here only because it's the right height. So, we've already gone through the thing you are going to go through on every macro shot, of struggling to figure out how to get your subject into position, so that it's the right height with whatever the rest of your rig is.
I've already framed up the shot. I didn't do anything that you haven't already seen me do. Most of the . . . all of the focus is through camera position, which is much easier because of my slider. And now, I'm ready to go. I want to show you a shot without the flash. I've set up here in front of my window. And, I set up in front of the window this way, because I like the idea backlighting. Looking at the bee, I thought, "Oh, the wings are transparent, so it might be cool to have light coming through it, so we can see the structure of the wings, and that kind of thing." I am in Aperture Priority Mode. I am at ISO . . . I'm going to go up to 1600 right now, because I know that I'll get a clean image that way, noise-wise.
I am at f/16, because I need a lot of depth of field. Got my remote control, because at 3x on my zoom, I need to be careful about camera shake. And, here's what I get. So, you could see here that the image is a little too backlit. It's also too dark. I really could use some extra light in here. I don't have any exposure compensation dialed in. So, I've got some nice highlights around the edge of them, because of the backlighting, but really, this image is not usable. It's way too dark. So, it's time to employ the flash. I'm going to turn it on. And, one of the first things I'm going to do, now that I know that this is going to be a flash shot, is I'm going to turn my ISO down.
There's not as much need for it. I don't think we will see how this all meters out after I turn it down, and I figure, "why not go for the cleaner image?" So, I'm going to dial that down to 400. That drops my shutter speed to . . . looks like about a sixth of a second. So, I may want to speed that up if it looks like I'm getting some camera shake from that longer exposure. As you saw earlier, the flash units on the twin light can rotate around the ring. They can also tilt. I have put them at the very top, in their uppermost position.
I've been finding that -- when what I need to do is flood an area right in front of the lens with light . . . that's giving me the best results, -- is to just put them right up at the top. I tilted them directly at the bee. And, I've got my diffusers on, because these things almost always put out too much light. So, I'm staying at f/16, I'm in ETTL on my flash. I am taking my shot. And, here's what I get. Right away, it looks a lot better. I am liking this a lot more. I can see tremendous detail on the bee. It looks good. It also looks like a flash shot.
The flash is very evenly lit. There are maybe too many highlights. It doesn't really look like daylight shining down on this bee, which is kind of what my goal should be. So, I want to dial the flash back a little bit. That's very easy to do either from the flash unit, or from the camera. I'm going to do it from the camera, just because these buttons are all recessed, and they're harder to press. So, I'm going to dial. I'm going to go to my exposure comp, my Flash Exposure Compensation Control, and dial that down maybe two-thirds of the stop. I'm just guessing, taking a shot.
Okay, I like that better. The highlights aren't quite so harsh. I'm going to just go back up to a third of a stop and see -- a third of a stop of flash under exposure, -- and see what that looks like. Yeah, that is still maybe a little too bright, so I'm going to stick with the two-thirds of the stop under. So, this is actually already a really good image. I could stop here, and this may end up being the final image. But there are some experiments that I can do that might be worth fiddling with. I have two different lights here; hence the name, twin light.
I can ratio those lights using controls on the flash. And what ratio means is I control the ratio of brightness of one flash compared to the other. So, let's just go from left to right here. And, I'm going to do some extreme examples, so that you can really see what's happening here. I'm going to dial in. And, you should be able to see that. I turn on this light here. This is my ratio control. I'm going to dial in a ratio of 8:1. So, what that means is that this flash is going to be eight times brighter than this flash. And, if I take that shot, sure enough, it looks like the light source has been pulled around to the left.
So, let's go to the other extreme, and turn my ratio over here to 1:8. So, I'm just reversing it, making the right-most flash brighter. And now, it looks like the light has been pulled around to the other side. I think that's a little too much. I'm going to back off on the ratio. I also think that . . . and I may not need any ratio at all. Actually, before I decide if I need, if I like either of these, I'm going to go back to 1:1, and lock that in.
And now, I'm going to try changing the flash position. I would like maybe -- I'm getting some nice backlighting coming from this direction, -- I want to see about changing the light that's happening over here, on the right-hand side. So, I'm just going to take my light here, and swivel it down, so that it's hitting the bee kind of more right in the face from directly in front. And, I'm back to 1:1 on my ratio here. I still have two thirds of under-exposure on my flash compensation. That's definitely different. Look at the difference here between this and this. It's subtle, but there are some differences in highlighting.
I'm now going to just dial in a little bit of ratio adjustment. I want to see what it looks like if I just do a tiny, little adjustment to put a little more light on the left side. And I'm liking this. I think this is the shot. So, if you don't have this unit, or you don't want to invest in this unit, and you already have a couple of strobes, you can do the same thing that I'm doing here. Obviously, all I've got is just two strobes being fired in a particular place. You have already seen me working with one off-camera flash. There's no reason not to just try and hold two. The problem with that is it takes a lot of hands to do that, and run the remote control, and everything.
There are rigs you can get for that, special arms that come out, and hold the flashes. Those rigs are even useful, even if you already have the twin light system, because these flashes detach from the twin light. I said, unable to detach them. There we go. So, if I didn't have this window here, and decided I wanted some backlight, and I had the right kind of rig, I could pull this off, and put it down here, and have it held there. That's also really useful when you're doing this kind of stuff in the field to have a permanently-mounted flash rig. Makes it much easier to work with, with bees that are still alive.
So, I hope what you've seen here -- obviously this is not a flash course, -- but I hope that what you've seen here is that a big part of this kind of work is simple experimentation. And that's really easy to do now that ratioing is something you can just dial in, flash position is something that's so easy to change, and you can easily change the brightness of the flash from the camera. So, as you're working with this, bear in mind that you're going to need to experiment with where you're putting your flashes, how you're ratioing them, and how much output you're generating. What you're looking for, along the way, are the things that we've talked about even when working with natural light: nice highlighting, better contour, better overall illumination.
With just a few simple flash units you can get much better stuff when you're working up really close on a very small subject.
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