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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.
At last, we are ready to start shooting with an actual macro lens. In this movie, we are going to build up a macro shot. And then, through the rest of this chapter, we are just going to continue to put together macro shots. Along the way, you are going to see the varied problems and issues that you will typically encounter when shooting macro. Some of these will be technical, and some will be aesthetic. Now, we are going to start by shooting this flower. Now, you saw me shooting flowers earlier, when we were looking at some other things. And, we are going to stick with flowers for awhile. When you are learning to shoot macro, flowers are kind of a perfect subject.
They don't move typically. They are plentiful. They are easy to come by. But they also have everything that you need when you're wanting to build a picture. They have line. They have form. They have color. They can have depth, more or less of it. And most importantly of all, they really interact with light in a lot of different ways. Even the same flower will really change the way that it reflects light, and diffuses light, and does other things as you move it around within a light. So, even if you're not that interested in flower photography, I still recommend when you're just building your macro chops, start with flowers. They are a really great, kind of perfect little macro studio to work in.
So, I have got a flower here. I can't begin to tell you what it is, because I don't really know anything about flowers. It looks like a daisy to me, but I only know like three different kinds of flowers, so I will just be rotating those names around. I'm back here by my window; I have got this nice soft diffuse window lighting that we talked about before. And so, I'm going to work within this light, just to take some simple shots of this flower. I have my camera; the Canon 100 mm Macro. Now, I have a few different macro lenses to choose from. I chose this one, because I like the focal length. It's stabilized. And, I am shooting this hand-held, because I just don't happen to have a tripod with me. That will happen to you sometimes.
It's a fast lens; it can open all the way to two-eight, so I like that. It's going to be good here, indoors, where light conditions might get a little low. But also, a 100 mm is pretty much the most popular. Well, it's in the range of the most popular focal length ranges, so its odds are this is probably what you're working with if you have chosen a mid-range, mid-focal length range micro lens. So, I am hoping that it's similar to something that you might have. So, I am ready to just get started here. Even before I start shooting, there are a few different assumptions that I make when thinking about what I am going to do.
First of all, I know that almost all the time in macro photography it's about depth of field control. So, I have set my camera to Aperture Priority. I want to be sure that I can choose the aperture that I want to manage my depth of field. Next, I am indoors, so I'm going to need at least ISO 400. So, I am going to go ahead and set my camera there; it was at 100. So now, I have got something that's probably going to give me a better exposure. I could have figured these things out later, but I might as well get set ahead of time. I didn't look at this flower and immediately say, "Ooh, I know how I want to shoot that." I am going to explore it. I am going to work the shot. I am going to see what I can find.
And when I am doing that, what I tend to do is start by figuring out what's the closest I can get, because then I've got a boundary. I know that, well, I can't get any closer than that, so what kind of composition can I build working that close, or a little bit further back? So, I am just going to see how close I can get. And, I'm here, and I'm autofocusing. Now, you might hear a whirring sound right now. You might hear that coming and going throughout this movie; that's the stabilizer turning on. So, if you hear this grinding sound . . . actually, if you hear a grinding sound that means something is wrong with my stabilizer, because it shouldn't be grinding.
Okay, my lens is not focusing, so I am going to move back, and it's still not focusing. Now, I know that the minimum focusing distance on this lens is about this long. So, why isn't my lens focusing? This is where I would immediately stop, and look at my focus switch here. It's set to the middle setting, which is half a meter to infinity. Well, I am in closer than half a meter, so I am going to switch it to a third of a meter to half a meter. That's going to allow me to get in as close as possible with this lens.
So I am coming in here. Aha! Now we are getting somewhere. So, I am using the autofocus, but . . . and I can still get closer. Okay, there I have lost it, so I am going to pull back out until I hear that beep. Now, I am going to kind of just give up on autofocus, because the focus changes that I want to make are going to be so subtle that I can just move in and out. Now, one of the reasons I chose this flower to start with, and I recommend you choose a similar flower, is that it's flat. You can see the profile here. It's a pretty flat, level flower, which means there's not a lot of depth of field. I am trying to minimize my depth of field headache, just for starters here.
I think what I am going to do is just shoot it head-on. So, I am going to get up here. And now, as soon as I get up here . . . Whoa! I become much less stable. And I need to get kind of far back here to get the shot that I want. I can't quite get it. Now you might think, "Well, I need to go get a stool. I need a tripod or something." That's true. There's another thing you can do here, which is to modify the flower. And, we're not used to always thinking about modifying the world when we are out shooting. In macro photography, you'll do that a lot. So, you might as well start to get in the habit right now. I happen to have this tiny little pair of scissors.
I am going to just cut a little bit off the flower, so that it doesn't go as far into the vase. And, that looks pretty good. Ahh! This is much more comfortable. Now, I can shoot it head-on, right from here. So, don't forget that you can always change the position of your subject here. And again, I'm finding the point at which I'm closest in. And now, I am just going to take that shot. I have metered. My aperture is set to 5.6, which is giving me a shutter speed of a 30th of a second at ISO 400.
I would like it to be a little bit faster than that, because I am worried about hand- held shake, so I am going to bump my ISO up to 800. That's going to buy me another stop. And now, I am at the hundredth of a second. That seems pretty safe. And, here's my shot. Okay, it's in focus. I like that. That's always a good thing for a photo. I'm going to go for a little bit more depth of field now. I am going to stop down another stop, and go to F8, which is going to drop my shutter speed back down to a 50th. I am going to go ahead and take that shot, making tiny little motions with the camera to keep things in focus.
And, that looks pretty good. Just for the sake of safety, focus-wise, I am going to bump my ISO up to 1600 -- that buys me that stop that I lost when I went down to F8, -- and my shutter speed's back up to an 80th of a second. So, what I'm hoping you are seeing here is that I'm just doing the normal exposure thing. I'm trying to balance the issues of hand-held shutter speed, with ISO, with the aperture that I want. So, that looks pretty good. What I would really like, at this point, is to see more detail. I would like to see more of that yellow stuff that's in there. Looks very interesting. I would like to go closer. I can't go closer with this lens. And, maybe this is all I am carrying with me.
So, rather . . . since I can't go closer, I am going to continue to work the shot by going the other direction. I am going to step back, and see what I get. I am going to just frame up the whole thing. If I do that, I get a shot like this. I like that. Notice that one of the great advantages of a macro lens is I just have this tremendous focus range. I can get in here and shoot. I can come back here. That means there are lots of different ways that I can frame the shot. Now, if we look again at that shot . . . . Look at the background. I am shooting on this nice butcher block table. It creates a nice beige color in the background, but I got part of the floor there.
It's a little . . . surprisingly easy how simple it is to ignore the background. When you are shooting macro, you get so focused on these fine details, you stop looking at the entire frame. That's not ever something you want to do when you are shooting any kind of subject matter. You always want to pay attention to everything that's in the frame. I am going to move this, still trying to get it in the light that I like, but now hoping that I will have more of the table in the background, and less of the floor. Nothing I can do about the vase, since I trimmed the flower shorter. That was something I should have thought about before I cut it, because I can't really put it back now.
But that's good. That's isolated the flower a little more. I will probably crop the square. And, that's the basics of getting a simple macro shot. I am doing the same exposure balance that I always would, but I've got these extra concerns, because my depth of field is so shallow, and because I have got such particular compositional needs. I am trying to take a camera position very careful, and so on, and so forth. What I want to do next is get closer. And to do that, we are going to need to add some extra gear.
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