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Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up
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Understanding the aesthetics of depth of field


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Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up

with Ben Long

Video: Understanding the aesthetics of depth of field

Throughout this course, I've been defining shallow depth of field as a problem, as something that you are kind of constantly fighting when you are working at macro scale. Now that you've seen focus stacking, you have a solution to that shallow depth of field problem. But does that mean that every image you shoot, when you're working macro, needs to be really deep depth of field? Obviously, if you are shooting a moving subject, or if you are out in the field, focus stacking is not always an option, but here in the studio it is something you could try to do on every shot. But should you? Take a look at this.
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  1. 3m 54s
    1. Welcome
      2m 17s
    2. What you need to know for this course
      1m 37s
  2. 20m 33s
    1. What is close up?
      2m 21s
    2. Understanding minimum focus distance
      3m 55s
    3. Comparing wide lens and telephoto
      1m 55s
    4. Understanding depth of field and focus
      2m 11s
    5. Working with extension tubes
      4m 30s
    6. Working with close-up lenses
      5m 41s
  3. 28m 7s
    1. What is a macro photo?
      4m 15s
    2. Understanding how to shoot macro with a reversed lens
      5m 37s
    3. Using a point-and-shoot camera for macro
      1m 55s
    4. Working with backdrops for macro
      3m 45s
    5. Practicing macro by shooting in the kitchen
      12m 35s
  4. 58m 38s
    1. Choosing a macro lens
      2m 4s
    2. Exploring macro lens features: Focal length
      3m 16s
    3. Understanding macro lens shutter speed
      7m 6s
    4. Shooting basics with a macro lens
      8m 24s
    5. Getting closer with macro lenses and extension tubes
      11m 13s
    6. Working with depth of field and macro
      5m 1s
    7. Understanding depth and composition in macro
      6m 43s
    8. Working with subject holders and support
      6m 36s
    9. Shooting with the Canon 65 mm
      8m 15s
  5. 13m 12s
    1. Working with macro stabilizing options
      5m 45s
    2. Working with sliders for macro
      2m 44s
    3. Working with a bellows
      1m 55s
    4. Working with viewfinders in macro
      2m 48s
  6. 52m 59s
    1. Working with direct light
      6m 13s
    2. Macro and the angle of light
      2m 24s
    3. Augmenting direct light with reflectors
      6m 42s
    4. Continuous lighting to add fill to a macro shot
      5m 55s
    5. Lighting your macro scene with continuous light
      4m 50s
    6. Lighting the macro scene with strobes
      4m 59s
    7. Setting up a macro-specific flash unit
      3m 21s
    8. Shooting with the Canon Macro Twin Lite
      7m 56s
    9. Shooting macro in a light tent
      3m 31s
    10. Shooting macro on a light table
      7m 8s
  7. 19m 44s
    1. Field shooting for macro, starting at home
      7m 5s
    2. Managing backgrounds in the field
      7m 39s
    3. Shooting macro water droplets
      5m 0s
  8. 56m 19s
    1. Creating a simple manual focus stack
      4m 40s
    2. Creating a focus stacked image with manual merge
      6m 17s
    3. Creating a focus stacked image using Helicon Remote
      11m 6s
    4. Working with a StackShot rail for focus stacking
      11m 46s
    5. Merging a focus stack with Photoshop
      11m 12s
    6. Merging photo stacks with Helicon
      6m 53s
    7. Understanding the aesthetics of depth of field
      4m 25s
  9. 1m 5s
    1. Next steps
      1m 5s

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Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up
4h 14m Intermediate Mar 29, 2013

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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.

Topics include:
  • What is a macro photograph?
  • What is a macro lens?
  • Finding good subject matter
  • Evaluating macro gear like extension tubes and tilt-shift lenses
  • Composing and framing shots
  • Exploring depth of field
  • Lighting macro shots
  • Working with light tables
  • Editing macro shots
Subjects:
Photography Cameras + Gear Photography Foundations Lighting
Software:
Photoshop
Author:
Ben Long

Understanding the aesthetics of depth of field

Throughout this course, I've been defining shallow depth of field as a problem, as something that you are kind of constantly fighting when you are working at macro scale. Now that you've seen focus stacking, you have a solution to that shallow depth of field problem. But does that mean that every image you shoot, when you're working macro, needs to be really deep depth of field? Obviously, if you are shooting a moving subject, or if you are out in the field, focus stacking is not always an option, but here in the studio it is something you could try to do on every shot. But should you? Take a look at this.

Our Director, Jacob Cunningham, shot this great shot of a bee, and I was looking at it, and thinking, "That's a really great shot of a bee." But I love the texture on the ball, whatever that is, that seed pod think that the bee is standing on. And, I thought, "Well, it would be cool if there was some more depth of field underneath the bee." So, I started to rebuild the shot, and came up with this -- and obviously I don't have the lighting right, here -- but here is one with really deep depth of field, and it doesn't work as well. So, I started fiddling with the lighting some more, and as I did, I found that actually going back to a shallower depth of field, having less of the ball, and focus was creating a more evocative image.

What this picture really needs is the backlighting that Jacob had in his shot. I ran out of time before I got to there. But you can see this as an example of shallower depth of field creating a more evocative image. As I had more deep depth of field, it's almost like there was too much information. There was less for the viewer to do, and the image became less mysterious and evocative. Now, here is the opposite problem. I was shooting this rose, and as you can see, I was just shooting it head on. And, as I was looking at it more, I was thinking, "What does this image need? Maybe I need to soften some of those darker shadows in there. Get some light in there to make the image less contrasty." And then, I realized what was actually really striking me about this image, or about this rose, was how soft and pillowy those folded-over petals are.

So, I went in closer. So, here is a single shot. And, here I am in real close to just one bit of form within the rose, and I have got very, very shallow depth of field here. And, I began to wonder if I should focus stack it to get deeper depth of field. I did that, and I came up with this. Now, this doesn't have completely deep depth of field. I could do that. I could continue to merge them. I just had to merge these in batches, because there were so many of them. I could take the depth of field all the way to the back, or I could go softer. And, it raises an interesting question.

What had struck me about the image was the softness of the petals, the pillowy texture, how gentle they were. So, you could think, "Well, I need shallow depth of field there, because that's going to create an even softer image. It's going to smear the texture off of the image, and create a really gentle, soft, pillowy scene." The thing is the rose has that inherently. I don't need to add to it. I don't need to simulate it. I don't need to exaggerate it. This is a case where I think going to the deeper depth of field image actually works better, because the rose itself is the soft, pillowy thing that I was trying to capture.

I don't need to soften it further with shallow depth of field. However, I don't think I want to go to the full, deep depth that I could, because there is also a scale characteristic involved in shallow depth of field. If I go to deep depth of field all the way through this rose, I'm going to lose the sense of how small the scene is, because our eyes read shallow depth of field as something very small. That's why this trick works. This was shot with a tilt shift lens, which allows me to really play with depth of field. You've probably seen this effect. It's this little toy effect.

So, what was actually a landscape ends up looking very, very small, because our eye is used to shallow depth of field, meaning small scale. So, if I keep the shallow depth, some shallow depth of field in the rose, I will keep that, sense of correct scale about the size of the object that I was working with. But I don't want to go so shallow that I'm now kind of editorializing. The rose itself is soft. It doesn't need any more depth of field. This is the exact opposite solution to what I found with the bee, where too much depth of field gave me too much information, and I didn't need it.

So, just because you have the power to shoot extremely deep depth of field doesn't mean you should do it all the time. You're going to be facing a lot of aesthetic choices as you work with this new skill set.

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