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Working with backdrops for macro

From: Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up

Video: Working with backdrops for macro

Whether you are working in the field or in the studio, you need to give some thought to the background in your image. Now at macro distances, you often won't have a background, because your subject will simply fill the entire frame, and you won't be able to see what's behind it. If you're working at more close-up distances, or sometimes, when you're working at macro, you will be able to see what's behind your subject. And so, you first of all need to learn to pay attention to that. And second, you might want to try changing that, or controlling it. When you're in the field, you don't have a lot of control of what's in the background, but you can change how it's represented in the frame.

Working with backdrops for macro

Whether you are working in the field or in the studio, you need to give some thought to the background in your image. Now at macro distances, you often won't have a background, because your subject will simply fill the entire frame, and you won't be able to see what's behind it. If you're working at more close-up distances, or sometimes, when you're working at macro, you will be able to see what's behind your subject. And so, you first of all need to learn to pay attention to that. And second, you might want to try changing that, or controlling it. When you're in the field, you don't have a lot of control of what's in the background, but you can change how it's represented in the frame.

Most of the time, at macro distances, because of your shallow depth of field, backgrounds are simply going to blur out to just a flash of light or smear of color. You can change your camera angle and position to try to include more or less of that. If you're working in the studio, you can actually change what's back there. I have just walked around our studio here, and just found some things that I think might make interesting texture. Now, a lot of this texture is just going to disappear. So, what I am really after a lot of times is the color or play of light. Here's some black tin foil. The lighting guys use this to suck light out of scenes. And, what I like about it is it does have this cool modeled surface that's going to reflect light in interesting ways.

It's black, so if I want a black background, this might be a good way to go. It's also nice, because it's foil, so it stays wherever I put it. If all you want is a simple black or white background, usually the best way to go are pieces of fabric, ideally a fabric with a very matte finish, like a velvety fabric. You don't want something that's going to reflect a lot of light or shine. For white, you can also just use pieces of paper. I've got some other things here. I have this big air filter of some kind. Air-conditioning system is probably going to collapse now that I ripped this out of it, but that's okay, because it's going to be a really cool macro background. It's nice.

I like the color. But also, again, these highlight shadow differences on it could turn out to be kind of a cool, stripy texture in the background. It's going to change with depth of field, because it's curved, so this has potential. Similarly, here's some fishing line. This might make a nice, shiny background of some kind. I've got some other things here, different kinds of grids, and filters, and things. Again, I am not sure how this is going to blur out, but it's got a very varied surface that could make for interesting plays of light.

These are interesting, I'm afraid of how shiny they are. So, you might want to be careful with really, really shiny things because they are going to kick a bunch of specular highlights back into your lens. Now, what's potentially cool about this is, since you are going to be so defocused on the background, those specular highlights could come back in as interesting shapes and little flary things. Here's another. Here is another grid. This one is very silvery. So, you can just poke around your house, and see what you find: dinner placemats, bathroom tiles. If you can, you just go the hardware store, and buy granite tiles, or marble tiles.

Those can make very backgrounds. Boxes of sand can be very good, or soil. I have got a couple of things here that I actually was thinking of shooting. But at macro distances, these could all be very good backgrounds. And, you may think, "Well, that's awfully small for a background." That's the beauty of macro photography. You don't need a very big background. If I am going to go in real, real close on something, this might be big enough to serve as a background. I can set it on top, and have this in the back. I was actually thinking that this dart might make a cool macro subject, but now that I look at the fins of it, this could be a cool background with these nice stripes of the flag here.

I don't think they are necessarily going to read as stripes on a flag; they are just going to turn into color. So, poke around your house; see what you can find in the way of background. The really important thing about background when it comes to macro photography though, is learning to pay attention to it in your frame, while you are composing. And, we are going to talk about that more throughout the rest of this course.

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Image for Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up
Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up

47 video lessons · 15511 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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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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