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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.
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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