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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.
We've been talking about a lot of different kinds of gear in this course, because having the right tool can be critical for getting a good shot. But ultimately, nothing is more important to your final image than light. All photos begin with light. And, you'll very often choose to shoot a particular thing, not because you are necessarily interested in that thing so much, but because you like a light that is hitting it. Now, if you've been watching the movies in this course in order, then you've probably noticed right now, that the lighting here has changed. And, I want to use this opportunity to talk about the difference between the light we have now and the light we had earlier.
A lot of people find lighting to be a very daunting topic. But really, the most important part of learning about light is learning to notice the difference between one kind of light and another, and understanding why that difference has occurred. Now earlier, I asked you to find a window with soft light to shoot in. I did this because soft light is a very easy light to work with. But what is soft light? Soft light happens when the light on a subject has bounced around a whole bunch, so that we get a lot of reflected light coming from lots of different directions.
Take a look at the same shot of this flower that we shot earlier. The soft light is light that wraps around the subject. You'll often hear people talk about how, "Oh, this nice, diffused light is wrapping around everything." What that means is that there's so much light bouncing in so many different directions that there's no single, direct source of light. And, that means that there's no one angle that's dominating in any other angles, and so, creating brighter highlights in one place, or darker shadows in another. It's a very even light; it wraps around everything on the flower.
What's great about that is it means that you don't have really harsh contrast. It's easier to control the viewer's eye. There's no one part of the image that stands out over another part of image. Now, we're getting what may look more like afternoon light. The sun has set. We're getting more direct light coming in, and it's creating a lot of different shadows. I want to very quickly just take a picture for you here. I've got my camera pulled back a little bit. I've switched back to my 24-105, and I am going to just take a quick shot in this light.
Now, take a look at this. This is a very different kind of image. Here, I've got light and shadow playing across the surface of the flower. Everything is not evenly lit from every direction. It means that some things are going to be harder to see. It means that other things are going to be easier. But what that means is a lot of times an image with more drama. I can see more of the texture that's on the flower. I can see more of the contours of the petals. I can use that lighting to try to guide the viewer's eye to pay more attention to one part of the image than another. So, what I would like you to do now, for these first exercises in this movie, is to go somewhere in your house, and find a shaft of strong, direct lighting.
This can be light streaming directly through a window. Sometimes, it will still have a reflective angle to it. Maybe it's bounced off of a wall. Whatever. It's creating a strong shaft of light. And, find a flower, or another subject. But again, for the time being, it's still good to stick with flowers, because they're so easy to work with. Find a flower, and get it in that light, because we're going to start playing with some of this direct lighting. So, what do I have to work with here? I've got all of these lights and shadows. I'm still thinking compositionally the way that I always would. I'm looking at different elements -- the stamens there in the middle, the petals against the background. I can put one against the other. I can try to weight the frame in different ways.
But I want to really focus on the lighting right now. In that shot that I just showed you, I like that there's that bright spot on the petal, right beside that middle part, that middle stamen there. But, as we were doing before with exploring the image by panning and moving around, I want to explore the image with an eye towards light. And, a lot of this you can do with the naked eye. I'm just going to get down here real quick, before I move the camera. And, as I do that, I see some highlights and some bright spots that are really interesting. So, I'm going to come down here, and grab a shot, so that you can see what I'm talking about.
Now, this is very often how you will begin to work up a shot, especially when you're working macro; when you're trying to figure out where a composition is that doesn't necessarily have a really obvious subject and background; where you are trying to build an area of focus. So, I've got my tripod lowered. That looks like it's probably about right, but I need to do some tilting here. I'm doing just the same things that you've seen me doing throughout this course, just using the controls on my tripod to frame up a shot, which I'm going to be able to show you in just a moment.
Now, this is not a finished, great composition. I just want to show you what I'm thinking about lighting-wise. I'm going for deeper depth of field here. So I'm staying at f/16, using my remote, because my shutter speed is going a little slow. So, check this out. Now, I'm getting these nice, bright highlights on that petal in the background. And, I'm seeing rim lighting around those pollen-covered bits of the stamens. So, those orange bits are getting lit up real well. So, I've had a dramatic change in lighting just by lowering the camera.
So, as you start working with direct light, you are really going to want to be on the move a lot. You really want to look at different angles, and see what interesting bits of light you can find. Now, by interesting bits of light, I'm talking about areas where I can see more contoured detail. I'm talking about areas where I see a nice highlight, or a nice bit of backlighting, like I am on those pollen-covered bits. Compositionally, the shot needs a lot of work. I need to move the camera more this way. I would like to have that pink petal right behind the stamens to give them a background. So, all that basic compositional work will continue, but I'm building it right now around these different lighting ideas.
So, find an area of some nice, direct light, and start playing with learning to recognize the interesting bits of light and shadow. With macro photography, this can become very important, because as you get in closer, very often you are dealing with areas that are flooded with light, and so look kind of flat. So, you are going to want to learn to start to recognize those interesting bits of light. And, try to figure out how camera position -- and, in this case, strong backlighting (having a light coming from behind) -- is bringing out extra little bits of highlight and shadow that are creating more contour.
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