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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.
- 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
Skill Level Intermediate
A lot of people think that when the weather turns bad, it's time to put your camera away and go inside. But actually, with macro shooting, just after a rain, or what we've got here, heavy fog is a great time to go outside, because everything is covered with water droplets. And, water droplets can be really cool looking. When you get up close, they refract light, they add extra texture to an image, and they really create a lot of interesting specular highlights, and things. Now, we're just out in the parking lot. We haven't had to go more than 30 yards from the front door. It's great. There's this whole wet, soggy macro environment out here that I can just start playing around in.
So, where do I start? Well, my eye was immediately drawn to, "Okay, there are some nice flowers here. I'll start with those." But there is also a lot of stuff you can just do with leaves. One thing that's nice about dew and rain is any spider webs that are out here are going to get covered and lit up. So, I'm going to start with this thing. And, having identified it, I would do the exact same things that we did in the studio. I'm looking for anything that I think is an interesting texture, anything that I think is just an interesting-looking subject, but mostly I am thinking about the light. And, right off the bat, what I'm going to do is go, "Well, the sun is over there. I would really like the sun coming through the water droplets to get some nice backlighting." Now, the light is changing a lot. We really have thick fog rolling through this morning.
I have got my monopod. It's not a necessity, but it's a dark enough out here that I wanted a little bit of extra stabilization, because right now the sun is away. And, as I get down here, it's interesting, because from up here, I go, "Hmm, I don't know, light's not that interesting," because I've lost a good amount of light coming from the sun. But as I get down here, I realize that actually there's a pretty significant amount of light coming through the droplets, and they are starting to light up in a really nice way. And so, I'm just going to start working the shot.
I'm going to try getting in closer. I'm at times focusing specifically on water droplets. And, at other times, I'm just looking for interesting geometry on the flower itself, and trying to build things around droplets. One thing that's nice about this particular flower is all of these stems create these cool, receding patterns. That means that I'm going to have to really think about depth of field, and I'm going to be bracketing my shots pretty heavily, depth of field-wise.
It's dark enough out here that I'm shooting at ISO 1600. I know on this camera that I can safely go up to 3200 before I get what I consider to be unacceptable noise. Well, not unacceptable noise, but conspicuous noise. I actually think the noise on this camera at 6400 is just fine. So, I am just here working away, just like I would in the studio. As we mentioned before, this is the exact same skill set. I am just adding a few extra wrinkles. So, what I'm liking about the water drops is they have a light side and a dark side, a lot of times. They have cool highlights in them. They even have cool reflections in them. Water droplets, refract in a very interesting way.
And, if it's a very calm day, and you got a tripod and a lens with lot of magnification, you can get a really interesting refraction. Take a look that Jacob Cunningham, our director, put together. This is a nice self portrait that he has done of himself inside tiny, little water droplets. This type of shot is an incredible amount of work. You've really got to set everything up just right, but this is the fun thing you can do with water. And, I just notice there's a little spider web right in there. This is very often the case with macro. You don't know what you're going to find in your subject until you get in there, and start looking around. I don't actually know if there's a shot here. All I can do is take it, and see later if I got anywhere.
So, just as we were doing in the studio, you want to work your shot, and explore around. Now, one thing you're going to find is there is a difference in what water droplets look like, depending on what their source was. So, we'll find water droplets in the wild that are caused either by a rainstorm or by dew. And sometimes, those droplets look very different. You'll see differences in shape; you'll see differences in size. And, naturally occurring water droplets are very different than what you're going to get from a spray bottle.
You can also just carry a bottle of water around you with you, a spray bottle, even on a nice day. Spritz up a flower, or something to try to make it more interesting-looking. When you do that, you're going to find the drops are perfectly regular. And, I don't know, if you're showing images to nerdy hydrologists or something, they're going to go, "Oh well, that's fake water." And, most people aren't going to know the difference. Don't just stick with flowers. Don't just stick with plants. Even though these leaves are very interesting-looking, and have lots of interesting, textury water on them. It's no reason you can also shoot metal and other found objects around.
So, don't worry about your camera. It's not so wet out here that anything is going to matter, and most cameras these days can take a good amount of moisture before anything happens to them. So, get up early in the morning in the summer. Go out right after a rain shower, especially as the sun is breaking to the clouds, and start playing around with water.