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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 tripod is probably the most versatile way of stabilizing your camera. You can use it in a studio for macro work. You can carry it out into the field for any kind of other type of shooting. A lot of times, for macro stuff though, you are going to have a better time working with some smaller stabilization hardware that's going to make it easier to get your camera into the up-close position that you need. With the tripod, sometimes the legs are in the way of your table, and you can't quite get your camera where you want it to be. So, we are going to look at a couple of other alternatives, starting with a variation on the tripod. I mean, specifically, the adorable variation on the tripod. This is the cute tripod that you may not have that I do, and I'm very proud of.
This is a Vanguard Tripod. I'd never heard of this company. I was goggling around for cute tripods, and came up with this. Slik, which is a pretty well-known tripod company, also makes a line of adorable tripods. They don't call them that, and I wish they would. As you can see, it's got cute, adorable, little legs and an adorable, little ballhead up here. The legs actually extend kind of, but they extend in a really cute way, so that makes up for their lack of extension. What's cool about this is it's meant for tabletop use. It can sit right here on my table, I can put my camera on it, have my subject right here, and actually get in pretty close.
What's nice about this is it's inexpensive; it's very lightweight, really easy to carry. If you do do field shooting, this is a great alternative to a full-on tripod, especially, if you are shooting flowers in the field, where you're very often on the ground, where it's very likely you can't get your tripod into position. The only downside to this tripod is that it has a built-in head. I can't use my own head on it. My own head would be taller. So on the upside, I'm lower. The downside to this built-in head is it's not super stable. It's a little wobbly, but most important, when I lock it down, it doesn't stay there. And, I don't mean that it drifts over time.
I mean I put it into position, I lock it down, I let go, and it floats a millimeter or two, which, for really up-close work, can be significant. Still, again, an inexpensive, lightweight option whether you travel or work in the studio. This is a great way to get your camera closer to certain things. A variation on this that offers one advantage is this gizmo. This is made by Kirk Enterprises. You can get this at kirkphoto.com. Solid metal, really not very heavy, though. Its handy carrying handle right there.
I put that down. And, what's nice about this is I have a normal tripod screw right here, so I can put on any head that I want. I'm just going to just grab my geared head here, and put this on, and now I have a tabletop configuration that's outfitted with the geared head that I like so much. Again, this lets me get my camera positioned exactly where I want it. And because I'm right here on the table, I don't have legs in the way. I can put my subject right here, and really get to work up close. So, I really like this is as an option. It's incredibly sturdy.
I've used this with very long combinations of lenses and extension tubes, and it has such a low center of gravity that I've never had a problem with it falling over. So, I really like this as a tabletop option. An extremely affordable, extremely easy- to-carry tabletop option is a bean bag. Now, this is not just your old run-of-the-mill bean bag. This is a special photography bean bag, meaning it has special beans in it. It doesn't actually. What makes it more of a photography-oriented bean bag is that it's stitched into these quilted patterns. And, that makes it very easy to fold into particular configurations.
And, that sounds much more fancy and technical than it really is. What I'm talking about is I can set it here on the table, and fold it up in such a way that I can prop up my lens exactly where I want it. Now, this is not an extreme precision photographic instrument that I'm dealing with here. I set my camera on it, and maybe it syncs a little bit more. It's hard sometimes to get it adjusted exactly right. This is not an option when I'm working at extreme magnifications. If I'm at 1X, or just shooting close-up rather than macro, though, this can be a great way to go. Easy-to-pack, doesn't cost very much, and it's pretty lightweight.
Finally, there's one last thing, another variation on the tripod, which is, of course, the monopod, a tripod that is missing two of its legs. What I like about this monopod is its carbon fiber, so it's extremely lightweight. And, carbon fiber is extremely durable. You can run over it with your car. I did that once, and nothing happened to it. I didn't run over this, I ran over my tripod with my car, and it was fine. The tripod. The car was totaled. So, what's nice about this is I have these extensible legs here, and of course, I get it out, and then I've got a normal tripod screw up on top here, so I can just put whatever head that I want.
I'm going to put my ballhead on here. What I like about a monopod, it's for times when I don't want to carry a tripod, because the tripod is too heavy. This is very lightweight; it packs very small. But more importantly, if I'm shooting something moving, if I'm trying to shoot a macro shot of a bee or something, I can put my ballhead on it, loosen the ball, and now I've got stabilization on one axis. I don't have to worry about the camera going up and down. It can still be shaky on other axes, but this is still more stable than shooting hand-held, But as I tilt around, because of my ballhead, I can keep my camera oriented however I want.
So, this is a nice way of getting some stabilization when I'm trying to shoot a flying insect, or maybe a flower that's blowing in the wind or something. And, obviously there are exposure issues when we're doing that sort of thing, but as far as getting some extra stabilization, a monopod is a great, lightweight, very affordable way to go. So, if you are serious about macro photography, you're probably going to want to look into some of these options, whether you're a field or a studio shooter. All of these are great choices.