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Photography Question 
Fred Bergman
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/8/2005
 

Shooting Macro's and Close Up's


 
 
Hi. I am fairly new to taking photography more serious. I love taking close ups and macros, especially flowers. I have seen some fantastic photos here, and my question is, the black(or solid color backgrounds) that make the flowers jump out at you. How is that achieve? Now I am just taking the photos outside in natural light. But am looking in to purchasing some equipment, and would like to know what I need to acheive this effect? Thanks in advance for your answers.


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5/18/2005 6:30:25 PM

 
John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
 
 
 
Fred,

In the Field:
I have a small backdrop of jet black "polar fleece" that I use in the field and put it as far behind the flower as practical . . . with some it's easier to get some distance than others which can end up nearly behind it. I use a small softbox of about 8x12 inches on a handle mount flash with remote cord to the hot shoe and hold it a few feet away from the flower at about 45 degrees above the camera and about 45 degrees to the side . . . adjusting some for exact conditions and how deep the flower is . . . the trick is getting softened light onto the flower (hence the small softbox) and getting the light source from a direction other than the camera's point of view . . . to model its shape, texture and depth. The flash handles I use for this can run dedicated TTL-OTF under control of the camera body's metering.

In Studio:
Similar setup with flower in pot or vase on stand about five to six feet in front of a larger, jet black, felt like backdrop suspended behind it. I use monolights in studio, but light direction is similar to what I use in the field . . . the advantage I have in studio is the modeling light in the monolight . . . which shows how the strobe will illuminate the flower. I meter the monolight using a flash meter and adjusting the monolight's power setting for the desired lens aperture. Camera is operated completely in manual exposure mode . . . shutter speed set to X-sync and aperture for desired depth of field. For macros with greater magnification than about 1:4 or 1:5 (1/4th or 1/5th life-size on film), one must make exposure compensation for the increased spreading of light with that high magnification. Kodak's Pocket Photoguide and Kodak's Professional Photoguide have a "wheel" in their macro sections for doing this quickly. 35mm film is roughly 1 x 1-1/2 inches . . . I measure the approximate size of what I'm composing to figure out (approximately) the magnification ratio.

Selective depth of field is used to to blur background . . . in other words, lens aperture is stopped down only enough to make the flower itself sharp If in doubt I make several photographs using several lens apertures. If I cannot or do not want to use a small backdrop in the field, I try find a suitable blossom that can be compsed with a distant hedge or the grass lawn as background. Blurred out by effectively using selective depth of field, a hedge or grass lawn (without weeds) can look a very smooth green.

I'm going to see if I can post a couple examples.

-- John Lind


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5/18/2005 7:48:18 PM

 
John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
  Well . . . that didn't work . . . OK . . . we'll see if this works . . . with these two in my gallery:

Using selective depth of field with lawn as backdrop:
Stages of Life

Using black backdrop in studio:
Peace Lily #2

-- John Lind


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5/18/2005 8:00:11 PM

 
Fred Bergman
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/8/2005
  Thanks John,
The answer and advice you provided will help me greatly. Most of my field work has been with natural light, I want to try my hand at artifical light in the field, and of course in a studio set up. I have no off camera lighting equipment yet, any recommendations for a tight budget to get started. Strobes, or hot lights. Again thanks for your advice, and those photos are fantastic.
Fred


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5/19/2005 4:38:15 PM

 
John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
  Fred,
Strobes (monolights) for studio work . . . and get a flash meter too . . . you'll need it . . . and read up on how to compensate macro exposures when using strobes. Hot lights are just that, hot. They can wilt the flowers and one must work with them carefully . . . burn and fire hazards when moving them and trying to use light modifiers (umbrellas or softboxes).

In the field, if you use a remoted flash (with diffuser on it) that's dedicated to your camera system and connected to the hot shoe using the appropriate cord, its output will be controled by the camera's TTL metering and you won't have to worry about flash meter or exposure compensation as it's all metered through the camera lens.

I've found diffused light using shoot-through umbrellas or softboxes to work best for me. Direct bright sunlight and strobes without diffusion are harsh, hard lighting. Each has his own style . . . for me, direct undiffused light lost the subtle textures I was looking for.

In the absence of strobes, I've shaded flowers in direct sun with something handy (sometimes my own body) and then used a silverized reflector panel to get some diffused sunlight on them from the direction I want. You can get a relatively small one that folds up like the fabric windshield sun shades that have a spring steel wire around the perimeter. Folded up they're small, very light and portable . . . usually one side is optically white satin and the other is silverized.

-- John Lind


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5/19/2005 9:46:48 PM

 
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