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Photography QnA: Macro Photography Tip

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Category: All About Photography : Photographing Specific Subjects : Macro Photography Tip

Looking for that one macro photography tip that will make all the difference? Get great macro photography flowers tips in this interesting Q&A discussion. Or for in-depth instruction, check out Brenda Tharp's Mastering Macro Photography online photography course.

Page 1 : 1 -10 of 14 questions

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Photography Question 
rebecca s. cottingim
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/30/2005
  1 .  Extension Tubes
I have a Nikon D70 and I bought some extension tubes. I cannot seem to get them to work correctly. When I put them on my camera and then put the lens on, I cannot see anything out of my viewfinder. I am using a Tamron 70-300 tele-macro lens. Does anyone have any idea what I need to do? Thanks.

5/8/2008 5:34:59 PM


BetterPhoto Member
  Are you trying to use normal focus distance when you use the tubes? Extension tubes allow you to focus at much closer distances from the subject than a macro lens will. Try moving in closer and see if that works.
Have fun and keep shooting.

5/8/2008 5:46:08 PM

rebecca s. cottingim
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/30/2005
  Thanks Mark, I tried that and it works!

5/9/2008 4:25:03 AM


BetterPhoto Member
  Anytime. I didn't think you were used to them. Macro and micro photography are new worlds. Enjoy!

5/9/2008 7:22:09 AM

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Photography Question 
Pieter J. Roelofse

member since: 8/20/2001
  2 .  Extension Tubes for Macro?
I want to buy an extension tube that I can use with my Canon 28-135mm IS and Canon EF 70-200 f4L lens. I have read that the Canon EF12 is better suited for single focal-length lenses and that the EF25 extension tube is better for zooms. I am not sure what to do and I need help. I am planning on using it with my Canon EOS 10D.

4/1/2008 10:17:25 AM

Brenda Tharp
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/9/2003
  Pieter, I have successfully used my Canon EF25 on my 70-200 f4L lens, and used to use the 12mm on my 28-135mm when I owned that. Both gave me very good results. The 25mm will be almost too much with the 28-135, forcing you to get really close in to your subject and that sometimes blocks light and/or scares any living things off. SO the 12mm would be a better choice for the 28-135mm, but it's not very effective for the 70-200mm. For that, the EF25 would be better.
There are some discussions that tubes with zooms are not "the best", but overall I have not had an issue, and my macro pictures are published in greeting cards, calendars and sold as stock photos. It's possible that with digital, we're seeing more problems that with film were just non-visible - chromatic abberations, softness at corners, etc.
Personally, I use the Canon 500D diopter, on my 70-200 and fixed 300mm; the dual element glass is optically excellent. I don't worry about putting extra glass in front of the lens with this thing. AND, you don't lose light - an important issue with macro.
Ultimately, you really want to get a dedicated macro lens if you like doing macro photography. They are optically the best solution, and the 100mm Canon is superb. On your 10D, the 100mm becomes a 160mm macro, giving you good working distance from your subject and 1:1 or lifesize reproduction.
Hope this helps!

4/1/2008 12:05:35 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  Shorter extension tubes are better with short focal length lenses, and longer lengths are better with teles. Best option is to get both, but the Canon models are pretty expensive for simple metal tubes with minimal electronics. Kenko markets a tube set (12mm, 20mm, 36mm) for not much more than the price of the Canon EF 25 II.

4/1/2008 12:33:01 PM

Brenda Tharp
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/9/2003
  Yes, the Kenko tubes are fine, as long as the materials they are made with last as long - i.e. the contacts, etc. I have no issue with them, I've just been very happy with my Canon, but you do get three for around the price of one - that's a good deal.
The shorter extension tube may work better with shorter focal lengths, but for macro use I found it gets you so close that you are in the way. I've used the 12mm on my 28-135 and it's OK on the longer end but on the 28mm end I was too close; same thing on my 17-40 - at the 40mm end, I was touching the flower, as I recall. So I just don't find that tubes are very useful for anything shorter than 100mm, personally. But everyone has their own way of getting their pictures! Thanks, Jon and Ken, for contributing to help answer Pieter's question.

4/1/2008 6:39:51 PM

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Photography Question 
Nanette B. Stephens
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Nanette
Nanette's Gallery

member since: 7/8/2005
  3 .  Photographing Trees With Ice
I was driving to work and noticed how lovely the trees look with the ice on them. I have a Nikon N80, 28-80 & 28-105 Nikkor lens, and using Fuji Professional film and would like some advice on how shoot them. Where there are buildings in the background, would I shoot with aperture priority, or would I be better off shooting with shutter priority? When viewing them, the tree trunks and branches are dark in color, while the ice is clear. I found a couple of trees with red berries still on them along with the ice and some have little nests in them. Thank you in advance!

12/11/2007 11:28:44 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  Which priority doesn't matter much. You can adjust one until you get the desired other setting. Get close, get back. Look for details and walk around for different angles. The light is going to make the ice look different depending on which way it's coming and point of view. It's a good time for some black and white too!

12/11/2007 2:13:55 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Get in close to record the intimate details of individual ice-laden branches rather than the whole frozen landscape, which is really hard to re-create. And remember that deep shade will render "blue ice" without a warming filter. Meter (manually) off something neutral in the same light for best results.

12/11/2007 4:29:08 PM

  Thank you both for your advice. I did want to try some black & white besides color and the meter idea is something I didn't think of. I will keep you posted of the results.

12/12/2007 7:14:08 AM

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Photography Question 
Sachin D. Das
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/12/2006
  4 .  Macro Lens Buying Tips
I'm keen on buying a macro lens for my D70s. I would be shooting mostly flowers, bugs, fruits, etc. Nikon lenses are very expensive.
Any suggestions?
Sachin

4/5/2006 11:35:06 PM

Michael H. Cothran

member since: 10/21/2004
  Eliminating the excellent Nikkor Micros from consideration, I would strongly recommend the Sigma 180mm macro, the Sigma 105mm macro, or the Tamron 90mm macro.
If you can afford a little more, my first recommendation (other than the Nikkors) would be Sigma's 180mm macro. For the subjects you list (flowers, bugs, etc), I find that the longer the lens, the more pleasing the images.
My own personal 'flower' lens is the Nikkor 200/4 ED Micro. I've even used a 300mm lens with extension tubes. The problems with this latter system is the hassle of working with extension tubes, and the limited focusing area they allow.
For flower photography, you would do well with a longer lens, and the Sigma 180mm macro is priced significantly lower than the Nikkor 200mm. Furthermore, the Sigma macro lenses (either the 105 or 180) and the Tamron 90mm macro (which is a little too short for my tastes) yield top drawer, superb image quality.

4/6/2006 5:32:08 AM

Mike Carpenter
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/9/2004
  I have the Sigma 105mm and I love it.

4/6/2006 10:51:34 AM

Sachin D. Das
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/12/2006
  Thank you both but I don't understand the basic difference between a telephoto lens and macro. I already have a nikkor 70 - 300, will it also work as a macro or a dedicated macro 105 lens is better.
Can a 70 - 300 lens at 105 position give the same result as a macro 105?

Sachin

4/6/2006 5:44:15 PM

Brenda M. Wolfensberger
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/29/2004
  Thanks for the tips Michael & Mike. I've been trying to research for a good macro for my D70, this will come in handy to help me!

4/6/2006 6:28:07 PM

  A true macro lens gives you a 1:1 or lifesize image. The Sigma gives you 1:2 which is half lifesize. I have the Nikon 105mm macro but I also have access to the Nikon 60mm macro. I like the 60mm fully as well as the 105mm if not better and it's a lot less expensive.

4/6/2006 7:48:57 PM

Sachin D. Das
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/12/2006
  Thanks Sharon. What mm lens will give me 1:1
If given a choice should I go for 105mm or 60mm
How does the mm works in regards to result and convenience.

4/6/2006 11:32:37 PM

Michael H. Cothran

member since: 10/21/2004
  "A true macro lens gives you a 1:1 or lifesize image."
Sachin,
This statement, from a previous posting is not accurate or true. Whether the lens focuses to 1:1 or 1:2 DOES NOT define whether or not it is a "true" macro. A "true" macro lens could be more correctly defined as a lens whose optics are optimized for best performance at closer ranges. "Regular" lenses are optimize to give their best performance at farther distances, usually about 1:50 (not quite infinity, as many think). Most "true" macro lenses are optimized to perform their best around 1:10 (the distance normally accepted as being the beginning of "macro" focusing).

From a manufacturing point of view, it is less expensive, and less complicated to build a lens that only focuses to 1:2. However, the vast majority of today's macros do, indeed, focus 1:1. Most macros made in the 1960's, 70's, and 80's only went 1:2. And of those macros which only focus 1:2, the manufacturer usually provided a dedicated extension tube which will take the lens from 1:2 down to 1:1.

My 200mm Nikkor goes 1:1. My 55 and 105 Nikkors, which are older MF lenses, only go 1:2, but I do own the dedicated extension tube for each. Quite honestly, I hardly ever use the tubes, as I very seldom venture into the realm of 1:2 - 1:1.

FYI - All of the current Nikon micros focus 1:1.

Add'l FYI - It's not a matter of looking for a particular mm lens in regards to whether it goes 1:2 or 1:1. There is NO correlation. Simply check those lenses you are interested in, and the specs will inform you as to how close it will focus.

All said, the Sigma macros still remains a viable alternative to the more expensive Nikkors.
AND...the Sigma 105mm IS, I repeat -IS a "true" macro lens - designed for best performance at close range.

And, for what it's worth, I would never buy a macro lens in the 50-60mm range for flowers and bugs. It's simply too short. The 90-105mm range is better, but for the best image perspective, and most pleasing images, I find the longer macros (180-200mm) to be superior in every respect for flowers and bugs. And the added benefit with the longer lenses is that you can be farther back from your subject. An important fact to consider when shooting bugs and butterflies.
Michael H. Cothran

4/7/2006 9:51:18 AM

Brenda M. Wolfensberger
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/29/2004
  That's some great info Michael. I've been looking at different macro lenses today, I'm glad I haven't ordered anything yet. I was leaning toward the 105mm but now I'll check out the 180-200mm range as well.

Thank you again!

4/7/2006 2:19:53 PM

Devon McCarroll
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/13/2005
  I have a Sigma 105mm also, and love it! You can see it used on the flower shots in my gallery.
Devon

4/11/2006 2:33:20 PM

Harrison G. Ball
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/23/2004
  I have the Sigma 150mm /2.8 macro lens with a Nikon D70 and have been very pleased with it. I have found it a good compromise between the 55/105mm macros and the 180mm macros.

4/11/2006 3:58:06 PM

Kirk Lawler

member since: 10/13/2004
  Another excellent lens to consider: Tokina's Macro 100 f/2.8 D from their "pro" series (reviewed by Popular Photography 11/05 and given some of the highest ratings for any lens they've tested). I also have Nikon's 60mm macro f/2.8 lens, and can attest that choosing the much less expensive Tokina will not necessitate any compromises when it comes to build quality, sharpness, vignetting, lens distortion or chromatic aberation. Also, the Tokina came with a lens guard which can be screwed on backwards when transporting the lens. The lens guard for the Nikon macro had to be purchased seperately, adding another $40 to the true cost of the lens, is of an out-dated design that is not backwards compatible and is only (I kid you not) 1" deep. Getting to use these two lenses side by side for a catalog product shoot spelled the end of my unquestioning loyalty to expensive Nikon lenses.
Kirk

4/11/2006 9:24:02 PM

steve gardner

member since: 2/5/2005
  Want to go lots of performance for cheap? The vivitar 100 f3.5 macro with the 1:1 adapter is to be had for around a 110 dollars and test out the roof in performance. It is a very cheap feeling plasticy lens, but it can't be beaten for the price. In the magazine review (Kepplers?)it was compaired to the old 105 Kiron Macro, a very good lens, and it beat it in resolution and contrast. I have the 60 nikkor and often opt for the vivitar to get the added reach.

4/12/2006 7:44:50 AM

Charlene Bayerle
BetterPhoto Member
PictureThisbyChar.com

member since: 1/9/2003
  I have a Sigma 105mm 1:2.8 macro lense that I was getting ready to put on ebay.
If anyone is interested, just email me at cchar54@comcast.net.
Wolff Camera has it for $399.
Of course, I would sell for a better price.
Thanks
Charlene

4/12/2006 8:58:21 AM

Ben LindoPhotography

member since: 12/6/2005
  I have the Tamron 90mm 2.8 DI macro lens.
It makes very nice photos. You can check out my macros here if you want.
About 95 percent were made using that lens, a couple at the end were using a reversed 50mm lens.

http://public.fotki.com/LindoPhotography/macro/

Its a sharp lens, gets lots of good reviews. Good for portraits as well they say.

I'm not sure, the other macro lenses might have the same 'issues' but here are the things that sort of bugged me about it.

It extends to double the length when focusing upclose, and it doesnt have a nice silent smooth focusing sound like expencive Nikon AF-S lenses. When focusing on things far away like people, it doesnt extend very much at all though!

Also when focusing up close the apperature slowly goes from 2.8 (at infinity) to 5.6 at full close up range.
But the depth of field is very small even at 5.6, most likely you want to shoot with flash (preferably bounced flash) at f/8 or above!

I think the other sigma macro lenses are also very good, should be comparible. But higher focal lengths tend to be more expencive. The 90mm tamron is probably the cheapest if comparing against a Sigma 180 or 150. Otherwise (since I wanted a telephoto lens as well) I would have gotten a sigma 180mm lens, or something simular.

I heard its hard to find a BAD macro lens, since they're kind of a specialty lens and they have to be designed well I guess :)

4/12/2006 10:40:00 AM

Ellen 

member since: 10/24/2004
  sorry this is not an answer to the question, but I have a D70s like you and have recently come across somone else with one, they mentioned that the pctures tend to be blury which is my problem as well is this a thing with this camera? I have tried to sqeeze the button but it has no slack. Be interested in your answer. ta ellen

4/13/2006 3:56:17 AM

Sachin D. Das
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/12/2006
  The new Nikon 18 - 200 vs Macro 200. Can they both do the same job at 200mm.

Sachin

4/19/2006 12:21:52 AM

Ben LindoPhotography

member since: 12/6/2005
  "The new Nikon 18 - 200 vs Macro 200. Can they both do the same job at 200mm."
Sachin

Sorry Sachin, but I really doubt it.
It's not a macro lens, it doesn't have the 1:1 ratio (it means the subject is full sized on the sensor, or something, iono. But I couldn'd even find what the rating for macro was, like 1:6 or anything, so its probably not too great.

Even if it was good, from the review I read / photo ive seen, it doesn't have a very good bokah (blury part of the picture) which is CRUCIAL for macro.

I'm sure its a good lens for other purposes but not if your main concern is MACRO.

4/21/2006 5:19:02 AM

Dave Hymers

member since: 3/30/2006
  Hi

Interesting discussion, I have a couple of questions regarding macro lenses.

I just switched from a Minolta Dimage 7 to a Nikon D50 (kit with an 18-55 and a 70-300 both nikon lenses)

I understand that these two aren't comparable because they have a different size sensor (?) I am looking into getting a macro lens for the D50 that I can use like I did my old D7.

200mm with a minimum focus distance of .25m, (I dont know the reproduction ratio sorry ..) what equivilent lens for the D50 would I look at to get similar results ?

Do you crop your shots and how much ?

The D50 is awesome compared to the D7, my main reasons for making the leap to DSLR where the speed and allowing lens change, but its seeming a little confusing atm :/ ...

Any help would be appreciated thanks.

4/21/2006 11:24:56 AM

Ben LindoPhotography

member since: 12/6/2005
  I'm not sure what the D7 was... Its a film camera? Anyway, for the nikon D50 the crop factor is 1.5, so a 100mm lens looks kind of like a 150mm lens. You multiply the actual focal length (100) by the 1.5 crop factor).

So if the D7 was a film camera with no crop factor (or a crop factor of 1), then 135mm would be like 200mmm.

I think your talking about this camera right?
http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/specs/Konica_Minolta/konicaminolta_7d.asp
Its a digital SLR, so it probably has a simular crop factor to the new nikon you have.

meaning u should get another 200mm lens :p

4/21/2006 2:32:12 PM

Dave Hymers

member since: 3/30/2006
  Actually this is my old camera -
http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/specs/Konica_Minolta/minolta_dimage7.asp

4/21/2006 6:00:36 PM

Dave Hymers

member since: 3/30/2006
  Actually this is my old camera -
http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/specs/Konica_Minolta/minolta_dimage7.asp
It is not an SLR, hence me moving to the D50. Sorry if my post sounded a little confusing as I refer to it as just the D7.

The Diamge 7 has a Minolta GT lens which is actually 7.5-50mm (28-200 35mm Equiv)

Basically what I am looking for is a lens of around 200mm with a minimum focusing distance of around .25-.3m Am I going to find that for under $200 ?

Is it worth seeking out older lenses with an M42 mount/adaptor ring ?

I currently have a 70-300 also, is it worth using exstension tubes ? (currently has a minimum focus of 1.5m pretty useless for macro in my opinion) or even a teleconverter on my 18-55 ?

4/21/2006 6:11:51 PM

Dave Hymers

member since: 3/30/2006
  Hmm..

I think I pretty much just answered my own question :) oops.

The minolta has a lens of 50mm and I have an 18-55dx for my D50 (minimum focus distances of .25 and .28 respectively)

I did a comparison and you can get ever so slightly closer with the minolta's gt lens because of its .25 distance, and maybe its smaller sensor too (?)

.28 is close enough I think for the d50 as it has 1 more MP so I can crop ..

wow sorry for filling this thread just by talking to myself lol :)

4/22/2006 8:53:17 AM

  "This statement, from a previous posting is not accurate or true. Whether the lens focuses to 1:1 or 1:2 DOES NOT define whether or not it is a "true" macro."

Excuse me but if my statement was wrong then Wikipedia is wrong as well :o)!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macro_photography

4/22/2006 9:25:04 AM

  There's a lot of information here (including mine) that isn't totally accurate or complete.

My old Canon FD macro does only do 1:2 without an extension. Macros are corrected for "flatness of field." This is something I wasn't really considering when responding to a question asking for information on the best lens to shoot bugs or flowers.

While you do have "slightly" more working distance with a 105mm over the 60mm it's not a lot of difference. When I want to capture butterflies in the field I use my 80-400 VR or my Sigma 70-300.

The only time a 60 or 105mm macro is practical for shooting butterflies is IF they are just emerging from their cocoons at a butterfly festival or something of this nature. Right after emerging they will sit in one place for minutes on end. Here's a gallery of bugs I consider awesome and many are captured with a 300mm lens and Kenko extension tubes. This combination works well as I've tried it with my 80-400, but it has to be absolutely still outside and the focus is critical.

http://www.pbase.com/ronnie_14187/bugs_spiders_and_bees

4/22/2006 9:46:33 AM

Dave Hymers

member since: 3/30/2006
  Good tips :)

I got this -
http://www.betterphoto.com/gallery/dynoGallDetail.asp?photoID=2011549&catID=&style=&rowNumber=2&memberID=163438

with my 18-55 real close, he wasn't bothered at all, I even had time to switch from my other lens.

I've been looking at various 28-80mm lenses and thier average minimum is about 1.1ft (compared to my 55's .92ft) would there be much point in buying one of those ? I really don't think I'd see much difference :/

I think I might get a set of exstensin tubes and try that, or a set of 'macro filters' for the 55 .. ?
I'm just a bit concerned that exstension tubes will make my 70-300 very unstable and I like to avoid tripods if I can.

4/22/2006 10:55:59 AM

Dave Hymers

member since: 3/30/2006
  Hmm .. I'm pretty screwed if I want to buy exstension tubes too as the G lens is full auto >.< I'll be forking out $100 for something I don't know I will want to use if I get the auto ones.

Would these work ok with a Nikon 70-300 f4-5.6 G lens ? -

http://cgi.ebay.com/Kenko-Auto-Macro-Extension-Tube-Set-DG-Canon-Nikon_W0QQitemZ7612605413QQcategoryZ29982QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

4/22/2006 11:30:04 AM

  It's been my experience that typically butterflies are skittish so I try to be as far away from them as I can most of the time, however there are exceptions.

Check out to see if extension tubes will work with lenses designed for digital sensors. I don't know why I'm thinking they won't work together. I'm sure someone here can tell us though.

Extensions tubes would require a tripod with the 70-300. I never shoot with my zoom lenses and extensions without one.

With macro photography a tripod is usually a must have. You'd be surprised how accustomed you can get to using them. I'm older now and it doesn't bother me to carry one around all the time.

4/22/2006 11:33:21 AM

  Dave, the Kenko extension tubes should work fine. The Nikon 70-300 is similiar to my Sigma and they work well with that. They work fine with my Nikon 80-400 VR too. I do manual focus with them. To me it seems the focusing struggles when using them and I find manual focusing easier anyway.

4/22/2006 5:33:30 PM

Ben LindoPhotography

member since: 12/6/2005
  Sharon D is right about what she said about what makes a macro lens. I just wanted to keep it simple, by saying the lens someone mentioned earlier was not a macro lens :p

Anyway,
If your thinking of buying the nikon 70-300, i'd get the Sigma 70-300 instead, since it should be better, based on the reviews i've read.

I have the older sigma 70-300 lens (with a gold ring) if your buying used, make sure you get the newer red ring version with "APO" .

I dont think Youl find another lens with macro capabillity cheaper than the Sigma 70-300mm, especially in that range.
A good 200mm Macro lens would probably cost over $1,000. (Theres a few 180mm ones out there).

For smaller focal length macro lenses they're usually cheaper.
But you gotta get physically closer to the subject, which isn't good if it will get scared away. I havent had too much trouble with my 90mm macro yet... havent tried any butterflies, but I got pretty close to a bee so far.

4/22/2006 7:41:14 PM

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Photography Question 
Theresa L. Witt
Contact Theresa
Theresa's Gallery

member since: 10/12/2005
  5 .  Red Blurring a Problem
 
I have a nikon D50. When I take macro photos of anything red, especially flowers, they tend to blur and the detail is lost. Is there anything I can do to prevent this?

4/1/2006 10:47:54 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  I'll lay odds that, first, you're shooting these subjects in direct sunlight or with on camera flash. And, second, that you may be slightly overexposing these kinds of shots.
The solutions are pretty basic. As to the direct sunlight problem, all you need to do is arrange some kind of overhead translucent tent over whatever you're shooting, especially flowers, plants, fruits, veggies, etc. How translucent is up to you. I can tell you from my own experience of shooting fruits, veggies and flowers for commercial growers, that even when the sun is indirect, I'll still use a light panel that knocks down brightness by at least two f-stops. One objective in photography, as you probably know, is to control the light reaching the subject and also the quantity through the lens. If you have a bright backlighting situation, tent that side too with a light panel. These kinds of panels are available at places like bhphotovideo.com, not very expensive, have modular, lightweight portable frames that just snap together, and some have wind flaps so the rig won't blow away. Now if you find yourself shooting with a light tent and your sunlight fades onto the horizon, you can always use a bit of fill flash, through the tent, to illuminate your subject. To do that, you either need to put the light on a small stand adjacent to where you need it, or have someone (even you) hold it while you shoot.
Another thing to use for sure is a tripod or some kind of very sturdy camera support and a cable release. It doesn't matter what speed you're shooting at. This will give you more control over your exposures to prevent any kind of camera shake.
As to exposure, I recommend that you buy and learn how to use a gray card to give accurate exposures AND perhaps even consider buying a separate light meter that will give you incident and reflected readings. There are tricks you can use with your D50 that will get you more accurate exposures, and for that, I'll defer to your camera's manual.
In the alternative, just bracket your exposures a lot, AND since you're shooting digitally, try dinking around with the pixel values and anything else that controls image quality with your camera.
Take it light.
Mark

4/2/2006 12:32:50 PM

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Photography Question 
Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/8/2004
  6 .  Diffuser for Macro Photography
Does anyone know how to make a diffuser for outdoor macro photography? Also, what are the best materials to use for this? Thanks in advance.

3/5/2006 8:43:18 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Sure. Go down to the local hardware store buy some metal gray or black window screen, cut it to fit your lighting and figure out how to attach it. If you just want to build diffusers to block direct daylight, you can use the same material (but much bigger) build a frame for it and a way to hang it or position it over or around whatever ou happen to be photographing. Remember, though, if you buy translucent materials like using white cheese cloth, you have to make sure it's truly white and won't produce a color cast.
Also, by the time you spend dough for the materials, cloth, screen, mounting hardware, etc., it might be cheaper for you to just buy a portable diffusing panel from, say, B&H in N.Y. Get the picture? ;>)

3/5/2006 6:29:13 PM

Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/8/2004
  Thanks Mark. The last thing you said about it being cheaper to buy from B& H is probably correct.

3/6/2006 5:25:58 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Yep. A bunch of companies makes portable panels with collapsible pvc tubing that's bungee corded together. The whole frame just kind of flips together - but stay out of its way during assembly, I've almost lost two assistants with these things. LOL !.
And the panels themselves come in varying densities. The whole thing can be quickly attached to a light stand with a couple of clamps. If you're working outdoors, make sure you use a sandbag or something to keep the stand from being windblown. Domke makes a good rig for this.
Anything else? Just holler.
Be well Todd.

3/6/2006 12:05:42 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
 
 
  Sample 1
Sample 1
This photo, exposed to the direct rays of the morning sun, has dark well defined shadows and harsh reflections....typical of bright sunlit conditions.
(Nikkor 55 mm, Provia 100, natural light...metered off the mushroom caps)
 
  Sample 2
Sample 2
This is the same scene shot in the same light...but with the diffuser held between the light source and the subject during exposure, the shadows are softened and the harsh glare is minimized.
(This shot was metered the same as the other one but with the diffuser in place.)
 
 
For macro applications, a piece of beaded plastic diffusion material works well to diffuse a harsh sunlit scene. You can find one at any home repair store (the kind used for fluorescent light fixtures). They are inexpensive and are easy to cut to any size you can comfortably carry around. I have a piece 12"X10" in my backpack which provides full diffused coverage for shooting a scene up to two feet away.
It's important to hold the diffuser flat, at a right angle to the sun to get the best results.
Also, you will need to compensate for around 1/2 stop of light loss or meter with the diffuser in place. The attached examples show how this simple tool can help to soften harsh shadows.

3/6/2006 2:40:05 PM

Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/8/2004
  Thanks Bob. I'll look into that.

3/6/2006 3:38:47 PM

Robyn Mackenzie
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/21/2005
  Another suggestion for use around the home rather than in the field, is to buy a 12"-18" embroidery hoop from a craft store, plus a yard of white nylon or other thin fabric. The embroidery hoop holds the fabric tight, with no sewing required! (I hate sewing...) :o) Robyn

3/6/2006 9:28:39 PM

Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/8/2004
  Thanks Robyn. I may give that a try too.

3/7/2006 3:53:24 PM

  I can see where a guy might not want to run around with an embroidery hoop, but it's what I use too LOL. I already had them so I just put a white Walmart plastic bag in mine. That works well for me.

3/7/2006 4:03:49 PM

Lynsey Lund
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/14/2005
  I use an embroidery hoop (18") as well. I found some great mesh at the fabric store, and some cheap, thin linen as well. They are both great.

3/7/2006 7:41:13 PM

Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/8/2004
  The hoops are a good idea; but, after looking on B&H and finding some 14" difusers for $15.00 it is just as easy to order those and have them delivered. Guess I am getting lazy. The nice thing about them is they collapse down to one third the size.

3/8/2006 5:25:00 AM

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Photography Question 
Julie M. Cwik
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/2/2005
  7 .  Macro Photography: What Type of Lens?
Hi, I own a Fuji FinePix S2 Pro that takes the same lens that Nikon will take. I am looking into getting an AF macro lens for myself, my problem is that I don't quite understand the 1:1 or 1:5 ratios of the macros and their focal length, along with the fact that I'm a college student so the newest/fastest lens is definitely not in the budget. Any advice would be great, thanks

4/21/2005 8:04:01 AM

Michael H. Cothran

member since: 10/21/2004
  Nikon makes three true macro lenses (called "Micro" by Nikon) in autofocus: 60mm/2.8, 105mm/2.8, and a 200mm/4. Each will focus to 1:1, meaning that your subject will be the same size on "film" as it is in real life. Which one you buy will depend on your need, desire, and the depth of your wallet. None are cheap, but they're all top drawer. The longer the focal length the more expensive they get. These are the only three Nikon Micro lenses that will function completely with all the S2's electronics.
You can also use any of Nikon's older manual focus Micros (there's always a slew of them for sale on Ebay), as long as they are either Ai or Ais. These lenses will mount to your S2 and work, but will NOT activate the S2's meter, since they don't have the necessary contact points. You'd have to use a hand meter in this case.
Truth be told, AF is not really a good thing in macro work, as the lens often fumbles around trying to focus. You are usually better off focusing manually with these lenses while working in macro modes.
I own ALL the equipment above, including the S2, and can attest to their quality. I use 30-year-old Ai Micro's for all my commercial studio work. Their quality has never been improved upon, and I actually think the latest plastic AF versions do not perform as well.
The second alternative is to purchase a third party lens such as Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, etc. They all make similar focal length macros in a Nikon mount (that will also fit the S2, and function fully), and for about half the price of a true Nikon lens.
Your third alternative, and for something cheaper to start with, consider some close-up lenses that you can screw into the front of your existing lenses. Often, they come in groups of 3, and can be purchased very cheaply. Their quality is usually OK, albeit a far cry from a true macro lens. They will, however, get you into the world of macro photography while you save your pennies for a true macro/micro lens.
Good luck.
Michael H. Cothran
www.mhcphoto.net

4/22/2005 11:24:10 AM

Julie M. Cwik
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/2/2005
  Thanks for the information Michael. One other question, what do the focal lengths mean on a Macro/Micro? I understand in a normal lens but if your shooting up close already why would you need a long macro lens?
Jules

4/22/2005 11:58:52 AM

William Koplitz

member since: 2/28/2004
  The defination of macro is a ratio of 1:1 (life size) to 1:5 (5 times greater than life size). The macro lenes only get you to 1:1, to actually go further into macro you have to reverse the lens and use extension tubes. There are many articles about this, wikipedia.com is a good source.

Longer lens will provide greater working distances but will also reduce the depth of field which also gets a rule change when you get to macro, it's no longer the 1/3 - 2/3 rule of hyperfocal distance, it's now 1/2 - 1/2.

4/26/2005 6:48:50 AM

Michael H. Cothran

member since: 10/21/2004
  Focal lengths correlate to macro the same as with "normal" lenses. TWith macros, the longer the focal length, the longer the distance will be between you and your subject in close-up (usually a good thing). Also, your angle of view will be narrower with a longer lens, and your depth of field will be less. These latter two conditions are idea for such things as flowers.
If you are shooting widgets or things that are pretty flat in nature, then the focal length won't really make a difference. Only the distance between you and your subject will be changed.
For macro use, here's what I use my lenses for -
I use my 55 and 60 lens for subjects like pottery, flower pots, bouquets, and other handsized widgets, etc.
I use the 105 for flowers, jewelry, and very small widgets.
I use the 200 for flowers.
It would be nice if you could own all three, but that may put a big dent in your wallet. If you are serious about macro work, I would definitely by the 60 and the 105. As I stated, if you cannot afford the Nikon's, look into Sigma - they offer similar focal lengths in Nikon mount that will work seamlessly on your S2, for about half the Nikon price. You can also find used macros on Ebay. There's always some for sale. I've bought a couple of mine off Ebay. Check out my website (www.mhcphoto.net) if you'd like to see some samples. I have a few images posted in the Fine Art section taken with the S2, and some with one of my macros (each image lists the equipment used). In the Jury Services section, all the images are shot with the S2 and a Nikon micro. The clay pieces were shot with the 55/60, and the jewelry is all shot with the 105.
Michael H. Cothran

4/26/2005 11:39:21 AM

Janis Herd
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/11/2004
  I am extremely happy with my Sigma 105mm macro. It is from their EX line and it is amazingly sharp. It also makes a good portrait lens.

4/26/2005 4:11:02 PM

Karma Wilson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/27/2004
  A second for the sigma. You can see samples of shots I've taken with it in my gallery. It's a very versatile macro lens and I would never be without a good macro lens again.

Karma

4/26/2005 8:06:40 PM

  Wait Till You Have The Money For A Good Lens Julie The Sigma Is a Clunker,I Had One!(The Image Quality Looks Good But Thats Where It Stops)
I Have Seen People Rave About This Lens, I Really Wonder If They Have Ever Used A Good Lens!LOL!!

4/30/2005 7:34:40 AM

Janis Herd
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/11/2004
  I have four Nikon lenses and this Sigma is sharper than any of them. It is my favorite lens and I use it constantly. I got it for Tony Sweet's flower class, and when I discussed it with Tony before buying it, his opinion was that it was "probably an excellent lens." He was correct. You either did not have the EX version, or you had a defective one, or maybe you don't recognize a quality lens yourself.

4/30/2005 8:54:49 AM

  Yes It was The EX 2.8 Version And It Cant Hold A Light To My Nikon! Maybe You Have A Inexpensive Nikon Lens And Dont Recognize the Difference Janis:-)

4/30/2005 9:00:33 AM

Janis Herd
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/11/2004
  Again, I suspect you got a dud, Terry. Also, the person who asked this question said in the first post "I'm a college student so the newest/fastest lens is definitely not in the budget. Any advice would be great, thanks." If you go to pbase and search on this lens you will see many excellent images. Each to his/her own!

4/30/2005 9:09:05 AM

  My Lens Wasnt A Dud It Was a Clunker! A Typical Sigma Lens Build.
And If You Read My Post Before You Will See I Said The Lens Had Good Image Quality,But Was Lacking In Other Things,Thats All The More Reason For Julie To Save Her Money For A Good Lens Because Of The Cost To Rectify A Mistake,Honest Anwsers Is What Q&A Is About!!

4/30/2005 9:16:11 AM

Janis Herd
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/11/2004
  I am having fun, learning a lot about macro photography, and doing well in Tony's flower class with this lens. I certainly don't think I would be better off with NO macro lens. Good image quality goes a long way, esp. when you're on a budget. If Julie can afford the Nikon, great. If not, she can try the Sigma, test it, and return it if she doesn't like it.

4/30/2005 9:34:19 AM

  There You Go Janis Much Closer To An Honest Anwser:-)That Will Be Up To Julie...

4/30/2005 9:43:23 AM

  Here Is A Link To Some Reviews Of That Lens Julie It Might Help You Some More.
http://www.photographyreview.com/pscLenses/35mm,Primes/Sigma/PRD_83578_3111crx.aspx#reviews

4/30/2005 9:52:05 AM

Janis Herd
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/11/2004
  All my posts are honest!
Julie, this lens was updated in June 2004 so if you get it, be careful about the version:
http://www.dpreview.com/news/0406/04062001sigmalenses.asp
I got it new at B&H for 369.00 plus shipping in March.
This is my last post, so feel free to have the last word, Terry!

4/30/2005 10:18:25 AM

Julie M. Cwik
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/2/2005
  Thanks so much for the advice Janis and Terry. I will be checking out all the information very soon, and hopefully I can pick up a good macro lens soon!

4/30/2005 11:29:05 AM

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Photography Question 
Cathy Barrows
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Cathy
Cathy's Gallery

member since: 4/13/2003
  8 .  Help with Flower Photography
I am looking for helpful hints with holding flowers and shaping them for photography ... other than placing them in a vase, which usually puts them in a position that is not very complimentary for the purpose of photographing them. Thanks in advance!

1/30/2005 7:35:25 AM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Cathy,
I've had success positioning flowers, plants ... even mushrooms for close-ups by using those thin metal rods that florists use to position bouquet arrangements. They can be found at any flower shop or craft store.
You can carry some with you in the field along with a small chunk of styrofoam. The rods will slide up into the stem of most plants, allowing them to be bent and positioned at any angle. (Flowers with tender stems can be secured to the rod with twist-ties.)

Another method that works is plastic drinking straws. The flower stem goes inside the straw and you can stick it into soft soil (or styrofoam) for positioning. The standard size works well for plants and flowers with thick stems and for the thin, delicate ones ... use round coffee stirrers or sip-sticks.
During "flower season", I carry a few of each kind in my photo backpack, along with scissors to cut them to size.

1/30/2005 10:37:01 AM

  Thanks Bob: Those are wonderful ideas ... I will go gather those ingredients this week

1/30/2005 10:58:22 AM

  Hi Cathy! Bob has great suggestions. I think I will try them as well. I also use twist ties or even rubber bands to arrange a small group of flowers, usually the same type and any where from 2 to 5...haven't tried more yet.

2/1/2005 5:23:00 AM

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Photography Question 
Frank P. Luongo
Contact Frank
Frank's Gallery
francislphotography.com

member since: 6/7/2004
  9 .  Macro Flower Shots
I am interested in close up floral shots. I plan on purchasing either the Nikon 60mm f/2.8 macro or the 105mm version. My question is: How do I get a black background with a macro shot of a beautiful lone flower? I read that you can use a flash or underexpose your image by one stop below metered reading. Can someone enlighten me? Thanks very much.

7/21/2004 2:45:55 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  You can either use flash (set at a distance to illuminate only the flower), or use natural light and prop up a piece of black foam-core or poster board behind the flower. I would personally opt for the latter ... and shoot outdoors on a cloudy day.

7/21/2004 4:53:52 PM

Steve McCroskey

member since: 3/20/2004
 
 
  Canna Up Close and Personal
Canna Up Close and Personal
 
  Really up close and Personal
Really up close and Personal
 
 
Hi Frank! I usually use the flash to create a black background, as Bob previously mentioned!! I have not experimented with anything else yet.

7/21/2004 7:28:21 PM

Ken Henry

member since: 9/16/2003
  I like using the flash also, but I keep it soft by using a Pocket Bouncer on the flash, and a Press T flash bracket, and a tripod.
How I create a black background on a sunny day: Most of the time I can shade the flower and background with my body or a 24" reflector. This reduces the light by at least three stops or more. I manually set my camera at the sunny f16 x 1/125 sinc speed. If your camera has a higher sinc speed, better yet to create a black background, or use smaller apertures. Then the flash will TTL the correct exposure. And, of course, the further away the background and the longer your lens focal length is the more out of focus the background will be. I will also use a black cloth. Regards,

7/23/2004 9:24:10 PM

John Gasawski

member since: 3/11/2003
  Frank: All of the answers are good solutions to your question. If you have PS try using hue/saturation and curve adjustment layers. Depends on what you wish the finished product to look like.
Take a look at my rose pics as an example. johngasawskiphotography.com. and go to flower images.
Hope this helps.
John

7/27/2004 7:17:25 AM

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Photography Question 
Diane Dupuis-Kallos
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/27/2003
  10 .  Backgrounds for Shooting Flowers
 
  sample re: material backdrop
sample re: material backdrop
© Diane Dupuis-Kallos
Fuji FinePix 2600Z...
 
  sample re: material backdrop
sample re: material backdrop
© Diane Dupuis-Kallos
Fuji FinePix 2600Z...
 
I like to take macro pictures of flowers and was wondering what was the best background to use. I want it to be plain, but I'm not opposed to solid colors (i.e., black, white, blue, etc.). I've tried with material, but many times the weaving on the fabric shows up (instead of a blurred solid color). I'm focusing on the flower before shooting. I'd appreciate any suggestions you may have! Thanks.

4/23/2004 4:52:33 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Generally, a dark background looks better with a brightly colored flower. If you use material, get more distance between the flower and the background and use a wide aperture setting. This will help to place your background nicely out of focus.

4/23/2004 5:46:21 PM

Diane Dupuis-Kallos
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/27/2003
  Thanks, Bob, for the advice. Unfortunately, I cannot change the aperture on my Finepix 2600. But I will work on more distance. Does anyone have suggestions as to what to use to hold the flower in the right position so you can have your both hands free?

4/24/2004 4:50:49 AM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Go to a local craft store and get some of those thin metal flower rods and a block of styrofoam. The rods will usually slide up into the stems of most flowers. If not, you can use twist-ties to secure them. Once you've attached the rods, stick them into the foam and position the flowers however you like. You can also, of course, display them in a narrow, decorative vase.

4/24/2004 5:06:42 AM

Diane Dupuis-Kallos
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/27/2003
  Thanks so much Bob!

4/24/2004 5:21:04 AM

  You have already gotten some great suggestions but thought I would throw some more at you. I have been known to use shirts as a BG, example in my gallery under pure. Another great thing to use is black velvet or as I did fave velvet. CHEAPER!! For keeping the flower in place a good idea for this is clips like people use for their hair. Hope these help.

Darren

4/27/2004 6:08:53 AM

Julie Randolph

member since: 1/14/2003
  Are you familiar with Photographers Edge magazine? They sell something in there that will hold your flowers in place while shooting. I don't remember what it is called but you can find them on line and have them send you a catalog.
Julie

4/27/2004 7:02:32 AM

Lori Lozzi

member since: 5/1/2003
 
 
  daisy example 1
daisy example 1
F/2.3, 1/30, ISO 320, no flash, indoors/available light
 
  daisy example 2
daisy example 2
F/3.2, 1/125, ISO 100, -0.3 step, no flash, outdoors
 
 
It looks like you've gotten a lot of great suggestions. Here's what I've done, as I also enjoy taking close-ups of flowers and such. I've attached examples of 2 Gerbera Daisies I photographed using construction paper as a background. I just wedged it between the leaves and the stem (daisies were still in the pot). The other pix, the daisies were in a wine glass as a makeshift vase on my kitchen table. I propped the paper up behind it. I am still basically new to photography and use what I have available for backgrounds, etc. I hope this helps.
-Lori

4/27/2004 7:32:52 AM

Robert Bridges

member since: 5/12/2003
  Why use any fake background? If you are shooting them in a garden how about
letting them look that way? If you want them to look like they were taken in a studio then why not just cut them and use black velvet?

4/27/2004 9:13:03 AM

Diane Dupuis-Kallos
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/27/2003
  Thanks you all for your suggestions! Robert, if they were in a garden I would leave them there! Unfortunately I don't have a green thumb, so my flowers are usually store-bought. Thanks Lori for the construction paper idea!
Thanks Darren and Julie for your responses!

4/27/2004 12:36:57 PM

Thomas Kendall

member since: 5/23/2003
  For growing plants and flowers get a 2'x4' peice of foamcore. Paint one side with flat white and the oterside with flat black or very dark gray. This makes a flat easy to handle background when place about 2 feet behind to flower.

4/27/2004 4:33:40 PM

Robert Steele

member since: 4/5/2004
 
 
 
Diane I know this sounds strange but I too take macro photos of flowers, both cut/store-bought and in the wild, I have never failed to get permission just by going to someone's door and saying how lovely the flowers look would they mind if I take a few photos?
Recently I have begun to use a black velvet backdrop, but occasionally I forget to bring it along. When I do take it, I use it for more of a wide-view not macro. See example 1, then I go macro, with or without a backdrop since I allow the flower to fill the entire photo, example 2. The flowers here were purchased from Walmart, $3.99 for a bouquet, my wife loved them, and I got dozens of shots before there timely demise. Talk about budget photography, lol.

4/28/2004 6:54:22 AM

Robert Steele

member since: 4/5/2004
 
 
  Tri-color Tulips 1
Tri-color Tulips 1
Example 1
 
  Tri-color Tulips Macro 2
Tri-color Tulips Macro 2
Example 2
 
 
Diane I know this sounds strange but I too take macro photos of flowers, both cut/store-bought and in the wild, I have never failed to get permission just by going to someone's door and saying how lovely the flowers look would they mind if I take a few photos?
Recently I have begun to use a black velvet backdrop, but occasionally I forget to bring it along. When I do take it, I use it for more of a wide-view not macro. See example 1, then I go macro, with or without a backdrop since I allow the flower to fill the entire photo, example 2. The flowers here were purchased from Walmart, $3.99 for a bouquet, my wife loved them, and I got dozens of shots before there timely demise. Talk about budget photography, lol.

OOPs, here are the photos, sorry.

4/28/2004 7:02:15 AM

Diane Dupuis-Kallos
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/27/2003
  Thanks so much Thomas and Robert!

4/28/2004 7:10:06 AM

Sandra J. Colby
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/27/2004
  Have you tried putting them in a vase, taking them outside at dusk and shooting them? The low light makes the background black in most cases. Try it with a flash also. I do most of my work in the wild so use this outdoor technique often.
Sandi

4/28/2004 3:14:20 PM

Jessica Neiswender

member since: 1/29/2003
  The clamps sold specifically for this type of photography are called 'Plamps'. They have a clip on either end of a posable, flexible arm. You clip one end to your tripod or another fixed object and then apply the second clamp to the stem of the plant you want to hold still and position for your photo. They are fairly expensive and if you can find a way to improvise with twist ties, styrofoam board, etc. you might be happier. But for about $40.00 you can get one of these. They are also great for holding diffusers/reflectors in position freeing up your hands for work with the flower and camera.

5/7/2004 10:48:50 AM

jean ray
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/22/2004
  Here are two more ideas for inexpensive, but effective, backgrounds. You can get poster board and sponge paint it in colors of your choosing. I tried a mixture of soft green and blue that worked well. I also have used pillow cases. One in particular was a pastel floral print that made a wonderful background for stargazer lilies.

6/7/2004 6:37:41 PM

Jennifer H. White
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/30/2005
  These are all great ideas. What do you recommend for lighting?

10/15/2007 9:41:14 AM

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