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Old 18-03-2009, 10:19   #1 (permalink)
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Macro photography tutorial II

Macro tutorial – part II

After lots of response to my first tutorial I’ve decided that when time will come I’ll write second part of my macro photography tutorial. I recommend you to read first one. In this one I’ll be more detailed and I’ll base on examples.

Same as before – I’m not a professional photographer (I still don’t get paid for my photos). And every single macro photographer will have his/her own way to achieve same or better results.

I still see some mistakes in my previous tutorial so I just have to apologize for it and ask you to be patient when reading my English. I'll do my best.

Please keep in mind that since last tutorial I was working only with my Canon 40D camera and Canon 100mm F2.8 macro lens plus Raynox DCR-250 on it from time to time. I’ve learned few new things about macro photography and it could be a little bit different from what I was writing last time. It’s in your hands to adopt my technique to your needs... or totally ignore it and find your own.

Equipment

Canon EOS 40D
Canon 100mm F2.8 macro lens
Raynox DCR-250
Foam mattress (cheapest one from local store – I use it only against wet and dirt when I have to lie on the ground. I was using bin bags before)
Small Scissor
3 white paper sheets size A4
Camera stand
Home made diffuser
Camera bag
My brain (you can’t have exactly this one but I’m sure you have even better models)

All settings and equipment I recommend in this tutorial are tested by myself. It does not mean it’s the only way to achieve good results. I work with what I have and I keep thinking about some equipment upgrades.

Being a big fan of macro photography I’m looking for good shoots on different forums. And I always check if those photos I like have exif so I can check settings that other people use. Best macro photos I’ve seen are made with F32 or even F40. I was asking photographers how it’s possible to make such fantastic photos with lovely colours and nice background using F32 – the answer is they use even 3 professional flashes for macro photography at once. At the moment I’m thinking about buying Canon MT-24 EX Macro Twin Lite. It’s expensive and I would love to try it before buying it but I expect it should give fantastic results.

DOF

Careful readers will notice that before I was saying of using F set to at least 11. And since last time I was practising a lot and decided that even F2.8 is enough if you really know what u want to show. It’s very difficult to find sharpness for small DOF but you can still have great results and sharp image with enough details. Smaller DOF gives you also more light, making exposure time shorter.

Settings for bright background

I would say there are two schools for macro photography. First one keeps black background and is easier to follow. Using short exposure time and flash with diffuser with F9 or more will almost always give you black background. It looks great and for some macro shoots I will still go for it. The problem is – it looks artificial or we may say like studio photo. It’s not really good for macro with insects. To keep background look natural we need to use combination of settings that will keep it bright and visible when the main object is nicely exposed. I could only guess that there are many ways to achieve this result. We are fighting here for light. I’m still using flash with diffuser in most cases but I try to make exposure time much longer then before. Also F that I’m using now is usually less then 9. And ISO is usually at 200 or more but it really depends from conditions. In my case I use early morning light or late evening so I have to use higher ISO. But with very good light conditions I will always recommend to use lower ISO.
I try to use diffuser when I can but it's not necessery to use flash at all and you know that for sure. What I'm saying is - try it and you'll love it.
Just few more words about exposure time – I like to keep it long but as you already know it’s possible only when your model stays still and not moving at all. I was making photos of damselflies with exposure time greater then 1.5 second but it’s working only when there is no wind and at very early morning when nothing likes to move (even me).

The next thing is to be careful and not to overexpose your photos. Long exposure time, high ISO, small DOF and flash with diffuser sounds like a great opportunity to completely destroy your photos. The only way to find out how it works all together is to experiment. My last visit to butterfly world was a good lesson – I took about 20 photos before I found good settings setup for conditions out there. I tried those settings on a simple plant and then when everything was ready I started to hunt butterflies.
When there is no need for flash with diffuser remember that you could use for example white paper sheet or even mirror. This gives extra light on your model (for example when taking photo of butterfly to brighten space under his wings). With white paper there is one small problem – insects could be attracted to it or scared of it. It’s a big white “something” getting closer to them.

Example no. I



Place: Fiddleford Mill, Dorset
Time: 5:30 am
Equipment: Canon EOS 40D, Canon 100mm F2.8 macro lens, bin bags, small scissor, camera bag, white paper sheets

I left home at 5:00 am (summer, it’s already bright outside). I went to Fiddleford Mill knowing that there are lot’s of damselflies. I also knew that they do not move at that time of the day. It’s too cold for them to move and they wait for sun to worm them up. Also there is dew everywhere, which makes things more interesting.
I found a comfortable place to lie down on the ground few meters from the place where damselflies were sitting. I put the bin bags on the ground so I could lay down not worrying about being wet. I putted my camera bag on in and then camera on that bag – making it really stable. I made some space at front of camera – removing some sticks and cutting grass with my scissors. I set up my camera to manual and try to take photo of some grass – so everything is ready to shoot. I found damselfly – I cut the grass with scissors and brought it all together to my “studio”. I used 2 paper sheets to reflect some light on damselfly. It was still not enough so I had to use extremely long exposure, but my little friend was not moving so it was not a problem.
I took about 30 shoots before we got bored (me and my model). Just 2 shoots were good. Rest were placed in the bin.

Camera settings:
F number: 8
ISO speed rating: 200
Exposure time: 1 sec
Flash: NO

I could use ISO 400 and try with F 11 but I didn’t – my mistake.


Example no. II



Place: Butts Pond, Sturminster Newton
Time: just after 6am
Equipment: Canon EOS 40D, Canon 100mm F2.8 macro lens, Raynox DCR-250, white paper sheets,

This place is 3 minutes walk from my home. I was there just long before 6am but this photo is best from that session. No special preparations. Raynox on Canon 100mm, camera in one hand, white paper sheet in second hand. Damselflies were already on their wings flying around. This one was sitting still – I moved very slowly to it keeping in mind not to put shadow on it. I was on my knee when taking this photo using manual focusing and moving my body to find sharpness. There is nothing more to say.

Camera settings:
F number: 6.7
ISO speed rating: 200
Exposure time: 1/166 sec
Flash: NO

Example no. III



Place: Alners Gorse Butterfly Reserv
Time: after 6pm
Equipment: Canon EOS 40D, Canon 100mm F2.8 macro lens, home made diffuser.

Late afternoon, butterflies are very lazy looking for place where they could stay for a night. They are easy to approach – they fly only if you really scare them. Weather was fantastic, no wind. This butterfly was just sitting there doing nothing. I decided to use diffuser for extra light. As you can see background is not black and details on butterfly are very clear, sharp and visible. I used F 5.6 because there was no need for more DOF. It was bright enough to take the photo without diffuser but using it reveals extra details on model. In camera flash setup page I changed the strength of flash to minimum (-2). With full flash strength and shorter exposure time I would have black background effect. I like more natural looking photos where you can see some background – using flash with diffuser gives extra light on your model leaving background visible.
I was sitting on the ground when taking this photo, using manual focusing and moving my body to find sharpness.
U can experiment with those settings. ISO100 and short exposure time when using flash gives black background. Higher ISO and longer exposure time when still using flash gives natural background and extra details on your model. Try it at home with flower or something.

Camera settings:
Exposure time: 1/220
F number: 5.6
ISO speed rating: 100
Flash: YES

Example no. IV



Place: Studley Grange Butterfly World
Time: midday (between 10am and 3pm)
Equipment: Canon EOS 40D, Canon 100mm F2.8 macro lens, Raynox DCR-250.

Best butterfly world I’ve visited (I’ve seen 3 already) and have been here twice, planning more visits soon. It’s all inside glass-house so when it’s a sunny day you’ll have lots of light at your service. There are feeding tables around with some fruits where butterfly called Caligo likes to seat and eat. They are big which means easy to photograph. And also great for extra close-ups. It was easy to take this photo – they stay still when eating. Raynox was used on my Canon 100mm macro lens. Using Raynox DCR-250 is not easy – distance from model must be just few centimetres.
I was sitting on the ground when taking this photo, using manual focusing, resting my hand with camera on the table moving it back and forward to find sharpness.
When you practice on something bigger, like this kind of butterfly, you’ll be able to use Raynox and your camera on some really small insects. You may not like this photo but I’m going back there to take more similar ones. I like butterfly portraits.

Camera settings:
F number: 9.5
ISO speed rating: 400
Exposure time: 1/800
Flash: NO

Example no. V



Place: London Zoo Butterfly House
Time: around 10:45am
Equipment: Canon EOS 40D, Canon 100mm F2.8 macro lens, home made diffuser.

Cloudy day, dark inside, high humidity. No one says it’s going to be a picnic. Using special cloth on my lens before every single photo (removing steam) I found this butterfly sitting still for few seconds in accessible place for me with nice background behind him.
I was on my knee when taking this photo using AF. I don’t use AF too much but I’ve noticed that those exotic butterflies are big enough to use AF – but still I’m choosing only one focusing point. This time this point was pointing/focusing on that butterfly eye.
When you see the exposure time it’s very short. I guess I could use longer one. I could also change ISO to 200 – I didn’t and please don’t ask me why (I don’t know).

Camera settings:
Exposure time: 1/800
F number: 4.5
ISO speed rating: 400
Flsash: NO

Example no. VI



Place: Piddles Wood, Sturminster Newton
Time: late morning
Equipment: Canon EOS 40D, Canon 100mm F2,8 macro lens, white paper sheet.

This butterfly was flying around resting on the grass just for few seconds from time to time. Sometimes it’s more about luck then your skills. I was walking after him for about 15 minutes. This photo was taken using white paper sheet like a mirror to give me more light under butterfly wings. There was still some shadow as you can see on the grass leaf but it’s not black as usually, it’s rather very dark green and of course wings are visible in their full beauty.
I was lying on the ground directly – there was no time for setting up the scene. Pure improvisation.

Camera settings:
Exposure time: 1/400
F number: 9.5
ISO speed rating: 100
Flash: No

Example no. VII



Place: Sturminster Newton at the very town centre
Time: early morning about 6am
Equipment: Canon EOS 40D, Canon 100mm F2,8 macro lens

On my way to Stur River I noticed lot's of those mushroms at The Exchange car park. I don't know how you call that piece of ground between foot path and car park where they keep some plants but it was there. I had to lie down on the concrete to take this photo. I took few photos with different settings but this one with F at 2.8 was best. It's simple with easiest model you can find. Photo like this could be taken even when it's quite windy - models are not going to move, believe me. No special equipment is needed, no special skill are needed.
To be honest after whole last year spent on chasing butterflies and other insects I have thoughts of changing my models to something that is not moving and running away from me. And it's possible to find mushroms like those two here at any time of the year.

Exposure time: 0.004
F number: 2.8
ISO speed rating: 100
Flash: NO

About general settings.

I use RAW files and all possible settings are swiched to manual. Manual ISO, manual white balance, manual focusing, manual F number, manual exposure time. If I use auto focusing I choose focusing point by myself – my camera have 9 focusing points but I can change it so only one is active.
RAW files are recommended by me in any situation and using designed software (in my case it’s Canon software delivered with every camera) to change some setting if needed. I always adjust brightness, colour temperature and sharpness. Sometimes contrast. All my photos are too dark, about -1 or -2 , so I can be sure they are not overexposed. This is easy to be changed in any software.

I use tripod for macro but it’s very rare in my case and even then I’m using it as a monopod so I can move camera back and forward easily. In most cases I was using this technique for damselflies.

Foam mattress is very useful in many situations. I have very thin and small one hanging on my camera backpack wherever I go. I don’t use it very often but when I have to lie on the ground it’s no longer a problem.

If there is something missing here or you would like to know more please ask.
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Old 23-03-2009, 00:27   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Macro photography tutorial II

It's great to read and very usefull tips. I will try and remember some of them the next time I go to the butterfly house. It's always great such a trip.

Thanks Marcin for taking your time to do this
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Old 10-04-2009, 21:28   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Macro photography tutorial II

Thanks a lot ! wonderful shots ! and many useful tips, you make me very envious and make me want to try this also, I bought a 105 lense, a sigma, and have tried it, but find I can't get close macros like you do, what am I doing wrong ? yours look like you used a magnifying glass to get such close shots, or a telescope ! can't believe the sharpness you are getting !! you are so good at it !! Thanks so much for sharing !
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Old 18-08-2009, 13:54   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Macro photography tutorial II

hallo Iwant to know about the focussing zones for mushrom shot how did you manage to keep both the mashroms in focus. what did you do for tha ? Because I find the stem of left side is sharp and the details of right one is also looks sharp. This second tutorial is very informative thanks.
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Old 29-08-2009, 12:15   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Macro photography tutorial II

it was just the metter to place myself in a spot from which i could have both those parts sharp. there is no any other trick then finding right place to take this photo. i was just lucky that both mushroms where growing close to each other.
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Old 05-02-2010, 20:41   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Macro photography tutorial II

Thanx again for the tutorial & lovely photos.
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Old 10-02-2010, 18:44   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Macro photography tutorial II

Another great tutorial, makes me want to get out there with my Raynox DCR-250!

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Old 08-10-2010, 15:37   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Macro photography tutorial II

its a lovely post .........i learned so many things from here.......
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Old 19-11-2013, 02:27   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Macro photography tutorial II

Is it possible to re-upload the photos because they don't seem to be loading.
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Old 19-11-2013, 08:28   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Macro photography tutorial II

Quote:
Originally Posted by Slingshots95 View Post
Is it possible to re-upload the photos because they don't seem to be loading.
Welcome to Pixalo Slingshot95

The images were not hosted here at Pixalo, but on Marcin's own web site. He has probably removed them so the links no longer work. Unfortunately, Marcin is no longer an active member here.
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