In this post I will discuss two challenges of macrophotography:
small depth-of-field (technical)
right background (creative)
Due to the corona crisis I spend a lot of time in the garden. I never realised the variety of flowers in our garden, including our tub plants. Almost every day I scout my garden to find new flowers or new compositions. I rediscovered macrophotography. Also a webinar of Janneke van de Pol about macrophotography inspired me to look at taking macro pictures differently.
The first thing you notice when you enter the macro world is that the depth-of-field is very small. For example, with my 105mm macrolens at a distance of 30cm with an aperture of f/8 the depth-of-field is only 2mm. By just moving a little bit the subject is already out of focus. I find it difficult to judge the quality of a picture on the screen of my D800. So, in practice this means that I have to go to my computer to see whether the subject is in focus or not.
To deal with this small depth-of-field I have two approaches depending on whether the picture is for Instagram (have a look on the right) or for Dreamstime. For Dreamstime I try to keep the ISO as close as possible to 100 to avoid noise in the picture. For Instagram this is less important. The settings of my camera are normally:
ISO is automatically increased if the shutter speed becomes below 1/60sec. If the ISO exceeds 6400 then the shutter speed is lowered.
AF-ON is used to focus. Normally I use that for focussing on moving subjects. Now I use it also to compensate for my own stabilising motions.
For Instagram this is perfect. I take a couple of pictures with different apertures and on my computer I decide which picture I want to share on Instagram. For Dreamstime, I want to keep the ISO close to 100. So, I switch off the automatic increase of the ISO. If there is sufficient light this is no problem (fast shutter speed). Otherwise, due to the slower shutter speed, I use my Peak Design Travel Tripod. To avoid any further vibrations I use Arsenal for wireless control to focus and to hit the shutter. The resulting pictures are of very high quality.
The second thing you notice with macrophotography is that the rightbackground is very important. I observed that in the beginning I was too concentrated on getting the subject in focus that I often forgot about the background. Sitting behind my computer I saw the disturbing background which is of course hard to fix in Lightroom.
So now I spend more time on the composition (which includes the vague background) before getting my camera. Although this is not an easy task -we deal with the imperfections of nature – it is important to look at lines and light and dark spots. Also colours are more important than I thought. Try to look at the subject from different angles and decide on the one you like. Creativity plays a central role in this decision. Composition rules are helpful, however, do not be too rigid. By experimenting you get a feeling of what wow pictures look like. Feedback on Instagram also helps me.
What I like about macrophotography is the combination of the technical and creative challenge. My appreciation of nature has increased substantially. After the corona crisis I will continue taking macro pictures.
Last week my daughter asked me to take some pictures of crocheting she makes and sells via her Etsy webshop, DC crochet Design. She was facing some shortcomings of smartphones to do product photography. So, yesterday I grabbed my equipment and turned one of our bedrooms into a small photo studio. I have done something similar before so the first steps were easy.
To put all the focus on the crocheting I used white paper as a background. I used the same equipment as for model shooting, only I used a more narrow roll of paper.
To avoid sharp shadows I used two compact flashes flashing from two different sides through white umbrellas (TTL-mode).
To avoid incoming daylight I set the Exposure Time to 1/160th of a second.
This is the way it looked like.
As a camera I used my Nikon D800 and the Nikkor 28-300mm as a lens. I set the Commander Mode such that the two compact flashes on the side flashed and that the built-in flash did not.
During the shoot my daughter and I checked the pictures to make sure that things were working out the way we wanted it. Here are some of the challenges I was facing:
The white background is not white at all Compact flashes are of course not as powerful as studio flashes. I have only one studio flash, so I decided to use two almost identical compact flashes. In Lightroom it is very simple with the adjustment brush to increase the exposure to make sure that the white background is really white.
Not the whole embroidery is sharp In most of the pictures the whole crocheting had the same distance from the camera. In this case f/8 suffices. However, I did not realise that the Depth of Field was pretty small. Afterwards, I calculated that at 115 mm and with f/8 or f/10 the DoF is only a few centimeters. Too small as you can see here. The bottom of the iPhone is not sharp.
From this I learned that I have to shoot a bit further away, with a wider angle than 115mm (for example, 50mm, and crop later), and at least f/16 or f/22 (all increase DoF).
Colours are not identical to original I fiddled around a bit with the temperature to match the colours of the original.
This week I reached a total of 500 uploads at Dreamstime. I am extremely proud of that. As an amateur photographer it is very rewarding to meet the high quality criteria of a professional organization like Dreamstime. It is rewarding to get your pictures accepted and even more rewarding to sell them.
By reading and practicing a lot, by participating in the Dreamstime community, and by trying to match my own ambitions and the preferences of the buyers, I have learned a lot.
In the first year my acceptance rate was 47% and this year it is 100%.
And in the same period the sales, in terms of numbers, have almost quadrupled.
Here you can see all my pictures at Dreamstime: in chronological order, categorized, and the ones that are sold.
Many beginning photographers have the ambition to improve their photography skills. At the same time there are too many opportunities: photography books, photography blogs, courses by photographers in their neighborhood, courses by or even trips with famous photographers, tutorials on youtube, websites etc.
Personally, I started with books recommended by Ken Rockwell on his website. I had to start somewhere. It actually turned out to be a good choice. I started with a book of Brenda Tharpe (Creative Nature & Outdoor Photography). By now I have read almost all books on his website. I have learned quite a lot, and also spent quite a few euros. To be honest, for me it was worth the money, however, not everybody has the means to do so. Craft&Vision is a good alternative. It is a photographic education company initiated by David duChemin and his team of more than 20 famous photographers. Their manifesto is: “for the joy of creation and the love of the photograph”. They started with high quality, concise $5 eBooks. Easy to read on an iPad. By now, I collected quite a few of them. Just like I said, all of them are written by famous photographers, they cover a wide variety of topics, they are to-the-point, and they are cheap.
Nowadays, they have more products than just eBooks. They also have magazines and videos. I enjoyed listening to The Created Image Video, describing a journey of craftsmanship by David duChemin. Every time he mentions things that makes you aware there is still room of improvement in the way you take pictures.
I hope you will enjoy Craft&Vision as much as I do. On top you see a recently sold picture of Versailles. By reading a lot, I got more creative in composition and at the same time improved the technical quality of my pictures. Here you can see my pictures accepted by Dreamstime.