Macro Exercises #4 Lighting

Lord VetinariLord Vetinari SmugbugPosts: 15,462Registered Users Major grins
edited September 1, 2008 in Holy Macro
Lighting in macrophotography.
First a disclaimer - I'm certainly not an expert at this, I just know what seems to work for me :).

I just want to cover normal outdoor shooting (ie doesn't include light boxes, light tables, studio setups etc).

1. Natural light.

Camera setup - ISO400/800, Tv or Av modes, On my 350D camera body I use -2/3rd EC. Try to keep the shutter speed above 1/160th without a tripod and remote and apertures F5.6 to F11.
Limitations.
a) I only like using natural light in bright but overcast conditions. Full sun tend to give shots with too high contrast and often bad reflections.
b) Normally only useable up to 1.5:1 magnification due to light availability.
c) Often hard to get very fine detail showing (such as compund eyes in bugs) due to the lowish contrast.
d) Low DOF due to often only getting largish apertures
Advantages.
a) Often get beautiful colouring and light

2. Flash

Two methods for using flash in macro.
a) Full flash with the camera in M mode ISO100/200 1/200th F8-F11 for 1:1 shots. Set FEC for optimum exposures. FEC needs to be changed depending on the background (upto +1.5 FEC over normal setting for very light backgrounds and upto - 1 FEC over normal settings for dark backgrounds )
b) Fill flash with camera in Av or Tv modes ISO 200/400 1/160th or higher F5.6 or smaller camera set to -2/3 EC.
I prefer using method a) but know many excellent macrophotographers that use method b).
With method a) when using 1.5:1 or less I try to balance the light if possible using ISO so that the picture would only be about 1 stop underexposed without flash. This actually gives an effect similar to method b) but with slightly more control over shutter speed or aperture.
Colour in flash shots is often warmer than natural light shots by upto 1000'C. You can cheat a bit by dropping the colour temperature during RAW processing to get nearly natural looking light.
Limitations of flash
a) Often get high contrast shots with dark backgrounds. This can normally be solved by using diffusers on the flash and having the flash diffuser as close to the end of the lens as possible. Dark backgrounds can be avoided by using the fill flash method (b) or a more balanced settings with method a) allowing more natural light plus choice of shooting angle so that there is some background within 6" of the subject.
Advantages
a) Essential for shooting at higher magnifications where there is just not enough light.
b) Balanced shooting or fill flash can give effects very similar to natural light when the natural light conditions are not optimal (eg very low light or suprisingly, in very bright conditions or backlight situations).


Exercise.

Try shooting the same subject with natural light, flash and fill flash and post 3 shots back here.


Example shots

First my camera rigs showing the flash/diffuser setups. One is a 350D with a sigma flash, sigma 105mm Ex with 33mm of ext tubes. The other is a 20D with an MPE-65 and 430Ex flash. Both have modded flash brackets

166020261-L.jpg

#1a Soldier fly flash

166017844-L.jpg

#1b Soldier fly Natural light (cloudy)

166017869-L.jpg

#2a Soldier fly Natural light (cloudy)

166018967-L.jpg

#2b Soldier fly Natural light (bright sun)

166018015-L.jpg

#3a Large hoverfly full flash

166019060-L.jpg

#3b Large hoverfly fill flash

166018114-L.jpg

#3c Large hoverfly Natural light

166018145-L.jpg

Comments

  • DalantechDalantech No cropping zone... Posts: 1,519Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 24, 2007
    Beautiful images Brian and a very well written tutorial! :cool

    You hit on one of my bad habits -not adjusting the flash to suite the background color. More often than not I just try to get close and adjust the shot in post -looks like I've got some experimenting to do...

    One other advantage to using flash only -the burst of light from the flash is actually your shutter speed, since the scene would be completely dark without it. I turn to shooting full manual and at least 2 stops under exposed on windy days just so I can use the flash to freeze the subject.

    Given the choice I'd much rather use natural light -I find that it's impossible to get the same color and contrast with a flash even with a lot of post processing.
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  • Lord VetinariLord Vetinari Smugbug Posts: 15,462Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 24, 2007
    Dalantech wrote:
    Beautiful images Brian and a very well written tutorial! :cool

    You hit on one of my bad habits -not adjusting the flash to suite the background color. More often than not I just try to get close and adjust the shot in post -looks like I've got some experimenting to do...

    One other advantage to using flash only -the burst of light from the flash is actually your shutter speed, since the scene would be completely dark without it. I turn to shooting full manual and at least 2 stops under exposed on windy days just so I can use the flash to freeze the subject.

    Given the choice I'd much rather use natural light -I find that it's impossible to get the same color and contrast with a flash even with a lot of post processing.

    Thanks John
    Quite right about flash helping to freeze motion- forgot to mention that :)

    I had to start looking at FEC changes in shots possibly because some of my shots are taken on unnatural objects- eg my car, white sun chairs and black water barrel lids- they really tend to show the need to play with FEC depending on background. I also have to use it on bright flower backgrounds.

    brian V.
  • SkippySkippy Forensic Wannabe Posts: 12,075Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 24, 2007
    Lighting in macrophotography.
    First a disclaimer - I'm certainly not an expert at this, I just know what seems to work for me :).

    I just want to cover normal outdoor shooting (ie doesn't include light boxes, light tables, studio setups etc).


    Wow Brian you can clearly see the difference in each of these shots.
    Great Tutorial clap.gif .... can you send me a bug to try this out on hahaha!

    Before moving onto a DSLR, I always feared Flash photography, but with my interest in Macro, and wanting to get closer and closer, meant I had to learn how to use a flash.

    Most often the bug or insect I was trying to photograph was not sitting in direct sunlight, and when your lens is within an inch of the subject you block out even more light with your own gear.

    This is a great tutorial, thank you again for writting it thumb.gif .. Skippy
    .
    .
    Skippy (Australia) - Moderator of "HOLY MACRO" and "OTHER COOL SHOTS"

    ALBUM http://ozzieskip.smugmug.com/

    :skippy Everyone has the right to be stupid, but some people just abuse the privilege :dgrin
  • tleetlee Perma Grin Posts: 1,090Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 25, 2007
    Brian, thank you so much for taking the time to post these tutorials. I am learning a lot!clap.gif

    T :D

    www.studioTphotos.com

    "Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons."
    ----Ruth Ann Schubacker
  • snapapplesnapapple Major grins Posts: 2,093Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 30, 2007
    Wow! I'm afraid of flash myself. I try to use natural light if at all possible. You really know what you are doing. Thanks for the pointers.thumb.gif
    "A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds." - Francis Bacon
    Susan Appel Photography My Blog
  • Lord VetinariLord Vetinari Smugbug Posts: 15,462Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 30, 2007
    snapapple wrote:
    Wow! I'm afraid of flash myself. I try to use natural light if at all possible. You really know what you are doing. Thanks for the pointers.thumb.gif

    Shouldn't be afraid of flash especially for macro shots. It just allows shots not always possible with natural light. Certainly worth trying.
    As you can see from the example shots, strong natural light is not necessarily nice for macro shots.
    Brian V.
  • scottVscottV Major grins Posts: 354Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 1, 2007
    what exactly did you use to make the diffusers?.. are those paper towels on the front?
  • Lord VetinariLord Vetinari Smugbug Posts: 15,462Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 3, 2007
    f00sion wrote:
    what exactly did you use to make the diffusers?.. are those paper towels on the front?
    Yes that's just kitchen paper roll on the front.
    Details of the diffuser here
    http://www.flickr.com/groups/macroviewers/discuss/72157594312315664/

    Brian V.
  • Phil_LPhil_L Major grins Posts: 106Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 12, 2007
    Comparisons different lighting
    First photo in natural light f11, ss 1/40 sec. Tripod.
    Sunlit from the left


    171965634-L.jpg


    Full flash exposure with on camera flash in commander mode and hot shoe flash SB800 as slave. F11, ss 1/200, tripod.

    Slave flash hand held to the left of the flower.

    171965891-L.jpg




    Pictures below use full flash exposure with Nikons close up flash system.

    sb-r1.jpg


    171966122-L.jpg


    Same as above but with teh addition of the SB00 as a third flash held under the flower on the right hand side.

    171965418-L.jpg

    FWIW picture nr 2 has the most interesting lighting IMO.

    Oddly enough the addition of a third flash only produced marginal changes in picture 4.

    Pic 3&4 look a bit flat??

    Note the darkening of the background with the flash shots due to the short SS.

    Sorry for the miserable subject for this test; bugs won't sit still but I could have chosen a better flower.

    No fill flash pictures, but since the flash calculation distance comes from the camera, which is probably closer to the flower than the slave in pic nr 2, there is a negative EV compensation in there.
  • Lord VetinariLord Vetinari Smugbug Posts: 15,462Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 13, 2007
    Good tests Phil.
    One of the problems with macro flash dual setups is that they can produce flat looking shots unless either the power ratio is varied (normally about 4:1) for equal position heads or the angle or distance of the heads is varied from the subject.
    Dalantech here is much more clued up on on these dual head systems than I am (I don't use them (yet...) ).

    Interesting there is not much colour temperature differences between the shots.

    Brian V.
  • Phil_LPhil_L Major grins Posts: 106Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 14, 2007
    Good tests Phil.
    One of the problems with macro flash dual setups is that they can produce flat looking shots unless either the power ratio is varied (normally about 4:1) for equal position heads or the angle or distance of the heads is varied from the subject.
    Dalantech here is much more clued up on on these dual head systems than I am (I don't use them (yet...) ).

    Interesting there is not much colour temperature differences between the shots.

    Brian V.

    Thanks Brian!:D

    Will try different power ratios asap. thumb.gif
    Not up to speed with the flashes yet.

    My camera's handling of WB is a bit odd so I generally use an Expodisc or WhiBal card, but the setting here is the same for all pics, ~5150 degK??? headscratch.gif
  • Lord VetinariLord Vetinari Smugbug Posts: 15,462Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 14, 2007
    Phil_L wrote:
    My camera's handling of WB is a bit odd so I generally use an Expodisc or WhiBal card, but the setting here is the same for all pics, ~5150 degK??? headscratch.gif

    Ah that would explain it- normally flash shots come out about 1000'c warmer than natural light shots if you just use AWB.

    Brian V.
  • fatheroftwofatheroftwo Big grins Posts: 58Registered Users Big grins
    edited July 26, 2007
    Never be afraid of flash, but like everything else in photography you will receive dividends if you invest your time in learning how to get the most from flash.

    Here are two images of an Alstroemeria - the first taken with flash and the second with natural light coming through a very large window and using a white reflector to open the shadows on the other side. The different lighting methods produce very different styles even with the same kind of flower. Personally I love working with flash and adore the results that flash can produce:


    164870436-L.jpg

    163830116-L.jpg
    Artists have a blank canvass and they create from what they see, whereas photographers take what they see and create something.

    f2.smugmug.com
  • Lord VetinariLord Vetinari Smugbug Posts: 15,462Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 27, 2007
    Father of two - have to admit I like both the shots. Excellent isolation form the flash shot but lovely light in the second.
    brian V.
  • stevehappstevehapp Newcastle, Australia Posts: 635Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 1, 2008
    I did the exercise. I do not have an offboard flash unit yet, so I am using a homemade softbox made out of a yogurt container on the onboard flash.
    So here are my shots.

    1. Natural lighting, about 3pm.
    flash1_6114.jpg
    f/11, 1/200, iso400 , manual mode.

    2. With flash.
    flash2_6116.jpg
    f/11, 1/200, iso300, onboard flash with diffuser.

    The onboard flash is less than ideal and i get specular highlights on shiny objects. I am torn between natural light and flash lighting. I think i need to learn how to use flash properly..

    thanks for the exercise, brian, muchly appreciated.
    steve
    Canon 40D, 50mm f/1.8, 400mm f/5.6L, sigma 105mm Macro.
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