Macro - Page 3 - by Kev Vincent
Depth of Field (DOF)
Table of ContentsPage 1: Required equipment Page 2: Macro (1:1) explained Page 3: Depth of Field, Lighting & Setting Up
As the world of macro 1:1 has an inherently small depth of field, due to the very tiny distances involved, we are always faced with a compromise of sorts, and choices to make. Do we shoot the subject head-on with a rather flat focal plane in order to show more detail and obtain a greater DOF, or do we angle our shooting to say, 45º or 90º from the object to create a very shallow depth of field, which in turn may produce a far more interesting perspective? Or perhaps somewhere in between these two options? Another aspect to also think about here is how well your macro lens performs with regard to the transition from the out of focus regions to the sharp in focus areas. This is important because ideally that transition should be smooth and not rough or abrupt. Some lenses offer a much nicer transition than others. It is impossible to obtain a really deep DOF with macro 1:1, so it's vital that we make exactly the right part in focus to draw the observing eye in and to create a pleasing overall effect. This also raises another question, do we select the most interesting bit of detail as our main focus point, or should we choose the region that the eye naturally falls upon when viewing the picture as a whole? This is a judgement call, because these two can be quite different.
Another aspect to be aware of is that your lighting parameters and environment will also change when shooting macro. Often the lens is very close to the subject matter, especially when shooting items like jewelry, rings, flower centres, etc. That's why working distance now becomes very important. With the lens hood a mere few inches from the object to be photographed it may be difficult to get sufficient light onto the frontal areas, and just not enough room to place a reflector or diffuser panel where you want it. Sure, one answer may be to use a ring flash, which attaches to the front of your lens, however, if you prefer to use a diffused lighting setup (like I do) then this is not a viable option. If not enough light is available this will, in turn, create another problem, image noise, which will be present in the shadow regions of the image and will require some additional noise reduction in post-processing. This, again, will degrade the fine detail result. Remember, the better the overall lighting is, the less shadow recovery (to bring out the lost detail) will be needed later on, and ultimately less sharpening will be required in the final output stage. All these things directly impact on image quality and the more you get right at the source, the better the end result will be - period!
Pay Careful Attention To Detail
One last point that I would really like to emphasize here is that, with the extra magnification and fine details involved when shooting at close-up macro 1:1 ratios, one really has to be extremely thorough and meticulous in the setup and prep work stage - before pressing the shutter. There's nothing more frustrating and annoying than thinking that one has everything just right only to later find out (in editing software) that the composition scene was far less than optimal. At macro 1:1 distances you just won't be able see all the bits of hair, dust and other unwanted artifacts through the camera viewfinder. Therefore it is crucial that you take a couple of test shots first, then zoom in (either in the camera or on the PC screen) to get a close-up look at exactly how the shot will look. It's a disaster when, after carefully taking 50+ pictures or so, having put everything away, you discover that long piece of dog hair, or something else that has completely ruined the entire work. OK, in certain instances one will be able to get rid of some of these things with the touch-up/clone brush feature in your editor - however, there will be times when this is just not possible and by doing so it ultimately reduces the overall quality of the shot. Also pay close attention to the condition of the subject you are photographing, make sure that everything is absolutely perfect. For example, that flower bloom may look just fine at a normal viewing distance but under the 1:1 range microscope you may notice a lot of dead bits or blemished areas that will create a very unattractive end result. Everything is magnified x10, so pay very careful attention to the tiny details, it's always much easier to get it right the first time around than repair it afterwards.
To summarize, like I always say when referring to flower photography principals in general. None of this stuff is super difficult nor rocket-science, but it does require a high level of precision and I still believe that the most important aspect of all is the human element. Yes, we certainly need the appropriate tools to get the job done properly. However it is our ability to visualize an interesting composition, and to apply a 100% meticulous dedication to the task at hand which ultimately enables us to capture that truly amazing and unique shot. On closing, if you want to get great pics of insects, get up and out of the house well before sunrise, because that's when the little critters are in their dormant, non-mobile, docile mode, and just right for photographing. Me, I always make it a golden rule never to get out of bed before 10:00 am, so I guess that's the reason why I'm not a bug kinda bloke.
Here's the link kvincentphotography.ca/macro to my macro gallery which shows a series of shots that I have taken recently.
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