November 15, 2008

Turn Blah Into Beautiful

Post by Lisa Bettany

I rented my first macro lens this weekend, the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro. But, I really dropped the ball and ended up swamped with work and not having any time to shoot anything. Plus, I was having some “bad creative days”. I sometimes have days where I have ideas, but I can’t completely visualize the end product, so I somehow talk myself out of even trying to figure it out. This endless circle of doubt just smacks my creativity in the face and wastes so much time, like my entire weekend. So 45 mins before I had to return the lens to Beau Photo, I kicked myself in the rear and out the door with the goal of grabbing at least one decent shot. I poked outside my apartment building for something interesting to shoot and ran into this friendly spider. At first, the shot didn’t look great. The sky was blah grey, there was no light, the spider’s web didn’t have any raindrops, it was all very bland. But, determined as I was, I crouched in a big mud puddle and angled the frame, so the spider was sitting in colourful background, instead of the grey sky. And bam! Something decent. The focus on the spider was a bit soft in the final image, so I sharpened it in Aperture. I also amped the saturation of the yellow. The rest of the colours were just that vibrant. It’s not a shot I would ever dream of taking, but there it is.

The point is, even on your worst photo days, you can catch a great shot. Keep shooting, keep exploring, and stay positive about your photography. Just start shooting anything, inspiration will strike sooner than you think. Macro Tips:

  1. Use Manual focus. Use Auto focus to help grabbing your focus if you are having trouble, then switch over to Manual.
  2. Get low. Often the best angle is the one where you have to kneel in a pile of muddy guck. If you have sore knees, buy one of those gardening foam pads to kneel on.
  3. Explore Depth of Field (DOF). A small DOF (<f/2.8) will emphasize the subject, and make it stand out more from the background. This method called selective focus, is great to use if you your background is really distracting, like the fall leaves in my spider picture above. Conversely, if you want all of your subject in focus you will need a larger DOF f/8 or higher.
  4. Shoot in RAW. Always. You will be able to pull so much more detail put of your image, it will amaze you. You can thank me for your amazement later. :D

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This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

Join the conversation! 17 Comments

  1. More great advice Scott – I was planning on some macro photography in the morning at the growers market and you provide these tips just at the right time.

    I do have one nit-pick – sorry but I’m a math-geek and can’t let it pass. The symbol > is greater than. Point 3 reads “A small DOF greater than f/2.8…”, I think you were aiming for “A small DOF less than f/2.8…” or “… (<f/2.8)…”.

    Thanks again Scott.

    Reply
  2. For manual focus, I have to resort to using the live view “expanded view” to dial the focus in exactly, especially if you have a 10x view mode. I’ve had much better luck doing that than using the eye piece. This is only really helpful on a tripod or some other stationary support.

    Reply
  3. Great tip! I know what you mean about having”bad creative days”.
    Great photo!
    @ Jason: It’s Lisa writing this time!

    Reply
  4. Love that lens, I had the Sigma 105mm 2.8 EX Macro lens before until I dropped it in the water during a swamp walk in the Everglades. Oops. I can tell you the Canon 100mm 2.8 has MUCH better aufo-focus, much quieter as well.
    Love that background in your shot Lisa!

    Reply
  5. @Jason of West Oz — Thanks for pointing out the typo. I do actually know that rule, even though I’m somewhat rubbish at maths.

    @Kevin — Bad creative days seem to hit me more in the winter. All the more reason to get out and shoot.. Well after it finishes pouring rain.

    @JP — Oh no! How did you manage that? I found the Canon 100mm f/2.8 auto focus to be very quick and quiet, but when I was trying to focus on the spider it jumped around like crazy. That’s why I had to switch to Manual.

    Reply
  6. Thanks, LIsa. Do you focus manually by moving the camera? This what I do.

    Reply
  7. Yeah Beau photo! Im from Vancouver and that is my photography store of choice. They have always been helpful and have a large selection of film.

    Reply
  8. Lisa, my experience is that the closer you get to the subject with your macro, the harder it is for the camera to focus, so I agree with you entirely on manual focus, and a tripod with a remote trigger release become almost a must to stay tack sharp and within your DOF. Beauty is in the small details, as always. Great tips!

    Reply
  9. Lisa, great advice on the 100mm f/2.8 I purchased this lens about (6) months ago with the intention of immediately trying my skill at macro. It was only recently that I finally got around to spending a day in the garden with my 30D and the lens. However, I must admit that I did do some reading on how to be successful in the macro world. Your advice was consistent with what I had read. Manual focus is a must in this world and the f/2.8 lens did an admirable job. Of course a mini tripod is almost a necessity as well. As a final comment, you also need patience because if you are going after insects, they usually don’t like to pose. I will keep the lens and use it when I get the calling to dive into the world of miniature.

    Reply
  10. Lisa

    Great tips. TWIP is one of three photo blog sites that I check religiously every day. You’re doing a great job on this site and your podcasts. Keep up the great work!

    For those that want to try macro for far less than buying the great Canon 100mm f/2.8, consider the Canon 500d close-up lens. I’ve got one for my Canon 70-300 DO IS lens and it works great for some occasional macro fun.

    Reply
  11. I recently purchased the Canon 100mm f2.8 macro after all the good reviews I read and I love it. It’s almost like an L-series lens, minus the weatherproofing and red ring. I haven’t had much of a chance to use it where I am, as this area is better for landscapes rather than macro, but when I use it, this lens manages to amaze me every time.

    I’ve found it’s best to set it to the macro ratio you need on the focus ring (1:1 for instance) and then manually move the camera to bring the subject into focus. It feels a bit silly at first, but makes sense once you get used to it.

    Reply
  12. I routinely use my TC-17 teleconverter with my Nikon 105 2.8 VR Macro. The IQ is good and I can explore larger than 1:1 images. Water droplets are a favorite with plenty of lighting angles. You never know what you will get.

    Reply
  13. Hi,
    well you inspired me. I finally got my act together and figured out how the live view on my canon worked, and that was the gateway to macro for me (my eyesight aint great). A series of chocolate chip muffin shots resulted with a tasty end. Incidentally, the other bit of the puzzle was a gimbal head for my tripod – something else that TWIP has taught me. Glad you guys are doing this…
    William

    Reply
  14. Hi Scott,
    Can you post the original pre-processed image too?
    I am curious what it looked like before you worked on it.

    Thanks for everything!
    Ichiro

    Reply
  15. @Ichiro I can’t do that since it’s Lisa’s post and photo.

    Reply
  16. Just the tonic i needed to get my creative feel that has been lacking in the past few shoots

    Reply

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About scottbourne

Founder of Photofocus.com. Retired traveling and unhooking from the Internet.

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Technique & Tutorials

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