Suyama Images | Simple Set-up for Controlled Macro

Simple Set-up for Controlled Macro

May 10, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

I often enjoy sharing how I made a photo and in the last couple years I've started taking "behind the scenes" shots of the way I set up some particular lighting. I didn't used to do this. When I shot film, being ever on the budget, I used to carry (and I still do actually), a little moleskin book around with me.

I would diagram out a shot and be diligent about recording the time of day, camera settings, lens used, etc. Kind of like my own manual EXIF info. This is how I learned the "cause and effect" relationship in photography. There was no chimping, the only chimping going on was my occasional outbursts whereby I resembled a chimp after I got back a roll of film and it wasn't exactly how I had intended things to be.

These days I just back the zoom up (or my body) and shoot the bigger scene, partially for myself, partially to be able to show someone else how to do it without explaining it and the camera records all the other details such as time, aperture, shutter, iso, etc..

Have a look at the two photos below. These were both done with one flash. 

Oly E-5 f/11 @ 1/250 full manual control, iso 100. Per my exif data it looks like I used the 50mm macro with 2x extension which means that'd be 200mm macro on full frame.

Oly E-5 f/8 @ 1/250 full manual control, iso 100 (this one without the TC). 

Both photos above I used a single off camera flash triggered by pocket wizards. Both are very different looking photos, aside from the subject matter, the color temps being the big difference.

So how did I do this? Have a look below.

Ignore the two strip lights because those were not turned on. I set up my tripod, used a Manfrotto Superclamp attached to a tripod leg and shot light into the white foam core underneath the glass. The bottom piece on the floor, by the way, is that styrofoam insulation they now sell at Lowes and Home Depot, though this came from Lowes, the Depot seems to be carrying a Pink version. My camera was on the tripod, but I obviously removed it for this shot. The discrepancy in the color between the two photographs was simply a matter of white balance tweaks in post and camera settings against the flash settings. 

You don't really need this fancy equipment to do this shot either. If you only had one flash you could put it on a small stand or simply hold it, or have someone hold it. Focus and shoot. Anything white and reflective can work to bounce that light and bring up that nice lighting from underneath. And if you look closely that piece of glass came from an old stereo cabinet. Any glass can do, though I recommend the glass be whole and tempered for safety. You also don't need pocket wizards because you could shoot this using TTL to trigger your flash. The tripod does sturdy things up and allow you to really nail focus where you want it, but in a pinch, so long as the pic isn't enlarged too much perhaps no one will even notice so long as you aren't off by much.

I'll probably focus more on how I shoot portraits in the future as I don't usually shoot stuff like the above very often (think rare cases of boredom).  


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