Need help with macro photography

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by ltlredwagon, Jul 14, 2010.

  1. ltlredwagon

    ltlredwagon TPF Noob!

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    Looking for any advice/comments on macro photography. I recently got a mountain place and there are lots of butterflies. My photography background is in landscapes, medium & large format. Actually fairly new to digital world. I've been shooting with a Canon 20D and a 70-200IS which I got to shoot my son’s water polo games. My photos are not "bad" but just don't have the sharpness or the resolution or detail I want. I've seen shots by others with a point-and-shoot camera that are better than mine. Put another way, my shots don't compare with pro shots. The shot below was hand held. I'm usually shooting at a high shutter speed - around 2000, and trying to get as high an f-stop as possible to get good depth of field on the butterfly. Part of the problem, embarrasingly, is an error I wouldn't make on a landscape - just lack of due diligence/not putting in the time - I’m working on the mountain place and shooting “on the run”. I'm always wearing some other hat when I'm shooting - never a good idea, especially (I'm learning) when dealing with moving targets. I suppose a macro lens would help. I'm looking at the Sigma 180. I’ve read from others that proper use of ring flash or other indirect flash can help. But I'm probably also making newbie/non-pro mistakes. I really don't know a thing about macro photography. Would appreciate any advice others have. Thanks. Bob
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  2. ltlredwagon

    ltlredwagon TPF Noob!

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  3. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I bought the Sigma 180mm f/3.5 HSM APO-Macro mostly for butterfly shooting about seven years ago, back when I had a number of butterfly bushes planted in the back yard to attract butterflies. The 180mm macro is nice because it allowed me to get close enough to get a large butterfly image without spooking them away, and because it allows flash to be used from reasonable camera-to-subject distances. With the longer 180mm macro it's reasonably easy to use a flash at around 1/8 power or thereabouts, to get motion-stopping flash bursts, along with small f/stops like f/11 or f/13, which are very decent-performing apertures on the Sigma 180 Macro lens.

    Using a high shutter speed like 1/2000 second in bright summer sun will pretty much ensure that you'll never have camera shake issues, but you'll also be needlessly cutting down on depth of field because 1/2000 will require higher than normal ISO values and somewhat large-ish lens apertures. I have found that with the 180mm macro shooting at the 1:1 to 1:3 magnification ratios, that a speed of 1/250 to 1/400 is sufficiently fast when using daylight. I think that you might want to try using flash outdoors.

    I cannot see your posted example photos right now. One light source that works okay is the LumiQuest or Photoflex brand small softboxes that are about 5x7 inches in size,and are air-filled and which velcro on to the flash--at macro ranges, that diffuses the flash anf creates a slightly larger-than-normal light source that has some directionality to it, but whihc is also somewhat soft lighting. An off-camera TTL remote connector cord like the Nikon SC-17,SC-28,or SC-29 (SC=Strobe Connector cord) allows you to position the flash off to the left or right and slightly above the subject.thus effectively simulating sunlight, but allowing you to use a shutter speed like 1/200 second, a small f/stop like f/13 for good depth of field, and at close range with a 180mm macro lens, the flash expousure durations will be very brief, like 1/6000 second or so at close distances when the flash power is very low.

    If you want a technical manual written in plain English, the John Shaw books are fantastic at telling and showing you how to do close-up and macro work.
     
  4. NateS

    NateS TPF Noob!

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    Derrel nailed it. To add....lighting is probably your single biggest issue. You need to use a flash through a smaller softbox and use settings that will block out a portion of the sun (small aperture and near max sync speed). Using 1/2000th with a small aperture is going to cause you to have high ISO which introduces grain (shows up in the example you posted). Adding a flash will let you keep a fast shutter speed (doesn't matter since the flash becomes your shutter speed essentially) and a large aperture while retaining low iso.

    I shoot with the Tamron 180mm f3.5 and have no problems approaching butterflies, though sometimes you have to approach them with some subtleness and stealthy movements.

    I should ask...what aperture were you actually using? Apertures above f/13-f/16 generally start to lose sharpness and if your aperture was too high then that could also be part of your problem.
     

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