Please critique my plant photos

dxqcanada

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Keep an eye on the time of day when the sun is out ... overcast seems a bit too flat.

The Sticky thread was probably created before the upgrade to the forum that allowed dropping images directly
 
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mathbias

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overcast seems a bit too flat.
I don't understand.

My old camera had an AF that worked dramatically better in bright light than in less. So it was always a tradeoff between better focus from direct sunlight vs. shadows from direct sunlight. Sharp shadows really mess up plant photos.

So far as I've found with testing so far the Sony a7 iii focuses about the same from direct sunlight all the way down to far dimmer. So I can select times without direct sun to get a photo without sharp shadows.

In many types of photos, it is practical to have direct sun with no part of the front of the subject shadowed by other parts of the subject. The front is solid. But in plant photos, that is rarely possible. With the sun just far enough off from directly behind you that the camera doesn't put the subject in shadow, parts of the subject will still put other parts in shadow. Other angles of the sun have even worse problems.
 
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Overcast sky makes nice even flat diffused light coming from everywhere
That part I always understood. What did "too flat" mean in your previous reply?
 

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OK, I understand (already knew) closer means shallower DoF. Maybe that is a factor here.

But what can you see in the photos that I can't see and/or I'm just guessing?

I'm just guessing the second has shallower depth of focus. Is that really there? I'm barely more than guessing that both are focused slightly closer than the correct distance to subject. Is that what you see?

More importantly, what else is wrong? What should I do differently for better pictures (other than select a different subject).
Your frame is too tight to the subject. You're cutting off the edges by getting too close. You need some more/better lighting, such as off-camera flash. Flash will make your subject "pop" and help separate it from the background. We have already mentioned the shallow DOF.
 
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Flash will make your subject "pop" and help separate it from the background.
Thanks. I guess it is time to order a flash. I've been going slowly on ordering any accessories that didn't come in the original bundle, as I learn things that might affect which version of an accessory I choose.

I don't know when/if I'll want to shoot in too little light for this camera. I had forgotten that a flash can also help to suppress the background, so maybe I can shoot from slightly further away (maybe slightly higher F) and get more DoF for the subject, but suppress the extra background detail brought up by extra DoF.

The bundle did include a simple manual on/off tiny bright LED (cheap stupid substitute for flash). I'll see what that does to increase subject relative to background.
 

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When the sun comes back out ... go out and look at the plants at different times of the day ... you will begin to see how the sunlight, or the lack of, changes how the subject looks.
 

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Thanks. I guess it is time to order a flash. I've been going slowly on ordering any accessories that didn't come in the original bundle, as I learn things that might affect which version of an accessory I choose.
I would continue to go slow -- let the flash wait until you're getting more satisfactory results with just the camera.
I don't know when/if I'll want to shoot in too little light for this camera. I had forgotten that a flash can also help to suppress the background, so maybe I can shoot from slightly further away (maybe slightly higher F) and get more DoF for the subject, but suppress the extra background detail brought up by extra DoF.
Yes. If your goal is to isolate the plant from it's surroundings the solution isn't a wide aperture as much as it's a longer lens from farther away.
The bundle did include a simple manual on/off tiny bright LED (cheap stupid substitute for flash). I'll see what that does to increase subject relative to background.
Here's what we know:
You have an a7III camera with the Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens.
You're shooting camera JPEGs rather than RAW files.

More info please:
Do you have a tripod? If so which one?
Any other lenses?
Are you and/or do you want to do any post processing of the images and if so what photo processing software do you have?

You and I have something in common. I spend a whole lot of my time gardening. I tend multiple gardens as well as mini urban-lot orchards and I spend a lot of time photographing plants. Click on my name over on the left and go to my profile page. Bottom right below my icon image is a little drop menu labeled find. Click that and select "Find all threads by Ysarex." You'll find a lot of plant/flower photos there from my gardens.
 
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I have no other lens (yet). I have a really low quality tripod, but it can hold a camera still. A better one is on my list of purchases. I wasn't using a tripod for the above photos, I had my elbows on the ground, which at close range and 1/30 of a second with OSS seems plenty (but feel free to correct me and say part of the issue in the above photos is camera shake).

I plan to also try raw and editing software, but there are limits to what I can learn it once.

If your goal is to isolate the plant from it's surroundings the solution isn't a wide aperture as much as it's a longer lens from farther away.
That fits neither my understanding nor my experience. I thought higher F and further away pulls the background into the plant so they merge into a mess. It does take a narrower chunk of background. That provides more choices (as you shift direction from the subject) as to the least obnoxious background. I have used that method, with my old camera and the crappy tripod, to get less ugly backgrounds. But more often, there is still no good direction.
What am I misunderstanding?

I don't know what post processing software I should be using. I haven't yet even looked at the software that came in the camera bundle I bought. With my old camera, I made many attempts using Hugin to merge multiple photos of the same thing to try to get results I couldn't get with a single photo. I also used it for its intended purpose of panoramas. Either way I wasn't very effective and I don't know what part is me vs. poor choice of software.
 

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Thanks. I guess it is time to order a flash. I've been going slowly on ordering any accessories that didn't come in the original bundle, as I learn things that might affect which version of an accessory I choose.

I don't know when/if I'll want to shoot in too little light for this camera. I had forgotten that a flash can also help to suppress the background, so maybe I can shoot from slightly further away (maybe slightly higher F) and get more DoF for the subject, but suppress the extra background detail brought up by extra DoF.

The bundle did include a simple manual on/off tiny bright LED (cheap stupid substitute for flash). I'll see what that does to increase subject relative to background.
If your budget is too tight to purchase a separate flash (which I do recommend) use what you've got for now. Does your camera have a built-in flash? Can you modify it with a piece of tissue, and can you then bounce the light from a nearby piece of white card stock?

Or, just take it from Mother Nature, and get out there when the sun is at a better angle. Direct sunlight on your subject when the sun is low should give you a much better result. You can also use a reflector to aim the sunlight.

You should have a tripod for the camera, a cable or IR shutter release, some large-ish sheets of white foamcore, or foil-type reflectors.

Someday you will have a flash.
 
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My budget isn't terribly tight. I just don't like making stupid purchases, so I prefer to research a bit more. But if I do get impatient and do make a stupid purchase, it is not going to really hurt.

The Sony a7 iii does not have a built-in flash. It has some mechanism (that I don't really understand despite reading the documentation) for syncing a compatible flash.

With my old camera, I tried lots of angles of direct sun. I never found an angle that didn't have severe shadow problems when photographing a plant. I'll try with the light I have and later with a flash. I'm pretty sure I understand why for portrait photography you want the flash out of line with the camera. But for avoiding shadows within a plant, I think in line should be better, or maybe it takes multiple lights washing out each other's shadows. A reflector for sunlight is a nice idea, but I'm not sure what material makes sense, nor what angles might work.

a cable or IR shutter release
Since plants pose very patiently, I think the 5 second timed mode does the job and I don't need remote control. For tripod shots of subjects that don't pose as patiently, I hope the remote control via the phone is acceptable. It is very stupidly designed and leaves out almost every feature that would be easy to have included and that would make it useful. But it seems to work for timing a shot.
 

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I have no other lens (yet). I have a really low quality tripod, but it can hold a camera still. A better one is on my list of purchases. I wasn't using a tripod for the above photos, I had my elbows on the ground, which at close range and 1/30 of a second with OSS seems plenty (but feel free to correct me and say part of the issue in the above photos is camera shake).
I use a tripod a lot -- most of the time with plant photos. At those close focus ranges and shallow DOF hand-holding misses focus too much. Your body is always moving. The elbows on the ground should work though. In the above photos the first is as you noted focused forward. The second may have a slight camera shake problem but mostly it's focus placement and DOF. You need more DOF than you're getting at f/3.5.
I plan to also try raw and editing software, but there are limits to what I can learn it once.


That fits neither my understanding nor my experience. I thought higher F and further away pulls the background into the plant so they merge into a mess. It does take a narrower chunk of background. That provides more choices (as you shift direction from the subject) as to the least obnoxious background. I have used that method, with my old camera and the crappy tripod, to get less ugly backgrounds. But more often, there is still no good direction.
What am I misunderstanding?
(Simply) DOF is primarily a function of magnification with f/stop a secondary factor. Close to something small like a plant is moving toward higher magnification. Magnification is a function of lens focal length and subject distance.

Take a plant say 1.5 feet tall and 5 feet in front of another bed of plants. You fill the frame with the plant using your 28mm lens with some room to crop with the camera 1.5 feet from the plant. Magnification for the plant is .07X. Magnification for the bed of plants in the background (6.5 feet away) is .01X. Now let's take the same magnification image of the plant with a 100mm lens. To do that we'll have to back up to a distance of 5.5 feet. That now puts the bed of plants in the background at 10.5 feet from the camera and the magnification for those background plants is .03X -- and they're blurrier at that greater magnification.
I don't know what post processing software I should be using. I haven't yet even looked at the software that came in the camera bundle I bought. With my old camera, I made many attempts using Hugin to merge multiple photos of the same thing to try to get results I couldn't get with a single photo. I also used it for its intended purpose of panoramas. Either way I wasn't very effective and I don't know what part is me vs. poor choice of software.
Sony provides a RAW converter with the camera and also has arrangements with Phase One to provide a free version of Capture One Express that you can download. Those are for RAW file processing.

If you want to edit the camera JPEGs something like Affinity Photo is a good choice at a good price. There's always LR/PS which dominate the industry for a subscription cost of $10.00 per month. Adobe also sells the license product Photoshop Elements and there's both free and inexpensive JPEG editors too many to name.

How serious you want to ultimately get time will tell. You picked up a nice camera. Shooting JPEGs is paradoxically initially easy but you reach a point where your standards and expectations go high enough and JPEG becomes the more difficult and time-consuming row to hoe.
 
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With my old camera, on rare occasions, I took a good photo. One big purchase in my future is a long zoom so I can start trying with the Sony. On just this one time (out of all the times a hawk visited my back yard), it waited patiently while I ran for my camera, and ran to a tree quite distant from the hawk (to brace the camera on) and still waited while I took the picture 18 times. 17 total garbage: Mostly my Canon won't focus at high zoom in modest light. Some because the hawk moved and shutter speed was 1/10 (auto select by the Canon). One was a good picture. I don't know why the Canon sometimes focuses OK in moderate light (when it normally doesn't) and I got lucky that the hawk was still for a moment and the Canon chose 1/25 in the same light that for other shots it chose 1/10. I still framed it wrong (I'm not great at bracing on a tree) so I missed the right edge of what I wanted and wasted pixels on the left (that I cropped out afterward). But for a bad photographer with a not very good camera, it is one of my rare good photos.
IMG_4845 (2).JPG
 
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If your goal is to isolate the plant from it's surroundings the solution isn't a wide aperture as much as it's a longer lens from farther away.

I tried an experiment. It's cold out, so I did a sloppy job and ought to do it again before posting images. I got surprisingly (to me) lack of visible difference in background blurring across three shots. The background is 96 inches past the subject. In two shots the subject was 52 inches away, forgot to measure the third.

Focal length 28, minimum F-stop 3.5, 52 inches away
Focal length 28, F-stop 4.0, 52 inches away
Focal length 53, minimum F-Stop 4.0, further away, roughly the same subject width

With just my current zoom lens, increasing the focal length increases the minimum F-stop, so that is an extra reason it is harder to blur the background. The background object is much bigger in the third shot, but to me not detectably more or less blurred.

I'll try again later, a bit closer (52 inches is too far), more carefully, and maybe with a different pair of subjects. I chose these because the top of the subject is eye level and the background object is visible above it on a level view. That all makes the tripod shot easier to set up in the cold. But otherwise they weren't a great pair of objects for the test.

Edit: I tried again with different subjects. I'm really rotten at understanding exactly what I'm seeing in the monitor under such conditions. So I was a bit too close (smaller part of subject in frame) for the 70 focal length. But I think the result is still sound. If that had been correct, the effect would be slightly larger. As I would expect from my understanding of the theory, the background is most blurred for 28, 3.5, less blurred for 28, 5.6 and even less blurred for 70, 5.6

Background object is 82 inches further than the right hand (and further back) stalk of the subject. That right hand stalk is 28 inches from the lens in the two with focal length 28, and much further (but once again I lost that measurement) in the photo with 70 focal length:

28, 3.5, 1/40, 28 inch distance
QmvknqP.jpg


28, 5.6, 1/15, 28 inch distance
544yl2K.jpg


70, 5.6, 1/15, ??? inch distance
4TgUbD4.jpg
 
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That part I always understood. What did "too flat" mean in your previous reply?
In the simplest terms; you can think of light as being either of two types: modeling light, which shows off shapes and texture, or the opposite, flat light which does not show shapes and texture. An overcast sky transmits light from practically every part of the sky more or less evenly.
Direct light is coming from essentially one small area or point source.
 

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