Lesson 1:Introduction



Close-up Photography e-Workshop: Lesson 1

All photos and text © Julie Waterhouse, all rights reserved worldwide. No form of reproduction or usage (including copying in whole or in part, or altering of digital image and text files) is permitted without the express written permission of Julie Waterhouse.

Introduction

When you see a flower, your brain rushes to label it.  “Flower!” it exclaims loudly and proudly.  This voice that labels objects around us is essential in a world where we are constantly bombarded by visual stimuli.  Without this labeling and categorizing mechanism, we would become overwhelmed with information.  However, the brain’s labeling system works against the photographer.  Once we identify and label an object, we often don’t look any further.  When that happens, we miss out on really seeing. “Tree,” says our brain.  And then the object is dismissed without noticing the graceful curve of the branch, or the way the wind is blowing through the leaves, or the silhouette that it forms against the skyline – all potential photographic opportunities. 

When photographing subjects close up, images often become abstract, since you are seeing only a portion of the subject.  This takes away your brain’s ability to easily label, and suddenly, you are able to really see.  Your attention is now guided to the lines, shapes, textures, and patterns of the subject, which are the fundamental building blocks of all images.  Learning to turn off labeling when you look at the world around you is a great gift for training the photographic eye.  Close-up photography can help you to hone this skill, and I believe that practice at close-up shooting will improve the rest of your photography too.

 

Definitions

If we’re going to have a course on close-up photography, we’d better define it first! What is the difference between macro photography and close-up photography? Macro photography, in its strictest definition, means that the subject is projected onto the film or digital sensor at (at least) the same size as it is in real life, i.e., at a 1:1 ratio or greater. Most macro lenses do at least half this well, projecting images at half life size, or at 1:2. The best macro lenses manage true life size.

Nowadays, many consumer lenses on the market tout "macro capabilities." This typically means an ability for close-focusing so that the image is life-size on a 4"x6" print, rather than on the film or sensor. That amounts to a magnification of only about 1:4, which requires lower lens quality.

Close-up photography is simply a looser definition of macro photography where we don’t enforce the requirement for 1:1 magnification of the subject on the sensor. Instead, we refer to close-up photography as the act of photographing a subject in close range so that it fills the frame.

For this course, it’s not important that you have a true macro lens. What you do need is the ability for close focusing so that you can fill your picture frame with small objects. If you find that you enjoy this kind of photography, you will probably want to acquire a true macro lens eventually, because it provides the best image quality.

 

bee on poppy
Bee on poppy
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

This photo would be considered "close-up," but not true macro, since the bee was not life size on the sensor (it’s probably about life size in this image). It was taken with a 100mm macro lens, but I was standing further back than the closest possible focusing distance.

 

Equipment

Let’s talk about the different kinds of equipment you can use to do close-up photography. There are a few options in terms of lenses, and a few must-have accessories.

Macro lens:
A macro lens allows focus from very close to the subject.  A true macro lens magnifies the subject so that the ratio of its actual size to its size on film is 1:1 or greater. Macro lenses are typically found in three different focal length ranges. Lenses in the range of 50mm-60mm are usually used for product photography and photographing small objects. The classic macro lens for photographing insects, flowers and small objects is in the range of 90mm-105mm. Finally, you can get macro lenses in the range of 150mm to 200mm, which are useful for photographing insects and small animals because they give you more working distance from your subject.

Tripod:
A tripod is used to stabilise the camera, and prevent movement due to hand shake. A tripod is essential for close-up photography. Because you are looking at such a small area of the subject, even tiny movement of the camera has a huge impact on the composition. Also, over a long exposure, any shaking of the camera will cause blur in the image.

Cable or remote shutter release:
A remote shutter release reduces the camera shake caused by your finger depressing the shutter button. Use it in conjunction with your tripod.

Mirror lockup:
Mirror lockup is a camera feature used to reduce camera shake due to the vibration of the mirror.  In this mode, the first release of the shutter button raises the mirror, and the second takes the picture. Grab your camera manual now, and figure out how to turn on mirror lockup. You should use it while shooting close up.

Extension tubes:
Extension tubes are attachments that contain no optical elements (i.e., no glass), but are used with a lens to allow closer focusing of that lens. Extension tubes are attached between your camera and your lens. They work by moving your lens further from the subject, which allows it to focus closer. Usually, they come in sets of three. The tubes can be used individually, or stacked together.

Close-up filter
A close-up lens, or close-up filter, screws onto the end of a regular lens, and gives it the ability to focus much closer to the subject. Quality varies greatly. There are some excellent quality two-element close-up lenses, but the majority are inexpensive single-element close-up lenses that produce images that lack sharpness. These are most often used on cameras with fixed lenses.

Teleconverter (multiplier):

Attached to the camera along with a lens, a teleconverter multiplies the focal length of the lens, usually by 1.4x or 2x.  Your working distance from the subject remains the same, but the image is magnified. When using a teleconverter, you will typically lose a stop of light (i.e., you will require a longer shutter speed for the same exposure).

Lensbaby™ with macro attachment:

A Lensbaby is a specialty lens that has one ‘sweet spot’ of focus, surrounded by graduated blur.  The point of focus and the amount of blur can be controlled by actually bending the lens.  Lensbaby macro attachments of 4x and 10x magnification can be screwed onto the front.  If you haven’t heard about this great toy before, check out http://lensbaby.com for more information.  Lots of fun!

 

Lighting

Lighting is a special challenge for close-up photography. Using some of the equipment above, you can find yourself with your subject almost touching your lens. In that situation, it’s impossible to get a light between the camera and the subject.

photographing outside
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

I have always preferred the look of natural light, so I do the vast majority of my close-up photography outdoors or using a bright window light. I use a tripod, and must sometimes shoot with long shutter speeds if the light is not at full strength. Because my usual subject matter is still, I don’t need to be concerned about the long shutter speeds.

In this case, I had to abandon my tripod to chase this little fellow around. I photographed him at 1/125s, and had to open the aperture up to f/4.5 to let in enough light. Even then, I increased my ISO to 320 to get a correct exposure.

This was taken with a 100mm macro, so I wasn’t right on top of the subject.

 

 

Another way to deal with the lighting is to use a longer macro lens (in the 100mm to 200mm range) that allows you greater working distance. This way, you are able to fit a light between camera and subject.

Finally, a ring flash with flash tubes in a circle around the lens can provide a workable lighting solution. Today, continuous LED ring lights are also available to light the subject.

 

Hints and Tips

 

Working Distance

In close-up photography, you have only a small working distance between the camera and the subject. Shooting with your camera close to your subject provides special challenges.  Any movement of either camera or subject is greatly magnified.   A tripod, remote shutter release, and mirror lockup can reduce movement due to camera shake. 

Technique 1: You must take care when composing your image to make small and precise adjustments as you refine your composition; a movement of your camera by as little as half an inch will drastically change the composition when the subject is only inches from the lens. 

Technique 2: For mirror lockup to be effective, you must use it in conjunction with a remote shutter release. It’s no good eliminating the vibration of the mirror coming up, if you’re still going to be pressing down on the shutter with big, clumsy fingers! The first press of your remote cable release will raise the mirror. After that, WAIT a few seconds for the vibrations caused by the mirror lifting to cease. Only then should you press the remote release a second time to take the shot. Too often, I watch people make two quick presses in succession. What’s the point? If you’re going to do that, you may as well not bother with mirror lockup in the first place!

Working with Mother Nature

Other difficulties arise when your subject is moving.  Here’s where you need to get creative.  A little sugar water might be enough to stop an ant in its tracks.  Photographing insects very early in the morning, while their wings are still covered in dew, and they can’t fly away, can be helpful.

bee on lupine
Bee on lupine
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

Remember, when you are photographing live subjects in Nature, you must make sure not to stress your subject by getting too close, or interfering with it in a negative way.  If you remove any debris around your subject to eliminate distractions, always put it back afterwards. Some plants rely on the cover. Be gentle with flowers, and don’t break off any buds. Flowers need to bloom and produce seeds in order to survive. Take string or velcro ties into the field to hold back stray weeds or branches, instead of breaking them off.

The bottom line? Always be respectful, and take care of Nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connecting Emotionally

Photography is a marriage of technical skill and creativity.  Both are essential ingredients in making successful images.  In this course, we will spend a lot of time on the technical side of things, but right now, I want to spent a moment on the creative side.

For me, the beginning of any good image lies in determining what has attracted me to my chosen subject matter. Why have I chosen it? When we are doing our creative photography, we are usually drawn to our subject by some kind of emotional pull. Most often, this is instinctive, and the reason for the draw may never reach our conscious minds. I’d like to encourage you to change that. Before shooting a subject, I’d like you to try to analyse why you are drawn to it. I believe this analysis is the first step in improving your images.

"The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it."
–Ansel Adams

Once you understand what has attracted you to a particular subject, you are then able to select the right tools from your technical toolkit to strengthen your message. This course will provide you with new tools for your close-up toolkit. It will also try to teach you when and why to use each one so that you can communicate your creative choices most effectively.

Assignment #1:

Please use this assignment as an opportunity to acquaint (or reacquaint) yourself with all your
equipment. Take the time to set up your gear, learn how to use mirror lockup, and take a few images.
In this assignment, you will exercise that magical 12 inches behind the camera, where your emotions
live!

1. Make 3 close-up images where you feel a strong emotional connection to the subject.

Briefly describe in words:
a) what emotion you felt as you made the image (e.g., joy? sadness? awe? something else?)
b) what it was about the subject that attracted your attention? (e.g., the colour? the curve of a petal?
the empty space around the subject? something else?)

It’s very helpful to become consciously aware of your reactions to your subject matter, and the
decisions you usually make instinctively and subconsciously.

Happy shooting!

 

All photos and text © Julie Waterhouse, all rights reserved worldwide. No form of reproduction or usage (including copying in whole or in part, or altering of digital image and text files) is permitted without the express written permission of Julie Waterhouse

Lesson 2: Depth of Field

All photos and text © Julie Waterhouse, all rights reserved worldwide. No form of reproduction or usage (including copying in whole or in part, or altering of digital image and text files) is permitted without the express written permission of Julie Waterhouse.

 

Depth of field is one of the most significant considerations in close-up photography, which is why we include a discussion of it early in the course. Why is depth of field so significant? Depth of field presents a special challenge in close-up photography because you have so little of it!  The closer you are to the subject, the less of it you will be able to get in focus from front to back — sometimes only a millimetre or two.

 

What is Aperture?

lens apertures
image source: wikipedia.org

Your aperture setting controls your depth of field, so we begin with an explanation of aperture. Simply put, your aperture is the opening in your lens that lets light through. You are able to control the size of that opening from small to large. The aperture you choose affects both your exposure and your depth of field.

The size of opening is measured in units called f-stops. Each stop up or down will double or halve the amount of light passing through, i.e., each aperture stop lets through half the light of the previous one. The standard f-stops are f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22 (see the image below). The numbers themselves don’t double or halve, so you just need to remember them. But the area of the opening that each number represents is double or half the area of the next f-stop.

Most of today’s SLR cameras allow you to change your f-stops in increments of one half or one third of a stop, giving you some numbers in between the standard f-stops for finer control.

Image 1 on the right shows a large opening in the lens (perhaps something like f/2.8). Image 2 shows a smaller opening (perhaps something like f/22).

aperture
Standard f-stops: image source: wikipedia.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Depth of Field (DOF)?

Depth of field refers to how much of the image is in focus from front to back.  When you focus your lens on a particular point, you will actually have a range of space in the image that is in focus.  This range is your depth of field. One third of that in-focus range (or DOF) will be in front of your focal point, and two thirds will be behind it. 

depth of field
Depth of field.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography.

The aperture setting you choose will determine how deep this in-focus range (or DOF) is.  A small aperture of f/22 will have a large depth of field (a lot in focus), and a large aperture of f/2.8 will have a shallow depth of field (very little in focus). 

depth of field
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

At f/2.8, most of the image is soft. Only the nearest edges of the curly petals are in focus. At f/8.0, some of the flower’s centre, but not all of it, is in focus. A little more of the curly petals are in focus, but the long petals at the bottom are still soft. At f/22, everything is sharp.

 

Selective Focus

Selective focus is a technique where you use a wide aperture to get a very shallow depth of field. You then select just one part of the image to be in focus, and let everything else fall out of focus, or be "soft." This is an effective way to draw attention to one part of the image. Choose your point of focus carefully, since your eye is naturally drawn to whatever is sharp. The soft areas of the image just provide a background wash of colour(s).

Technique 1: Keep in mind that it’s difficult to make a successful image where nothing is in focus. Typically, you need to have something in focus to provide a place for the eye to rest when viewing the image.

Technique 2: You will need to use manual focus on your lens, and not auto focus, to use this selective focus technique. You want to be able to move the plane of focus through the object from front to back, looking for the right spot to highlight.

Selective focus example 1

In each photograph below, I kept the camera position the same, and fixed my aperture at f/2.8. I just turned the focusing ring on my lens to pick focal points at different depths into the image. In the first image, I focused on a part of the flower close to the lens. In each subsequent image, I moved the focal point further away.

Notice that each image looks completely different, and the only variable I am changing is where I am choosing to selectively focus. Selective focus has a significant impact on the final image.

selective focus
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

selective focus
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

 

 

 

selective focus
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

selective focus
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

In each image above, notice how you eye immediately travels to the bit that’s sharp.

In this case, I don’t think any of the images works at such a shallow depth of field. In every image, my eye wants to see more of the flower in focus.

Part of the problem is that the foreground is out of focus in all the images, even though things further away are in focus. This always bothers our eyes. We can accept things in the distance being less in focus than things close up. We are used to effects like this in real life. For example, mountains in the distance may appear "soft" due to atmospheric haze. However, in real life, we never see the opposite: close objects being out of focus while things behind them are in focus. It is usually disturbing.

In this set of images, the only one with any foreground material in focus is the first, and it doesn’t have enough other things in focus to "work" as a strong image.

 

Selective focus example 2

In this example, selective focus is very powerful. We have one edge in the image that’s sharp at a carefully chosen, "interesting" place, i.e., where the petal edge dips. Notice that this is also the closest point on the flower to the camera, so it’s not disturbing to our eye.

f/2.8
f/2.8
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

Sometimes, selective focus is crucial to the success of the image. In the version below, I have used a lot of depth of field without changing the composition from the one above. Now, the image is a mess! All of a sudden, there’s a distracting dark spot in the bottom left, and there are other petal edges starting to come into focus to compete for our attention.

The main petal edge that’s visible in the image above is where the story is. Everything else just distracts. A shallow depth of field is essential to make this image successful.

f/22
f/22
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

Minimise Distracting Backgrounds

In Lesson 4, we’ll talk in more detail about eliminating distractions from our images. One of the tools we use to do this is a shallow depth of field. As you saw in the pair of images from the selective focus example above, much of the image goes soft and out of focus when there is not much depth of field. That blurring can cover a multitude of sins! Because we are working so close to our subject, and our depth of field is very small to begin with, the effect of a shallow depth of field is very powerful. Lines and shapes are completely blurred and all detail is lost. This can be used to your advantage if your background is busy. As long as the background elements are far enough away from your main subject, they will go soft while your subject remains sharp.

 

f/22
f/22
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

In this example, the subject is the flower on the right. However, on the left side of the image, we have other flowers (including dirty marks on some of the petals), green in the top left from a flower stem, and a black gap at the bottom where the dark background shows through. All of this takes attention away from our main subject.

 

 

 

f/2.8
f/2.8
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

Switching from a deep depth of field at f/22, to a very shallow depth of field at f/2.8, completely eliminates all that background clutter, reducing it to a soft wash of white tones. Now our eyes stay where they are supposed to: on the flower at the right.

 

 

 

 

 

sweet william
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

A shallow depth of field is used to isolate this Sweet William flower against the background. Any detail in the green is lost in the blur.

In this case, I’m a little further from my subject than in the previous examples. That means I have more depth of field available to me. In order to make the background go completely soft, the flower has to be separated from the background by some distance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Choose the "Correct" Depth of Field

First of all, what is the "correct" depth of field? What does that mean? If you’re not using a shallow depth of field to cover up a messy situation, then there is no "correct" depth of field in an absolute sense. Your choice of depth of field becomes a creative one. The "correct" depth of field is the one that best supports the story you want to tell.

Typically, you use a large, or deep, depth of field if detail is important, and you want everything in the image to be sharp. A sharp image is representative of reality. In other words, that’s how we actually see small objects: all in focus.

You use a shallow depth of field to obtain a more artistic, painterly feel to the image. A soft image is not representative of reality. It is something that can only be created through the magic of our cameras.

lily
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

In this close-up of the centre of a lily, I used a large depth of field (f/22) so that everything in the image would be sharp. In this case, I wanted to emphasise the details of the flower – the spots on the petals, and the fuzzy texture of the pollen on the tips of the stamens.

Many nature photographers are concerned with showing off the details of their subjects, and presenting them in a literal and documentary fashion. A large depth of field is appropriate for this purpose.

 

 

 

 

 

gladiolus
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

This image of a gladiolus is much more interpretive than the above image of the lily. Although the compositional structure, and even the colouring of the two images are very similar, the "feel" of the images is completely different. While the first image might make you admire the precision and delicacy of the flower’s parts, this emphasises the gentle qualities of the flower. It has a dream-like quality that evokes more of an emotional response than an analytical one.

Which approach is "correct?" I hope you said "neither!" The decision of how to photograph the flower is entirely subjective. This is a decision that you, as the photographer, must make. That’s why it’s essential to get your camera off program mode, and into manual mode (or aperture priority), so that you exercise creative control when making your images.

 

 

 

 

 

What do you want to emphasise? To me, the first image below, with the shallow depth of field, shows off the star shape of the flower, which is echoed by the star arrangement of its stamens.

In the second image, with a lot of depth of field, the detail and texture of the flower are emphasised. I find that the left side of the image, containing all the unopened buds, becomes distracting with a lot of depth of field. It suddenly carries more visual weight, and pulls my eye away from the main flower.

What do you think?

f/2.8
f/2.8
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

f/22
f/22
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

peony
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

My choice when photographing this peony was to use a lot of depth of field. Why? I first asked myself what had attracted me to photograph the flower. It was the ruffles formed by the petals that made them look like crinkled tissue paper. I chose a depth of field to support that observation. At f/22, all the petals are sharp, and their frilly texture is emphasised.

 

 

 

 

 

leaf
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

I chose to have everything in this image sharp as well. I wanted to show off the lace-like detail of the ice and the texture of the leaf.

Try to imagine this soft! The image just wouldn’t work.

You couldn’t actually achieve selective focus with this image the way I shot it. My camera is parallel to the plane of the subject, and the subject is flat. Since there are no objects at different depths, it was all or nothing for the focus.

 

iris
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

I chose a very shallow depth of field to shoot this white iris. Once again, this decision grew out of my emotional reaction to the subject. What attracted me here was not the texture and the detail. Instead, it was the warm colours, and the glow of the light. I framed it in such a way that I picked out some gentle curves to go with the overall mood.

A shallow depth of field was the appropriate choice to emphasis the colour and light, and a selective focus on the edges of the leaf draws attention to those curves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hints and Tips

 

Setting your Aperture

Your choice of aperture, and consequently of depth of field, has a huge impact on the appearance of your final image. Spend time to get this decision right (where ‘right’ means telling the story you want to tell).

Technique 1: If you have a depth of field preview button on your camera, use it (check your manual now if you are not sure)!  Normally, when you look through the viewfinder, what you see is the scene as it would look shot at the camera’s widest aperture.  If you hold down the depth of field preview button, you will see the scene with the lens aperture you have dialed in.  Note that for small apertures, it can be difficult to see the subject because there is much less light being let in through the “stopped down” lens.

Technique 2: When shooting close-ups, I tend to shoot in ‘aperture priority’ mode.  Since my subjects are not moving, and my camera is mounted on a tripod, shutter speed is less important to me.  I usually "bracket" the depth of field by taking shots at several different apertures around the one I think is right. Sometimes you can’t see properly until the image is displayed on a large computer screen, so I take a range of shots for some insurance.

Technique 3: Note that if sharp focus throughout the image is desirable, then placing your lens parallel to the plane of the subject is important.  This minimizes the distance from the front to the back of the subject, relative to your lens, and makes it easier to get more of the subject in focus.

Commit to a point of view

When choosing an aperture, I believe that it’s best to commit to a point of view. Choose either a shallow depth of field to create a soft, dreamy image; or choose a large depth of field to have everything sharp, and show off details.  A depth of field in the mid-range can sometimes look accidental, like you made a mistake and didn’t get everything in focus.  Make your choice look deliberate.

The first image below was shot "wide open," i.e., the lens was at its widest possible aperture, to produce the most shallow depth of field possible. The second image was taken with a mid-range depth of field, and the last one was
taken with maximum depth of field. I think the the first one and the last one work, although they tell different stories. Unlike Goldilocks and the Three Bears, with close-up photography and depth of field, the middle one is not
"just right!" To me, it looks like I "missed." The out of focus stamens and petals are not enough out of focus for it to look deliberate. My mind struggles to see them in focus.

f/2.8
f/2.8
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

f/22
f/22
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

f/6.3
f/6.3 – a miss
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

Here’s another example just like the one above. The first and last images work, even though each one produces a different feeling. The middle one, however, fails. The out of focus petals are not sharp enough, or soft enough, and so they look like a miss.

f/2.8
f/2.8
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

f/7.1
f/7.1 – a miss
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

f/32
f/32
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

Assignment #2

1. Make a close-up composition of a subject that has some depth (i.e., not something flat). Shoot 3 separate exposures of this composition where you don’t move the camera, but you do change the aperture. Take one image at your widest aperture, one at a mid-range aperture, and one at your smallest aperture.

a. Choose your favourite image of the three. (Is it the one with shallow depth of field? Or the one with lots of depth of field? Or the middle one?). Briefly, indicate in words which is your favourite image, and why.

2. Find a close-up subject where you want to show off details, and make an image of it using a lot of depth of field (small aperture).

3. Find a close-up subject that you want to portray with a soft, dreamy mood, and make an image of it using selective focus and a shallow depth of field (wide aperture).

Upload all three (3) images for question #1, one (1) image for question #2, and one (1) image for question #3, using the instructions you received in your welcome email. Include the text to answer question #1a in the "message" section when you upload the images. You will upload five (5) images in total. Remember to name your image files in such a way that it’s clear which question they address.

 

This exercise is intended to reinforce the impact of depth of field on your image. You will notice a different "mood" in the images depending on the depth of field selected.

Happy shooting!

All photos and text © Julie Waterhouse, all rights reserved worldwide. No form of reproduction or usage (including copying in whole or in part, or altering of digital image and text files) is permitted without the express written permission of Julie Waterhouse.

Lesson 3:Composition



Close-up Photography e-Workshop: Lesson 3

All photos and text © Julie Waterhouse, all rights reserved worldwide. No form of reproduction or usage (including copying in whole or in part, or altering of digital image and text files) is permitted without the express written permission of Julie Waterhouse.

Composition is one of the most important aspects of a great photograph. What you include in the image (and what you don’t), and how you arrange the elements within the frame, contribute significantly to the overall success of the image. Will it have impact? Will it convey your message? There’s no right or wrong, but the elements included, and the perspective taken, should serve to strengthen the story being told — your story. The same general principles of composition apply to close-up photography as to any other kind of photography.

Here are a few tips to help you choose a composition that reinforces what you’re trying to say.

Colour and Tone:

When we refer to “colour” we are usually referring to the hue – red, or green, or brown, for example.  “Tone” refers to the degree of brightness.

Colour and tone can express emotion. As you might expect, light tones tend to lift the spirits, while dark tones are perceived as "moody." Red is a color of passion. Blue – well, we’ve all heard the expression about "feeling blue." Use color and tone to reflect the mood you are trying to create in your image.

Compare the feeling you get from the following two images. The one on the left has a warm hue; the one on the right has a cool hue.

Gerbera
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

Gerbera
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lines:

A line in an image may be an actual object, like a road or the stem of a plant, or even the human form.  It may also be the boundary between two different colours or tones in the image. Like colour and tone, lines also express emotion.

Vertical lines are uplifting, strong, and powerful.

vertical
This flower is standing tall and proud.

© Julie Waterhouse Photography

Diagonal lines imply motion, action or change. They are dynamic.

diagonal
The diagonal lines give this image energy.

© Julie Waterhouse Photography

Curved lines are slow and meandering. They say "take your time, and don’t rush." They can be sensual. They can also appear melancholy or hopeful, depending on the direction of the curve. Note how we attribute human characteristics to objects when their lines reflect our own body language.

S-curve
The S-curve of this cactus has a sensual feel.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

curve
The curve of this daisy makes it look sad.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

Horizontal lines are steady and calm. They imply tranquility or stability.

horizontal
The horizontal rose heads form a solid row.

© Julie Waterhouse Photography

Whatever the statement you want to make with your image, consider positioning the main line of your subject to reinforce the appropriate feeling. You may even find that you are subconsciously drawn to subject matter whose lines "align" with your mood!

 

Some Rules of Composition:

How you assemble your picture elements together determines whether the final image "works" or not. In fact, the rules of composition are not hard and fast rules; rather, they are guidelines that you can use to combine your picture elements so that you tell your story most effectively. Here are a few rules for you:

Simplify

How many novice vacation photographs have you seen where the photographer had obviously been so excited by the vista in front of them, that they had tried to include absolutely everything in the frame "to give you an idea of what it was like there." The result is usually a chaotic and overwhelming jumble.

You might think that close-up photography could not possibly suffer from this problem, since you are dealing with the photography of a very tiny area. Of course you can’t stuff "too much" into the image! After all, you’re only photographing a couple of square inches. Well, I have news for you. You can put too much into a close-up image just as easily as you can put too much into an image of a sweeping vista. You need to think of close-up photography as shooting "landscapes," only on a miniature scale.

A chaotic image
A chaotic image.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

This image has a bit too much going on! It might be hard to save. Recomposing might help bring order to the chaos, but right now, we have too many shapes, and the image lacks structure and organisation.

Many close-up images are spoiled because they are too busy. Less is more!  It’s just as important what you leave out of an image as what you include in it.  Keep your image clutter free, and include only those elements that contribute to the story or enhance your message.

Remember that you are trying to communicate.

    1. Photography is comprised of a creative side, which involves the artistic expression of ideas, as well as a technical side, which encompasses the skills that the practitioner requires to execute a well-exposed and carefully composed image.

    2. Photography is both an art and a craft.

Which of those two sentences is easier to understand? When you write or speak, you aim for clarity in your language. Do the same visually!

 

How to simplify

selective focus
Selective focus.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

1. A shallow depth of field is an excellent tool for simplifying your image. Selective focus through the use of a wide aperture can draw attention to the key element in the image, while lessening the impact of the elements that are rendered in soft focus.

A shallow depth of field is also a great way to eliminate a cluttered background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

too busy
There’s too much going on in this image.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

2. Getting closer to your subject in order to hone in on what’s really important is another great way to simplify your image. Getting closer will reduce the amount of subject matter in the frame. You can eliminate elements that don’t contribute to the story; if they don’t contribute, then they detract.

 

 

 

simplify by getting closer
Get in closer to simplify.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

In the image above, the second flower on the left and the strong green stem on the left both compete for attention with the flower on the right. Getting closer in to focus only on the right-hand flower makes for a simpler story.

 

 

 

 

 

3. If you are already as close as you can or want to get to your subject, then you can change your composition to eliminate unwanted elements by moving your camera. Sometimes a small change of angle or a shift in direction can make all the difference in the world.

tulips with distractions
Tulips with distractions.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

cleaner tulips
A cleaner image results from shifting the camera angle.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

4. Consider simplifying the number of colours in your image as well.  For example, including the tonal variations of a single colour often works better than including multiple colours.

too many colours
A lot of colours may be over-whelming.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

simplify with fewer colours
Fewer colours makes a simpler image.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Classic Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is probably the most often referenced rule of composition.  It is all about subject placement within the frame.
First of all, imagine that your picture space is divided into thirds both horizontally and vertically, like a tic tac toe grid.

rule of thirds
Rule of Thirds grid
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

The rule of thirds tells us to align our subject with one of the points where those lines cross. That means our subject is one third of the way “into” the picture space – from either the top or bottom, and from either the left or right. And that means it’s not in the middle. Too often, novice photographers fall victim to what I call "bullseye syndrome," and instinctively place their subject in the dead centre of the image (there’s a reason it’s called the "dead" centre! — it’s dull and uninteresting!). This seems especially true when people are photographing flowers.

bullseye
Central placement is static.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

off-centre subject
Off-centre placement of the subject is more dynamic.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: All rules are meant to be broken. The lessons here are meant to make you think about why you are placing the subject where you are, and not just to blindly follow the rules. Central placement of objects is considered "dull" because it’s very static. There’s no tension if an object is in the "middle" — it’s not being pulled more to one side than the other. But if your message is about stability, constancy, and equilibrium, then central placement might be exactly the right thing to do. Use your judgment, and learn when to override the rules!

 

Horizontal or Vertical Framing?

Most novice photographers tend to always shoot with their camera held horizontally, producing pictures in landscape format. Sometimes it’s better to hold the camera vertically, and shoot in portrait format. How do you know when to use which format?  The bottom line is that the frame should compliment the form. In other words, when positioning your camera, match the orientation of the frame to the orientation of the subject.

horizontal framing
Horizontal framing.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

vertical framing
Vertical framing.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

Either one of the images above of lily stamens can "work." Which do you prefer? I think the vertical one has more impact. Since the stamens themselves are vertically-oriented, the vertical framing emphasises their natural lines. The stamens seem "crowded" in the horizontal image.

Since close-up photography often results in abstract images, there isn’t always an obvious "up" and "down" in the picture space. Take advantage of this flexibility to turn your camera to achieve the best placement of shapes and lines.

 

Hints and Tips

Technique 1: Because the subjects are so small in close-up photography, I find it difficult to pre-visualise my composition by looking directly at the subject. I find it much easier to find my initial composition by looking through the viewfinder. I tend to go "exploring" with my lens. I have it mounted on the tripod, but loosen all controls so that I have the flexibility to move the camera in any direction. While looking through the lens, I move the camera around until something catches my eye. I then begin to lock down the camera movement, and make small refinements to the camera position to achieve exactly the composition I want.

Technique 2: I really "work" my subject. I can spend hours making compositions of the same flower or bunch of flowers. Don’t settle for the first composition you find! There are many in there to be had. Keep experimenting, and you may stumble upon something magical. That’s not (just!) luck — it’s a result of your persistence.

 

Assignment #3:

1. Lines. Make a close-up image where your composition includes a strong line.

a. Tell me in words what the orientation of the lines is (horizontal, vertical, diagonal, or curved), and how you feel this affects the mood of the image.

2. Rule of Thirds. Make a close-up image where you make use of the rule of thirds.

3. Horizontal or Vertical Framing. Make a pair of close-up images of the same subject. In one, orient your camera horizontally. In the other, orient it vertically.

a. Briefly tell me in words which one you like better and why.

Upload one (1) image for question #1, one (1) image for question #2, and two (2) images for question #3, using the instructions you received in your welcome email. Include the text to answer questions #1a and #3a in the "message" section when you upload the images. You will upload four (4) images in total. Remember to name your image files in such a way that it’s clear which question they address.

Happy shooting!

All photos and text © Julie Waterhouse, all rights reserved worldwide. No form of reproduction or usage (including copying in whole or in part, or altering of digital image and text files) is permitted without the express written permission of Julie Waterhouse

Lesson 4: Distractions and Backgrounds



Close-up Photography e-Workshop: Lesson 4

 

All photos and text © Julie Waterhouse, all rights reserved worldwide. No form of reproduction or usage (including copying in whole or in part, or altering of digital image and text files) is permitted without the express written permission of Julie Waterhouse.

 

Distractions

The human brain is an amazing instrument. It has many ways of helping us handle the huge volume of information we encounter every second. One of the mechanisms it uses is filtering. Through the process of paying attention, we filter out unnecessary information. When we pay attention to something, it means we ignore everything else around.

You may have heard about the psychological study that was conducted in which subjects were asked to watch a clip of a basketball game. They were asked to pay attention to the players passing the ball, and count how many passes were made. The clip lasts a few minutes. About thirty seconds into the clip, a person dressed in a gorilla suit walks onto the court and does a jig. Approximately half the subjects failed to notice the person in the gorilla suit. Their attention was directed elsewhere.

As photographers, we often fall victim to this same phenomenon. For example, when we are taking a picture of our friend, our attention is focused on her. We fail to notice that there’s a lamp post "growing" out from behind her head, and that someone else’s elbow is intruding into the picture space.

Before you release the shutter, do a quick scan around the entire image to look for distractions.  Sometimes, you can become so focused on the subject itself that you literally don’t see anything else in the frame.  You must train yourself to look for these distractions.  Pay attention to everything in the frame!

There are several kinds of distractions that can spoil your image:

 

Intrusions

It’s especially important to scan the edges of the frame to look for objects that intrude into the picture space.  Objects at the edge of the frame carry extra “visual weight” (i.e., our brain affords them more importance).

distractions
© Julie Waterhouse Photography
distractions
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

In the above image, I find the bits of pink flower on the top and at the left to be distracting. This is because their colour contrasts strongly with the surrounding green, and they are right at the edge of the frame.

In addition, I find the bright leaves in the bottom right a bit distracting too. See the next section for a discussion about "hot spots."

distractions
© Julie Waterhouse Photography
distractions
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

Do you see the main distraction in the image on the left? I confess that I did not notice it in the field, so I resorted to cloning it out in Photoshop after the fact. It’s so much easier to get rid of these things before shooting! That’s why you must look carefully around the frame after composing.

In case you didn’t spot it, the distraction is the two white petals intruding from the bottom left. If you look carefully, you’ll see that I took the liberty of cloning out a few little white spots on the leaves as well. I often clean up little spots of dirt using Photoshop.

 

Hot Spots and "Black Holes"

Very light or very dark objects (light or dark in relation to their surroundings) draw our eyes. If you want to draw attention to a light colored subject, place it against a dark background. Conversely, place a dark subject against a light background to make it stand out.

"Hot spots" and "black holes" happen when we unintentionally draw attention to a part of the image other than our main subject because it is very bright or very dark. Hot spots tend to be the result of a light source reflecting off something in the picture. Black holes, or very dark spots, tend to be the result of an area that has fallen into deep shadow, or an area where a dark background is showing through. Both kinds of artefact carry strong visual weight, and will take attention away from your main subject.

hot spot
Your eye is always drawn to the
brightest spot in an image.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

The large, white spot at the top of the image is highly distracting. Your eye is always drawn to the brightest part of an image. You can’t help but keep looking back at that white! It is probably a reflection off another flower in the background.

In general, to eliminate bright spots, try to recompose, move the subject out of the bright light, or use a diffuser. Lesson 8 will discuss diffusers in great detail.

Note that in this case, the pink flower in the background is also a distraction because of its strong colour. If the image were converted to black and white, that distraction would be eliminated, however the white spot would still pull your eye.

 

 

 

black hole
Your eye is also pulled into black holes.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

 

In this case, I moved my camera around to the right slightly to eliminate the bright, white spot. Unfortunately, I introduced what I refer to as a "black hole" in the process! Do you see the very dark area just to the left of the petal remnants? Now that the bright spot is gone, this dark one pulls your eye. Sometimes you can’t win!

It’s challenging to do this recomposition ‘on the fly,’ while chasing a honey bee! If I hadn’t wanted to include him in the frame, I would have set up my tripod and taken my time framing the flower against a neutral background (without that pink flower behind!). In cases like this, you have to spot distractions, and react to correct them quickly.

This was a difficult subject, and I didn’t end up making any satisfactory images of it. I didn’t have access to an angle with a clean and simple background. Time to move on to something else!

In general, to eliminate dark spots, try to recompose, move the subject, hold some material behind the subject to fill in a gap, or use a reflector to bounce light into the dark area. Lesson 5 will discuss reflectors in great detail.

tulips and black hole
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

Here’s another example of a black hole. There’s a gap between the tulip stems, and whatever is behind them is very dark. Since the background is too large and too far away to control directly, the best solution is simply to recompose. Moving the camera to the left or right might create an angle where the tulip stems fill in the dark hole.

 

 

 

Technique 1: A trick to drawing your attention to these trouble spots before you take the picture is to defocus the lens slightly. This stops you from seeing the actual picture elements, and reduces everything to fields of tone and color. Any excessively light or dark spots will now jump out at you. Another way to do this trick is just to squint your eyes. This effectively "defocuses" them and achieves the same effect.

Mergers

When two objects overlap one another, we refer to it as a merger. If the overlap is slight, it can actually be distracting. Try to adjust your camera angle to separate all the objects in the frame.

 

merger
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

merger
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

In the image on the left, the top rose "merges" with the rose below it. In other words, the two flowers overlap. In the image on the right, this has been corrected by moving the top rose up to allow space between the flowers. This separation is more pleasing to the eye.

Places where the subject touches the frame are also known as “mergers,” and draw your attention as well.

merger
Merger with the frame.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

In the image on the left, the right hand edge of the daisy is just touching the frame. Because it’s not quite "in" and not quite "out" of the picture, this merger looks accidental, and the composition looks sloppy. The point where the flower touches the frame becomes a point of tension in the image and continually draws your eye.

The merger has been solved in the pair of images below. In the left-hand image, the daisy is moved fully into the frame. Equal space is given on all sides, making a balanced and deliberate composition. In the right-hand image, the problem merger has been eliminated by cropping the flower decisively to make the framing choice look intentional.

merger solution 1
Solve the merger by moving the flower fully into the frame.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography
merger solution 2
Solve the merger by decisively cropping the flower.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

Backgrounds

 

Background Colour

Different coloured backgrounds can produce very different moods in your images.  Black is usually dramatic.  White is softer.  Be careful with white, because it can take on colour casts, and will often take on a blue cast when in shadow.  Background colours that are harmonious with the subject can create a more ‘quiet’ image, whereas background colours that contrast the subject can make the subject ‘pop.’  For flowers, green can produce a more natural look that doesn’t look like a studio shot (even if it is!). Experiment with different colours, and choose the one that reinforces the story that you want to tell.

background colours
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

Busy Backgrounds

As I’ve already noted, it’s very easy for us to become so focused on our main subject that we don’t see anything else in the picture. Watch out for backgrounds that have a lot going on.  Busy backgrounds can call attention away from your main subject.

To correct a busy background, you can recompose by changing your position, or move the subject relative to the camera so that you have a neutral wall, table, sky, grass, or any other uniformly coloured or textured object.

busy background
The leaves in the background are distracting.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

Clean background
A cleaner background.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this case, changing the camera angle slightly, and moving a little closer to the subject to crop out the distractions at the bottom of the frame, helped to clean up the distracting elements in this background. A small adjustment can make a big difference.

It’s always best to get as close to the final image as you can in the field, and not to rely on post processing to “save” your image. However, you can always crop your image afterwards to eliminate distracting elements.

busy background
The dark background that shows around
the edges is distracting.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

background eliminated
The distracting background is eliminated by cropping.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can also place something behind your subject: drape a towel, sheet, or blanket.

simplified background
A lettuce leaf was used to create a
simple, green background.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

I sometimes hold another flower or leaf behind my subject and then shoot it at a shallow depth of field. If the leaf or flower is positioned sufficiently far behind the main subject, it stays out of focus, and provides a nice wash of colour in the background.

The background in this image is nice and clean. The green colour looks quite natural, like it may have been leaves of the same plant. In fact, it was winter-time, and I had no green foliage around at all. I got creative, and raided my refrigerator. What you see here is a lettuce leaf. If it’s held far enough behind the subject with a shallow depth of field, who’s to know?

You’re only limited by your imagination!

 

 

 

In Lesson 2, you learned about depth of field. A shallow depth of field is a fabulous tool for simplifying backgrounds. A wide aperture can often blur background details to eliminate distractions. 

Deep DOF
Large depth of field results in a

distracting background.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

This image of a white stock flower has a very distracting background on the left. I photographed it with an aperture of f/22, producing a large depth of field. The other stock flowers further away and behind are also in focus, causing the distraction.

 

 

 

 

 

Shallow DOF
Shallow depth of field minimises distractions
in the background.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

I made a second exposure of the exact same composition, changing only the aperture setting. This time, I shot the image "wide open" at f/2.8. Here, all the background clutter has been blurred, and it is no longer distracting. Even the very dark spot at the bottom has disappeared. Magic!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assignment #4:

1. Distractions. Make 3 close-up images where you work hard to keep them simple, and free from distractions such as busy backgrounds, black holes and hot spots, mergers, and intrusions. The three images can be of different subjects if you want.

2. Background Colour. Make a pair of close-up images where you keep the same camera settings and composition, but switch out the background for one of a different colour.

a. Briefly tell me in words which image of the pair you like better, and why.

Upload all three (3) images for question #1, and the two (2) images for question #2, using the instructions you received in your welcome email. Include the text to answer question #2a in the "message" section when you upload the images. You will upload five (5) images in total. Remember to name your image files in such a way that it’s clear which question they address.

Happy shooting!

All photos and text © Julie Waterhouse, all rights reserved worldwide. No form of reproduction or usage (including copying in whole or in part, or altering of digital image and text files) is permitted without the express written permission of Julie Waterhouse.

Lesson 5: Reflectors and Diffusers



Close-up Photography e-Workshop: Lesson 5

 

All photos and text © Julie Waterhouse, all rights reserved worldwide. No form of reproduction or usage (including copying in whole or in part, or altering of digital image and text files) is permitted without the express written permission of Julie Waterhouse.

 

Reflectors and diffusers can take your images from "good" to "great." They are the finishing touch that add a degree of professionalism to your final image. Don’t under-estimate the impact they can have! Reflectors and diffusers manipulate the light in your image, and as such, can change the overall look considerably. They are essential tools for the close-up photographer.

Reflectors

Reflectors are used to reflect, or bounce, light back onto your subject, thereby eliminating shadows.  Reflectors are critical when doing close up photography using a single, directional light source (like a window). When light is striking an object from one side, the other side falls into shadow. With objects that have many surfaces at different angles, like flower petals, many areas of shadow may form. These are usually unflattering to the image. A reflector can bounce light into the scene to fill in those shadows. 

Effect

Following are a few examples to show you just how significant the effect of a reflector can be.

without a reflector
Without a reflector.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

with a reflector
With a reflector.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A difference truly like night and day!

without a reflector
Without a reflector.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

with a reflector
With a reflector.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this case, the reflector has picked out a ridge in the petal that is virtually invisible in the image on the left. That ridge adds interest to the flower, and really "makes" the image.

Reflector Position

The reflector should be placed on the opposite side of the subject to the light source. The idea is to catch the rays of light from the light source and bounce them back onto the object.

reflector
How a reflector works
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

It’s not enough just to hold up the reflector. Exactly where you position it, and at what angle, can have a huge impact on the result. The only way to know the right place is to experiment.

Technique 1: You can get a rough idea of where to place the reflector by looking directly at your subject while moving the reflector around. For exact placement, however, you need to look through the viewfinder while moving the reflector. The changes are too subtle, and the area affected is too small, for you to be able to appreciate the differences without looking at them through the viewfinder.

A black background is used to help you to see the differences in the following images. The changes are quite significant, and are solely the result of slight angle changes to the reflector.

reflector
Reflector position 1.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

reflector
Reflector position 2.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

reflector
Reflector position 3.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

Colour

Reflectors are usually white, silver or gold. 

The colour of the reflector will affect the colour of the light on your subject.  A white or silver reflector will reflect the light that hits it as-is, while a gold reflector renders a slightly warmer cast. Silver reflects more light than white, and will therefore produce a highlight with more contrast.

without a reflector
Without a reflector.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

white reflector
White reflector.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

silver reflector
Silver reflector.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

gold reflector
Gold reflector.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The effects of the white reflector are subtle, but noticeable along the left edge. The light is more even with the white reflector. The silver and gold reflectors provide stronger highlights. The gold one produces a warmer colour.

Reflectivity

Reflectors can have a shiny or a matte surface. A very shiny surface (like the shiny side of aluminum foil) tends to reflect bright, ‘contrasty’ highlights on your subject. If you want to mimic bright sunlight falling on your object, use a very shiny silver or gold reflector (gold will look more like late afternoon light).

If you prefer more even, soft, or diffused light, then a matte surface is better. A matte surface actually has a rougher texture than a shiny one, and therefore scatters light more unevenly toward your subject, resulting in a more diffuse reflection.

Buy or Build?

You can buy collapsible reflectors at your local camera store. There are 5-in-1 kits that cover all possibilities: white, silver, gold, a silver-gold mix, and translucent (a diffuser). The advantage of buying a reflector is that they are collapsible, making them easily portable for location shooting.

You can easily make your own reflector very inexpensively. The good news is that a home-made reflector is just as effective as one you buy in the store! Just glue shiny silver or gold paper (or aluminum foil) onto stiff cardboard or foamcore board, and presto! You have a reflector! You can use an uncovered piece of white foamcore for your white reflector. It will have a more matte finish, and produce a more diffuse light. You can get somewhere in-between the shiny and the matte by crinkling your aluminum foil first, before gluing it to the board. That will generate a more diffuse light, rather than the spotlight effect of flat foil.

The homemade reflectors are not as portable as the collapsible ones, but are great for studio use. You can make them in a variety of sizes.

 

Diffusers

A diffuser is another essential tool for the close-up photographer’s toolbox.  Diffusers soften the light, and reduce glare and harsh shadows.  They eliminate unattractive contrast, and even out the tonality in the image.  This allows better colour saturation to appear, which can be especially important in flower photography. 

Following are a few examples to show you just how significant the effect of a diffuser can be.

without a diffuser
Without a diffuser.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

with a diffuser
With a diffuser.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the image on the right, the diffuser has eliminated all the ‘contrasty’ highlights in the curly petals. The colours appear more saturated with the diffuser.

Here’s another example.

without a diffuser
Without a diffuser.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

without a diffuser
With a diffuser.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the right-hand image, the diffuser has eliminated the strong contrast. As a result, the colour of the petals is more visible, and more saturated.

without a diffuser
Without a diffuser.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

with a diffuser
With a diffuser.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How much contrast you want in the image is a matter of taste. The delicacy and colour saturation of the petals is more evident in the image where I used a diffuser. The colour temperature has changed too.

 

Diffuser Position

Unlike the reflector, the diffuser should be placed on the same side of the subject to the light source, between the light source and the subject. The idea is for the rays of light to pass through the diffuser. Not all the rays will make it through; the diffuser will block some. Also, the rays will be slightly scattered by the surface of the diffuser, producing a more even light.

How to use a diffuser.
How to use a diffuser.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

Buy or Build?

Just like reflectors, you can buy collapsible diffusers at your local camera store. In fact, one usually comes in the standard 5-in-1 kits. The collapsible ones are useful for taking on location.

You can also buy a “PhotoBox” for studio shooting of small objects.  These are great for close-up photography.  The sides and top are made of white, translucent material, and they act as all-around diffusers.

For studio use, you can easily make your own diffuser. Take some heavy cardboard or foamcore, and cut out the centre, leaving a border like a picture frame. Over the hole in the middle, attach some translucent paper. You can buy heavy duty paper with a translucency similar to wax paper in most craft stores. You want something that some light will pass through, but not all.

 

Hints and Tips

In the following set of images, I walk you through the thought process I used when shooting this image. For every image I take, I vary the process slightly, but the idea is that I start with an initial image, and then make a series of refinements until I achieve the effect I want.

First I set my composition, and make sure I have eliminated all distractions. This in itself can be a lengthy process. Then I make sure I’m happy with my depth of field. Finally, I fine-tune the light with a reflector and diffuser, as needed.

Technique 2: Sometimes you have to be a bit of an octopus! I tend to hold the reflector in one hard and the diffuser in the other. My cable release goes in my right hand, along with the diffuser (my light source is on my right). I’m able to depress the shutter release with my forefinger, while trapping the diffuser between the cable release and my thumb. I find I have the control to make quick changes with this system, but you can also buy a stand to hold the reflector or diffuser, and free up some hands!

 

My step-by-step thought process while shooting:

start
1. Initial composition.
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

1. Here’s my starting point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

recmpose
2. Recompose
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

2. I have recomposed to eliminate the dark distraction at the top by moving the camera down slightly

 

 

 

 

 

 

silver reflector
3. Silver reflector
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

3. Next, I add a silver reflector to fill in the shadow on the left side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

more DOF
4. Increase the DOF
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

4. Next, I decide to increase the depth of field slightly from f/2.8 to f/4.5 to see more of the texture of the petals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

diffuser reflector
5. Diffuser
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

5. Now I add a diffuser to reduce contrast. Notice the brightness along the edge of the top petal is gone.

This actually takes away too much contrast for my taste. Except for the bright edge of the petal, I prefer the contrast in the image above, as it shows off the texture of the petals more.

 

 

 

gold reflector
6. Gold reflector
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

6. Now I experiment by trying a gold reflector instead of the silver (still with the diffuser). I don’t like the warm highlight since the rest of the image is “cool.”

 

 

 

 

 

white reflector
7. White reflector
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

 

7. Finally I experiment by trying a white reflector instead (still with the diffuser). There’s not enough light for my taste. I prefer the silver reflector in this case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assignment #5:

1. Reflector. Make a pair of close-up images where you keep the same camera position and aperture, but add a reflector for the second image. Shoot your subject under lighting conditions that produce shadows on part of your subject. For the first image, use no reflector. For the second image, add a reflector to bounce light into the area in shadow.

2. Diffuser. Make a pair of close-up images where you keep the same camera position and aperture, but add a diffuser for the second image. Shoot your subject under a bright light (like the sun!) that produces a lot of contrast in the image. For the first image, use no diffuser. For the second image, add a diffuser to soften the light and reduce contrast.

3. Octopus Style! Make a pair of close-up images where you keep the same camera position and aperture, but add a reflector AND a diffuser for the second image. Shoot your subject under a bright light (like the sun!) that produces a lot of contrast in the image. For the first image, use no reflector or diffuser. For the second image, add a diffuser to soften the light and reduce contrast, and a reflector to bounce light in to fill in any shadows.

Put together everything you’ve learned so far, and upload images that are well-composed, with an appropriate depth of field, and free from distractions like intrusions, hot spots, black holes and mergers.

Upload two (2) images for question #1, two (2) images for question #2, and two (2) images for question #3, using the instructions you received in your welcome email. You will upload six (6) images in total. Remember to name your image files in such a way that it’s clear which question they address.

 

Congratulations! This is the last assignment! Compare your images from week one to those from this week. I hope you are able to see some improvement. Keep practicing everything you have learned, and have fun. Remember, I’m available to answer any questions you may have for the next two weeks, so feel free to email me for any clarifications of concepts or techniques.

Happy shooting!

 

All photos and text © Julie Waterhouse, all rights reserved worldwide. No form of reproduction or usage (including copying in whole or in part, or altering of digital image and text files) is permitted without the express written permission of Julie Waterhouse.

Top Photographs: Worldwide Camera Club Competition



Top Photographs: Worldwide Camera Club Competition





Top Photographs:
Worldwide Camera Club Competition

Here are the top photographs from our Worldwide Camera Club Competition! Camera clubs from around the world submitted their amazing photographs for a friendly challenge to determine the best of the best. The subject matter was open — photographer’s choice. Each club submitted their best single image. And now, the results are in!

Thank you!!

A huge thank you to our three wonderful judges:

Rob Davidson
Richard Martin
Tony Sweet

Find out more about the judges.

Jump to:
The winning image
The runner-up
A list of the 5 top photographs
A video presentation of more of the top images

 

The results of the Worldwide Camera Club competition are in!  We had entries from countries far and wide, including Canada, South Africa, the USA, and New Zealand.

Overall, the judges thought that the submitted images were great, and it was difficult for them to narrow down their choice to the final winners!  It was a close race between the top two images.  After much discussion, they have arrived at a decision.

And the Winner is…!


Photography Competition Winner
“Great Egret with its Reflection”
© Arnold Dubin
Camera Club of Brevard, Satellite Beach, Florida, USA

Congratulations to our first place winner, the Camera Club of Brevard in Satellite Beach, Florida, USA!  Arnold Dubin represented his club with his beautiful winning image titled “Great Egret with its Reflection.”  Visit the club website at http://www.ccbrevard.com


The judges offered the following comments on this image:

This photographer has shown a personal vision and creativity, and handled the subject with delicacy and subtlety. This is an example of how a standard subject can be transformed into a beautiful image. The image has a quiet beauty and simplicity. It also demonstrates the expressive power of tones to establish mood. The maker has shown artistic vision.

 

The Runner-up


Photography Competition Runner-up
“Jackal-Vulture Fight”

© Mitchell Krog
Krugersdorp Camera Club, Krugersdorp, South Africa

Congratulations also go to our runner-up, the Krugersdorp Camera Club in Krugersdorp, South Africa!  Mitchell Krog represented his club with his exciting capture titled “Jackal-Vulture Fight.” Visit the club’s website at http://www.kameraklub.co.za


The judges offered the following comments on this image:

This image captures an incredible moment and takes skill as an action wildlife photographer. This photograph has obvious impact. Tremendous tension has been created by the photographer’s use of timing to capture this dynamic action.

 

The Five Top Photographs

The five top photographs picked by the judges were:

Photography Competition Winner

Great Egret with its Reflection (Winner), by Arnold Dubin of the Camera Club of Brevard in Satellite Beach, Florida, USA. http://www.ccbrevard.com

 

 

 

Photography Competition Winner

Jackal-Vulture Fight (Runner-up) by Mitchell Krog of the Krugersdorp Camera Club in Krugersdorp, South Africa. http://www.kameraklub.co.za

 

 

Photography Competition Winner

Stairway to Heaven by Joe Statuto of the Northeast Photography Club, Scranton, PA, USA. http://www.nephotoclub.org

 

 

Photography Competition Winner

Kokerboom Quiver by Michelle Slater of the Fish Hoek Photographic Society, Cape Town, South Africa

 

 

 

Photography Competition Winner

Fish and Plate by Cos Ray of the Tauranga Photographic Society in Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. http://taurangaphoto.org.nz/

 

 

Video Presentation

To see more of the top photographs from the contest, please enjoy our video.


 

I hope to see all the clubs back for a re-match next year!

~Julie Waterhouse
Founder, Ultimate Photo Tips

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