In today’s blog post I want to talk about depth of field when doing macro photography. I do like shallow DOF (Depth of Field) images….but only if they are done very well! Maybe it is the old “film shooter” in me, but I find way too many people today hide behind filtered or soft and blurry images! We used to throw out of focus images out in the film days! It is quite different to selectively choose a focus point and use shallow DOF…..it is quite another to pass blurry or filtered images off as “art” because you couldn’t take a sharp image! Don’t get me wrong…..I do enjoy creating blur’s or shallow DOF images…..but they are the exception and always created in camera. I generally take a tack sharp image of the flower or insect first, and then decide how shallow I should go with the DOF! I think way too many people justify shallow DOF images or filtered images because they don’t understand how to use their equipment to get tack sharp images at maximum DOF or refuse to use and understand flash to get natural looking results!
In the image at the top, I wanted to showcase the Gerbera daisy to its fullest! I had to shoot at f/32 to capture all the fine details when shooting that close. I used Canon MT-24EX Twin Lights for some fill light and a gold reflector to even out the tones on the back of the bloom. A large flashlight was placed behind it to give the appearance that it was the sun behind it. This happens to be Pura’s favorite flower image of mine, so Susan Candelario made a canvas print of it for her! By the way……I got that flower from Williams Nursery in Westfield…..I get all my flowers there as they have the best quality around! Don’t forget to ask for David!
In the frog image above, I used my Sigma 180mm macro with the twin lights while lying on the ground. The flash allows me to hand hold these type of images and use the maximum DOF I can to capture the details that are even under water.
Another trick I like to show my clients is how to do a high key image in camera! The image below is a good example of this. You need to intentionally overexpose the image and use the flash to give the image an almost pastel look or pencil drawing feel. This was all done in camera with very little post processing. I would like to stress again…..you need to know your equipment and then the sky is the limit!
As I was finishing up the day at one of my Longwood Gardens workshops, I opted for a selective focus image of the tulip……focusing just on the curve. The image below (thanks Jacki!) was at f/5.6 to capture just enough detail on the fold of the tulip. I feel that many photographers I admire create excellent shallow DOF images but they fully understand where the critical focus needs to be and don’t use creative filters to cover technical flaws.
I often find that many photographers are afraid of flash or don’t know how to use it. I find it is the most effective tool to use to stop motion and also allows you to photograph when conditions are less than ideal! In the image below, I seriously under exposed for the ambient light and used the flash to make the water lily glow!
These are just some of my tips and trick I will share with you at my macro workshops. My next one is actually at Hunt’s Photo at their Melrose, Massachusetts location. This half day workshop is both instructional and hands on…..so bring your gear! They will provide me with some equipment to share with you and we will use it during the workshop. The date is October 15th and you can e-mail Gary Farber and let him know that you are interested!