Detailed users guide for taking GREAT macro images

Discussion in 'Aquarium Photography' started by maxalmon, Jan 15, 2009.

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  1. maxalmon

    maxalmon Flamingo Tongue

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    Google> camera extension tubes

    This is an inexpensive way of turning a none macro lens into a macro lens, as the farther you move the lens away from the camera sensor, the large the image becomes in the view finder. It's more of a cheaper way to take nice macro images vs buying a dedicated macro lens that can easily cost $700-$1000. Extension tubes are nothing more than a thick spacer that fits between you lens and the camera body, they are hollow with no optical lens, yet they transfer the lens image date to the camera body thru contacts. Not the best way to go for true macro images, but it's an inexpensive solution. I should add that I don't use extension tube and they do have limitatins, but for somebody who has a kit lens like a 18-55mm lens, they are an expensive solution, but optically they are somewhat inferior to a true MACRO lens
     
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  3. maxalmon

    maxalmon Flamingo Tongue

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    Reflection reduction and visual image reduction


    Turn your flash off! causes more glare and color washout than can be fixed. There is no need to use a flash!

    Simple as this > look thru your viewfinder, if you see some type of white streak or reflection, go eliminate it...

    Turn the lights off in the room, basic concept is to make the room as dark as possible, I'll use foil backed gift wrap paper to cover windows or refections off of walls...

    Close any blinds or block off any windows that are in front of the tank, reflections of sunlight on the tank cause visual noise and are distracting.
    Sometimes I'll setup 2 chairs directly behind my tripod and drape a dark sheet across it, this eliminates almost 100% of any images appearing on the glass. Think of it like this, how many times have you seen images of somebodys tank, only to see a image of the person holding a camera reflected off the tank glass

    You can also purchase black foam core panels at Micheals for $3.00 each, I have two them thay are each about 24"x36" and I'll stand behind my tripod and use them to block any reflections that may be hitting the glass

    Use a UV or daylight filter on your lens! You should have some type of filter over your lens to begin with, it's partly to eliminate something scratching your lens, rather waste a $40 filter than replace a $750 lens
     
  4. maxalmon

    maxalmon Flamingo Tongue

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    Creating a background stage

    This is a fairly simple procedure, I keep what I call the "sweet spot" in my tank free of any background items, back wall is clean of coraline algae, rock outcrops, misc algae etc... I just want a clean, black background so that the coral colors pop, this area is not very big, maybe 4" around and I've arranged the LR so that I have a flat area to place the corals. I also have another area that has a live rock background, I do this so that I have a choice of backgrounds depending on the corals and what will make the image look the best

    This area is also almost directly under the MH's and slightly to the left, it's about mid water level and about 14" away from the lights, any closer and the lighting is just too bright and tends to washout the colors.

    Sometimes I stage the corals the night before as they tend to close up and it takes them to expand. Sometimes it will take half a day to arrange a shot, fish, crabs etc will sometimes knock things over and then you have to start the waiting game again.

    Another inexpensive trick is to use a black spatula thats not slotted, yeap a spatula from you kitchen, position the flat spatual part behind the coral and then you have an instant black background
    _________________
     
  5. maxalmon

    maxalmon Flamingo Tongue

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    Lighting the shot

    I also will move my light fixture back and forth to change the light pattern on the corals, this can make a huge difference. Usually the best lighting is when the light footprint is infront of the coral.

    You can also use a small 2x9w fuge lamp, hold it in your hand and then aim it at the place in the tank where you need extra light. This is kinda tricky as you have to be above the water line and aimed down or you'll get light relfection off your tank glass. This is one of those areas where you simply have to play around with the fixture and figure out how to best light the subject.
    _________________
     
  6. maxalmon

    maxalmon Flamingo Tongue

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    Position the coral

    This is easier said than done, if your corals or frags are not attached to a rock this is much easier, you want the coral to be under the lighting and slightly behind and as parallel to the glass as possible. Point is, move the coral to the best possible position in the tank, make sure there are no obstructions in front of the coral
     
  7. maxalmon

    maxalmon Flamingo Tongue

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    Camera image angle relative to tank glass -> why it's critical

    For those of you with big acrylic tanks, your going to have a very difficult time doing macro work, due to the thickness and optics of acrylic, it's just the way it is, I may be wrong.

    The best images so far for me have been taken thru thin glassed, cheap aquariums

    One of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to shoot down or at an angle inside of a tank, due to the thickness of the tank glass, this downward angle will cause focus issues, think of it like a prizm as show by "A" in the below images

    "B" is the correct way to shoot thru glass when doing macro tank work, less distortion and aberration. You'll notice that all my images look like they are at "eye level" thats because I shoot directly at the image, not down or up.

    This makes a huge difference in your images!
    PAY ATTENTION > This is important, it's the biggest mistake most reefers make when thay take photos
    [​IMG]
     
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  9. maxalmon

    maxalmon Flamingo Tongue

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    Fstop and controlling background focus

    I'm going to break this down into a simple explanation related to marine macro photography and f/stops.

    The lower the f/stop number, the more light the lens allows into the camera, or rather the aperature is "more open". If you use a lower f/stop, you will not have very good depth of field (everything in the background not in focus) A lower fstop also allows a faster shutter speed

    A higher f/stop number means that the lens is not allowing a lot of light into the camera and you will have better depth of field as the shutter speed is much longer....(camera has to leave the lens open longer to capture the same amount of light) This longer exposure can cause image problems, while the shutter is open, the coal might move and this will cause blur.

    If your new to photography, I'd start out in "A" mode this allows you to controll the fstop setting and let the camera select the proper shutter speed.

    I think the most important part of learning to use a camera for marine photography is to start with a single subject and always use the same subject and keep doing this until you start to understand how the camera reacts. (this is how I was taught and what a huge difference it made)

    Here are some basics of starting the learning curve, this one simple idea will really help you to understand how changing settings will affect the image

    1)Pick out 1 coral in your tank and always use this particular coral.
    2)Always shoot from the same distance and at the same horizontal level
    3)Create a file with unique name and save all the images to this file so that you can review changes, also copy and past the camera settings to the image name, this way you can see the settings at a glance
    4)Use the same lens until you master the camera settings.
    5)ALWAYS USE A TRIPOD and timer release for the shutter or a remote.

    Ok, follow the above steps and without moving the camera or changing the focus you want to do this

    Put the camera in "A" mode or aperature priority and dial the fstop to the lowest possible #, should be around f2.8 or maybe f3.4
    1) Take photo
    2) without moving the camera or changing any settings, dial the camera up 1 fstop setting and take another photo
    3) Dial the fstop another setting and take another photo
    Do this till you make it to the highest fstop setting

    A)What you'll learn is that at the lowest fstop setting (f2.8) the background behind your coral is fuzzy and out of focus and the shutter speed is fairly fast
    B)As you increase the fstop setting the background becomes more focused and the shutter stays open longer.

    Once you've have gone thru all the ftops, review the photos. It's best to print each one out and label it with the fstop setting, then place them side by side in a single row and you'll see how the fstop settings changes the focus of the background > called "Depth of Field"

    Remember the longer a shutter is open, the more chances you have for something to move inside the tank and this will cause image blurr for that particular item...ie turn the pumps off to stop things from moving
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2009
  10. scvc

    scvc Bristle Worm

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    Well I for one am very appreciative of the time and effort that you have put into this thread. I cannot begin to say how many times I have tried to get a picture of something or someone in my tank that I would end up so frustrated and just give up, only to go through the same thing the next day. Now maybe I can share some of my pretties with everyone.

    Thanks again.
     
  11. amcarrig

    amcarrig Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Fantastic thread! Once I get back into the swing of things, I'm going to start practising with my DSLR again. Karma up!
     
  12. maxalmon

    maxalmon Flamingo Tongue

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    Whats fun about photography is that once you "Get it" it's so easy.

    Really simple rules are

    clean the tank glass and I mean scrub it
    use a tripod
    eliminate visual noise, reflections
    use the camera self timer or remote shutter release
    shoot in RAW mode if your camera allows this > kinda advanced topic
    shoot at eye level

    Thanks for all the Karma points, this is one of the best sites I've found, you guys rock!
     
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