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Critiques Wanted (Macro)

Discussion in 'Through the Lens' started by EulersK, Oct 1, 2016.

  1. EulersK

    EulersK Arachnonomicon Staff Member

    So, I have recently gotten into taking better photos of my tarantulas. I am by no means a professional, I have never formally studied photography, and I only have mid-tier range equipment. However, I've managed to get some pretty good shots, which tells me that with some help I can take my photography to the next level. I would very much appreciate some advice on bringing out the most in my photos - I have a few questions to ask, but feel free to throw in extra advice! I don't know what I don't know, after all.

    Alright, since I'm sure this is pertinent information, here is what I'm working with. I have a Canon Powershot SX160 IS (specs: click me) and a Samsung Galaxy Note 7. I do not have any lighting of any kind beyond the stock flash. The vast, vast majority of my shots are with the Canon. So far, I've yet to get any great pictures with the Note 7.

    Now, here's some of the best shots I've been able to produce. They are all from the Canon. I understand that a couple of them aren't quite macro, although my "macro" shots are all derived from shots like this that I take into Photoshop, crop, sharpen, and so on.
    IMG_0933.JPG IMG_1039.JPG IMG_1069.JPG IMG_1071.JPG IMG_1075.JPG IMG_1130.JPG IMG_10892.jpg IMG_1047.JPG

    Now, here are the problems that I've been facing. If you keep tarantulas, you'll note that with only two exceptions those are all docile species. Skittish, perhaps, but docile. This is by design. For me to get these shots, I have to get the lens to within a few inches of the spider. This always either spooks them or results in a defensive spider. Can't say I blame them. So that's my first issue - how could I avoid this? I imagine that there's not much I can do on this front without getting a better camera.

    Secondly comes the lighting. Without a flash on the camera, my shots never turn out. Macro or not, my pictures always turn out blurry with dull coloration when I do not use a flash. They're garbage. Is there a way to avoid this?

    Third, and forgive my lack of terminology on this one, I have trouble with depth of field. That is, there is only a few millimeters of depth that are in focus - the rest is horribly out of focus. A great example is of the red spider above. The abdomen is perfectly in focus, and the carapace ("head") is hardly passable. Is there a way to fix this? I've read something about aperture, but I don't think I can adjust this on my camera...

    I suppose that's about it. I know for a fact that @Flexzone has managed to get some amazing shots with his Note 3, so I'm clearly doing something wrong here. Thank you for any help, I really appreciate it! I look forward to developing my skill here.
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2016
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  2. Haemus

    Haemus Arachnosquire

    I've learned so much from your youtube channel, I'll lend any help I can :)

    Firstly, you can adjust the shooting distance from your tarantula by adjusting your focal length. If you're say using a 24mm focal length, you'll have to get a lot closer than an 85mm.

    Secondly, you can throw in substitute lighting if you don't have a flash. I often use a flexible desk lamp and a big flash light when I'm taking shots with my phone. Cover the light with a paper towel or translucent paper and u have a soft light. You can even use your monitor by putting something white on the desktop and jacking the brightness. But nothing beats soft sunlight from a window in terms of pure color though.

    Thirdly, your terminology is correct! Aperature is indeed what controls your depth of field. The higher the F#, the more of the scene will be sharp. Unfortunately, if you want the subject to fill the frame, it will not be entirely in focus. This is just the nature of the lens. Again, a way to help remedy this is increasing your focal length. But it will only minimize this effect, not completely fix it. My last few uploads were shot with a 105mm focal length at a maximum aperature of F36, and even then, the back of the enclosure and sometimes the back legs will go out of focus.

    Hope this helps, but your shots are pretty good already!
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  3. EulersK

    EulersK Arachnonomicon Staff Member

    Thank you so much for the detailed reply :D

    Would adjusting focal length be a matter of an optical zoom? If not, then I don't see a setting for that in my camera at all.

    Ah, great idea! I'm surprised I haven't done that with photography yet - I started doing that with filming a few episodes ago. I guess it just didn't occur to me. I still worry that it won't have the best of detail when zooming in, but I'll try it out and post the results here.

    I'm actually alright with that. Like I said, the majority of my shots are essentially zoomed in and cropped, so I think the aperature is what I need to focus on. Sometimes I love the result of foreground/background being out of focus, but I almost always don't want it.

    I don't seem to be able to find any of these settings on my camera. However, all of those options are available on my Note 7. So perhaps I need to be practicing with this...
  4. Haemus

    Haemus Arachnosquire

    Indeed it is, well the #mm is. the 2x or 3x is somewhat meaningless

    Optical zoom is to photography kinda like common names are to tarantula keeping. Its more correct to say focal length. For instance, both a 18-55mm and 70-200mm have 3x optical zoom, but are VERY different focal length wise :)
  5. EulersK

    EulersK Arachnonomicon Staff Member

    Ah, okay, I get it. So then it seems like the focal length is the biggest determine factor for macro photography, as it's what's actually magnifying the subject. Now that I know what these terms mean, my Note 7 pictures look a bit better. They still simply don't have the detail of the Canon, however. I'd imagine this is due to the lense - obviously the Canon has a massive focal length compared to the Note 7... right?
  6. The Snark

    The Snark هرج و مرج مهندس Old Timer

    I bumped across something recently that helped me understand depth of field, focal length and distance, and how to compensate.
    Akira Kurosawa, renown cinematographer, wanted a compromise of the detail of close ups, macros, and great depth of field. Apparently you can have one OR the other, or fudge a little of both.
    He did some consulting and came up with a macro lens for a movie camera that provided great depth of field in full focus. With one minor problem. The lenses were telephoto and couldn't focus at less than about 50 yards. They were also close to 3 feet long requiring special supports and they cost a small fortune. Something along the lines of a quarter million dollars each at today's prices.
    So much for full depth of field macro shots.
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  7. Haemus

    Haemus Arachnosquire

    @EulersK Correct on the lens comparison. What smart phones these days do very well is auto tone and color balance the image, but it's all doable in photoshop and lightroom. If you pull out your image specs on your next batch I'll have a better idea of what's going on (F#, shutterspeed, ISO, focal length)

    @The Snark three feet...That lens must've been something. Such precise glass is very cool.
  8. The Snark

    The Snark هرج و مرج مهندس Old Timer

    Kurosawa had a scene in the movie Seven Samurai. He had in the foreground several people preparing for a bandit attack. Some very close to the camera. At the same time about 100 yards away, looking down a long shadowed lane he had some horsemen suddenly come around a bend in full charge. He wanted the charging horses and riders faces clearly visible as well as the itchy twitchy interaction of the people you are looking over the shoulders of in full focus. So he essentially rewrote the book on depth of field then and there. Stopped filming and went looking for a lens that could do both at once.
    One of his specialties was layered scenes with activity in foreground, middle ground and distance - all in focus. Something movie makers and photographers have to avoid to this day or use CGI. Or Kurosawa's techniques and lenses like he had designed.
    The lens for that scene cost $70,000 in 1954.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2016
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  9. Chris LXXIX

    Chris LXXIX ArachnoGod Active Member

    On the other hand, in Italy, 1965, Mario Bava for his "Terrore nello spazio" (English title: Planet of the Vampires) used scenography made of cardboard and such, yet Ridley Scott was inspired for his "Alien". With the help of Alberto Bevilacqua and Antonio Rinaldi leading the "photography" part.

    This, and master Kurosawa one, two perfect, and completely differents, ways/examples for depict something, ah ah.
  10. Chris LXXIX

    Chris LXXIX ArachnoGod Active Member

    As for you, EulersK my man, your pics sucks, sorry for the brutal truth: you know, reason is, it's not that, only because your last "Mathematics T-Shirt Prey" (aka the next victim of that desert) was a photographer that you, all of a sudden, along with his equipment inherited even that ability, uh. You haven't reached the Wendigo status.


    jok my man :kiss:
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  11. EulersK

    EulersK Arachnonomicon Staff Member

    How would I find that information on the Canon? Would it be saved to the file itself?
  12. Haemus

    Haemus Arachnosquire

    @EulersK Yup! You're using PC? If so, right click on your image and click on details. Scroll down to camera information and it'll be there, if not, then there should be an option in your camera's settings that'll export camera info.
  13. EulersK

    EulersK Arachnonomicon Staff Member

    Perfect! I'm on vacation at the moment so I don't have access to my computer, but I'll post that info when I get home. I also doubt that I don't have access to these settings on the Canon - I'll look more into that as well.

    Again, thank you for the help! I'll post that information this weekend.
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  14. advan

    advan oOOo Staff Member

    The longer the focal length, the further away you'll be when shooting a subject. Don't worry about defensive spiders, you can get some great shots this way. ;)

    I'm only about 2" away from this angry female Omothymus schioedtei

    Lighting is everything in photography. Many ways to get the exposure correct. Shutter speed, aperture and ISO are all related to how much light is getting to the sensor. The reason your photos are blurry without flash is the camera is trying to compensate for the amount of light. The way it is doing it is by shutter speed. You are seeing camera shake from your hands due to the longer shutter. When you use flash, the camera will have a shorter shutter speed and also if the flash duration is short, the flash actually freezes the image, not the shutter(ex. water drop photography). Best thing to do is keep using flash and diffuse it with paper, paper towels, anything to diffuse the light and get rid of hotspots. You'll also notice a lot more detail as well.

    As macro photographers, we are always battling DOF. Other photographers want really fast f1.4 lenses to use DOF to their advantage(Person is in focus and the background is creamy out of focus("bokeh")). The higher mag you go, the shorter your depth of field. The only real way around it is focus stacking. It is were multiple images are used at different areas of the subject that are in focus and a program in post stitches all the images together using the sharpest area of each one. A few ways to help is use the smallest aperture possible F16 and above. But you have to be careful because you'll start to get diffraction. Each camera/lens combo will be different, so you'll need to find that sweet spot for max DOF and minimal diffraction. My combo seems to be best at f18.
    Some tips to help without stacking. If you are shooting a spider, shoot directly above, think about DOF as a "wall" of sharpness. Get in focus as much as you can within the "thickness" of that "wall." When you are shooting a spider, don't worry too much about legs not being in focus. Just like when you look at people, your eyes are drawn to the subjects eyes. Worry about the eyes. I take a lot of shots and in post, zoom in and find the photo with the sharpest eyes and that is the one I pick to use.

    Welcome to a new addiction. ;) -Chad
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  15. EulersK

    EulersK Arachnonomicon Staff Member

    Thank you so much for the reply! I'm a huge fan of your shots, everything I aspire to be :D Just, y'know, on a budget.

    Why is this the case? Just because the lense is longer? And good God man, how could you possibly get that shot? I mean, I've seen your camera setup. You were probably half a block away with that shot.

    Ah, perfect, that really worked. I obviously haven't tried it on spiders yet, but putting a piece of craft tape over the flash worked wonderfully. I'll experiment with a few more methods.

    Is this the aperture? Because all it seems to do is change the brightness...
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2016
  16. Trenor

    Trenor Arachnoprince

    This is the biggest factor I look at when deciding on keeping a T shot. No matter how sharp the rest of the photo is you don't have the eyes it all looks blurry.

    Great run down on photography tips man. :)
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2016
  17. Trenor

    Trenor Arachnoprince

    The longer the focal length the farther you can be from your subject to frame the same shot. A 20mm lens would have to be 5 times closer to get the same shot frame as a 100mm. This is why my 100mm micro lens is really great for these shots since you can be farther away. You can always take both at the same distance away and crop the 20mm to have the same framing as the 100mm but you lose resolution that way and when both are viewed on a nice display its clear which one has a crisp cleaner look.

    I use defused flashes some but I've really got into using soft boxes with constant light. Often time with flashes you'll spook the T which doesn't allow for more shots. The constant light lets me take more shots without the T making a break for it's hide. As @advan said natural light is the best if available and if not my soft boxes give off "natural sunlight" from the bulbs. Desk lamps and other constant light sources also work but require more leveling to get the colors right. Before I got my light kits I used covered lamps when shooting indoors.

    It is and that is what aperture does. It makes the hole bigger which lets in more light.

    This article covers aperture and DOF pretty decent for a beginner overview.

    Just so you know this is how it all starts. Now half of your T money will go to camera equipment. :D
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  18. Trenor

    Trenor Arachnoprince

    I have a manual micro rail I use for fine tuned macro shot focus but I am now looking at a controlled rail for multi image stacking. This is the one I'm on the verge of picking up.
  19. EulersK

    EulersK Arachnonomicon Staff Member

    Oh great, so it's actually a linear relationship. I wasn't expecting that - optics tend to follow exponents in physics. Those lenses are ridiculously expensive - I can't imagine dropping that kind of money on a lens!

    This is exactly what I'm doing for my videos, but you're right. It gives everything a yellow tint... which is fine for filming, not so much for photography. I found a guide online on how to make a soft box, I should invest that time.

    Half?! What I'm looking at is more than my entire T budget! I'd have to get the camera itself at a few hundred dollars, and then the proper lens. I'm looking at nearly a grand by the end of it. Now this is an expensive hobby.
  20. EulersK

    EulersK Arachnonomicon Staff Member

    Double post...