Lighting for macro
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  1. #1
    Member Jguitron's Avatar
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    Lighting for macro

    I'm a beginner and excited to have just gotten a macro lens. Also got a tripod and remote trigger.

    Now I'm looking for advice on the least expensive lighting setup as well as tips on how to manage light in general.

    I'm interested in shooting watches and movements. Thank you!

    Cheers!!!


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  2. #2
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    Re: Lighting for macro

    get a ring flash or ring light
    I take pictures too...
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    Member SynMike's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting for macro

    This light tent rig was less $100. Cheap lights from the hardware store. I get pretty good results. I use a Canon G11 (used to use G10). It is easy to maneuver that smaller camera inside the light tent with short lens than using my SLR. Controlling reflections is one of the difficult factors. I use various blocking tools, all black, that I can hold anywhere I need to block light and reflections from various angles. Following are pics I took in the tent.









    Last edited by SynMike; June 11th, 2016 at 23:22.

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  5. #4
    Member Jguitron's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting for macro

    Quote Originally Posted by SynMike View Post
    This light tent rig was less $100. Cheap lights from the hardware store. I get pretty good results. I use a Canon G11 (used to use G10). It is easy to maneuver that smaller camera inside the light tent with short lens than using my SLR. Controlling reflections is one of the difficult factors. I use various blocking tools, all black, that I can hold anywhere I need to block light and reflections from various angles. Following are pics I took in the tent.









    Looks excellent!

    Would a ring flash help dealing with reflections??

    Thanks for your reply both


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    Re: Lighting for macro

    Depends what angle you shoot from. Light is still light and glass is still glass. A set up to create soft diffuse light like the one above will help with reflections. I often use two lights and umbrella/block the floods to create more 'ambient' light.

    What a ring light does, especially in macro or portraits, is remove shadow. It gives nice even light straight on. The negative is it sometimes makes objects appear flat(ter).

    Artificial lighting is a whole 'nother ball game; the more you do it, the better you get. I suggest reading about the specific type of lighting (portrait, copy work, macro, etc.) you are interested in. Each category has its own problems and solutions.
    I take pictures too...
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  7. #6
    Member Jguitron's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting for macro

    Quote Originally Posted by jideta View Post
    Depends what angle you shoot from. Light is still light and glass is still glass. A set up to create soft diffuse light like the one above will help with reflections. I often use two lights and umbrella/block the floods to create more 'ambient' light.

    What a ring light does, especially in macro or portraits, is remove shadow. It gives nice even light straight on. The negative is it sometimes makes objects appear flat(ter).

    Artificial lighting is a whole 'nother ball game; the more you do it, the better you get. I suggest reading about the specific type of lighting (portrait, copy work, macro, etc.) you are interested in. Each category has its own problems and solutions.
    Thanks so much!

    One more question: how much editing on the computer is it expected or normal to have vs getting your pics just right from the camera with minor tweaks in the computer?


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    Re: Lighting for macro

    Quote Originally Posted by Jguitron View Post
    Thanks so much!

    One more question: how much editing on the computer is it expected or normal to have vs getting your pics just right from the camera with minor tweaks in the computer?


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    I shoot more film so getting it right in camera is more important to me.
    I have LR and PS, but I may use three or four sliders only. I only use PS to goof around, mostly in ACR.
    I may adjust exposure, contrast, white balance, and maybe highlights or shadow.
    Whatever post I do, I usually limit myself to what I can do in the darkroom.
    Purist, I know.
    Really there are few reasons why one shouldn't be able to nail the shot in camera; too lazy or just don't care. I'm usually the former.

    I always say that PS and LR is not for making a bad shot good, it's for making a great shot awesome. To each his own. Even I get lazy, especially with watch photos for I don't take them too seriously.
    IF I did a lot of copy work, I'd probably use them more for you are striving for the perfect shot. And hopefully getting paid!

    I think the better you get with a camera, the less you should rely on post processing. Again to each his own and it depends on what kind of photography you are doing.
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    I take pictures too...
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  9. #8
    Member russellgfrost's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting for macro

    Quality of light is everything. That said, it need not be expensive.

    Bouncing light is better than direct light. You can do this with white matte board or even cheap card stock.

    The light tents are wonderful and cheap ways to get good quality light.

    Semi clear plastic crates from home supply stores work well too. Play with blocking the light in certain areas. Play around with what the watch crystal and case are reflecting. I often shoot through a piece of black fabric or card stock (with a hole cut for the lens) to get clean reflection shots with nice contrast).
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  10. #9
    Member piningforthefjords's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting for macro

    Ex-commercial photographer here...

    Keep it simple.

    LIGHTING

    Tracing paper and frosted acrylic make good diffusers. Be careful with hot light sources though... paper can burn and acrylic can warp.

    For casual stuff at home I used to use reading desk lamps, diffused through tracing paper.

    I'm not generally a big fan of light boxes, as I can usually tell when someone's used one. But that's because most of the time they've used it badly.

    When you're starting out, lamps make better light sources than flash because you can immediately see the effect of any adjustments you make. One drawback with using these for macro photography is that you may end up creating shadows etc with your camera as you get closer to the subject matter (the camera gear gets in between the subject matter and the light source).

    This will depend on how small the subject is, and how close you're getting.

    MACRO

    Generally speaking, when shooting macro you'll need relatively intense light sources since you'll be stopping down to achieve greater depth-of-field. You can use more intense lights, or bring them closer. But the trade-off is you may start to get unwanted shadows or reflections the closer your lights gets to the subject matter.

    The suggestion of ring flashes is a good one, but won't work for everything. But the same can be said for diffusers.

    You will need to be flexible and creative with your lighting, as well be able to problem-solve.

    Shooting through cut-out cards etc is also a good suggestion, especially with reflective subject matter.

    SUBTRACTING LIGHT

    One thing a lot people don't realise is that not only do you need to add light, some times you may need to SUBTRACT light. Matt black cards, paper etc are useful for this. Black velvet fabric is useful for deep, inky black backgrounds (sucks light in like a black hole).

    There's also specialist black photographer's foil (like aluminium baking foil, but matt black) but it can get pricey. The benefit of this is that you can shape it if you need to.

    REFLECTIVE SURFACES

    With reflective surfaces, it's all about the relative angles between the light sources, subject matter and camera.

    Be aware that curved reflective surfaces can be problematic. They will bring in a lot more of the surrounding room and set-up than you realise. The only way to compensate for this is to use larger diffusers and/or backdrops.

    Watch YouTube videos of studio car shoots. Car photographers face many of the same problems due to the large, curved reflective surfaces on cars (body panels, glass windows etc). You'll notice that they use massively oversized black and white fabric drops (much larger than the car itself) to be able to ensure clean reflections and highlights in all the reflective surfaces.

    Same issues, different scale. But you'll see more clearly how to begin to approach lighting reflective surfaces.

    However... this is a dying art because a lot of reflections and highlights are now actually added in post-production. They essentially "paint" them in using Photoshop. But the basis still has to be there, or else it becomes too expensive and time-consuming to fix stuff up.

    WATCH CRYSTALS

    With watch crystals, experiment with using white reflectors and black reflectors to get the effect you want. Depending on the situation, you may want either clear crystal, or a transitioning "fade" across the face of the crystal.

    GENERAL HINTS

    Perhaps most importantly, constantly analyse good-quality professional watch photography and try to reverse engineer the look. It's the best way to learn.

    With fashion photography you can always tell how a model's been lit by looking at their eyes (it's true, go have a look). It can be a bit harder with product photography, but there are always clues. You just need to be able to spot them.

    Also be able to spot when an image has been retouched to within an inch of its life in post-production, or is a blend of multiple images. Or, even worse, is a 3D render (which a lot of product images are these days). Because then you may end up trying to reproduce something unrealistic.

    Just remember that people have been producing beautiful images a long time before digital photography, Photoshop, post-production etc. You just need to be able to figure out how to make what you have work for you.

    It's a lot different from when I was starting out. Now you have the internet, YouTube, books etc. A lot of this stuff used to be passed down pretty much from word-of-mouth and just general trial and error.

    Good luck.

    (Apologies for the long post, but this is something I obviously feel very passionate about.)
    "Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government."

  11. #10
    Member Jguitron's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting for macro

    Quote Originally Posted by russellgfrost View Post
    Quality of light is everything. That said, it need not be expensive.

    Bouncing light is better than direct light. You can do this with white matte board or even cheap card stock.

    The light tents are wonderful and cheap ways to get good quality light.

    Semi clear plastic crates from home supply stores work well too. Play with blocking the light in certain areas. Play around with what the watch crystal and case are reflecting. I often shoot through a piece of black fabric or card stock (with a hole cut for the lens) to get clean reflection shots with nice contrast).
    Great idea about shooting through black fabric!

    Thank you.


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