Wow! Another year upon us. For some, that means an opportunity to start fresh, learn new things, break old habits. For others, it means honing skills you already have, becoming better at something you love, or maybe just promising to treat yourself better. As a photographer, you often play on both sides of the fence, looking for new opportunities to learn, or simply refresh the skills you already have. Regardless of what your reason, taking photography workshops can be a fantastic way to satisfy all of these desires.
On a recent Saturday morning, I got an opportunity to introduce Macro photography to 5 students who were ready to challenge themselves and add another page to their photography skills catalog. We met in our Aperture Academy studio in San Jose where I had some wonderful activities in store for them. After everyone arrived and got settled, I started the day with some brief introductions to find out a little more about everyone. We had a wide range of experience levels, which keeps it fun for me as an instructor. When introductions were complete, I gave a brief presentation regarding the technical and creative aspects of Macro photography and covered some of the concepts that my students would be discovering today.
We talked about the Exposure Triangle of Aperture (depth of Field), Shutter Speed (Motion Blur), and ISO (noise), and how these aspects work together to create your image. Changing one of these aspects affects how the others work, so it is important to understand the dependencies.
Next we covered some of the more creative challenges with Macro, and really any type of Photography. Using techniques such as leading lines and the rule of thirds, can help your viewer understand the "story" in your image. Also, it is important to be mindful of the overall composition of your image taking notice of any potential distractions in the background or foreground that might take the focus from the photo's subject.
After the presentation, and some final questions, we were ready to get shooting! And honestly, that's the real reason we were all there that day. This workshop is great because each student gets their own station to work with, which is really their own contained environment to control. In the studio, we don't have to worry about weather or wind, or how much light there is, because we control all of that with light tents and light sources.
As every gets set up, I tell them the plan for the rest of the morning. I have chosen specific subjects for them to photograph, each one having a particular purpose or challenge to address. After we have worked with the chosen subject matter, I will let them have some free time to put everything together and photograph what they want, making available to them a variety of objects and subject matter to choose from.
We are well underway and I introduce another technique that can be very useful to Macro Photographers, that of Focus stacking. Because Macro photographers tend to work with shallow Depths of Field, we can struggle with getting a subject sharp all the way through an image. Focus-Stacking can help overcome that. By taking a series of images with different parts in focus, we can "stack" them together in Photoshop for a final image that shows the sharpest parts of each of the individual images. It's a great technique to know, but definitely requires a little practice.
We continue with our shooting time and I work with each student to help capture the images they are looking for and to re-inforce the techniques and concepts we covered earlier. I challenge them to step outside conventional and look for the interesting characteristics in their subjects. That sometimes means shooting from a different angle or changing the source of the light to pick up small details, or abstract patterns. It is really rewarding to see students grasp the ideas and come up with amazing images all on their own, which everyone was doing!
It is amazing how quickly the time passes, and after spending nearly three hours together, our time had come to an end. After a few final questions, critiques, and recommendation, I send my students on their way, confident that they have started their New Year journey on the right path.
Until next time,
DeAnna and the rest of the Aperture Academy team!
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.