I love it when people ask me why I'm a Macro photographer. There are so many reasons that it's hard to pick just one. I love the challenge of it, and when I nail a shot, there is no better feeling. I like the fact that I can photograph ordinary objects in a way that shows the viewer a new way to see them. I like uncovering the tiny details and character in my subjects and making them available for anyone to see. And, best of all, I can shoot Macro almost any time of day, under almost any type of conditions. From flowers to fruit, the odd to the ordinary, everything looks different from a Macro photographer's lens. But what I really like is sharing my love of Macro photography with others and seeing them cultivate an appreciation for it too.
On a recent Saturday morning, I got an opportunity to do just that when I met with 4 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 specific purpose to challenge to address. After we have worked with all of 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 for a final image that shows all of the sharpest parts of each of the individual images. It's a great technique to know and 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!
Soon, it was time to break for lunch, which gives me time to set up for the afternoon's processing session. During processing, I show the students my method for image selection in LightRoom. Then we go through the Develop Module and I introduce them to my workflow for editing images. It may not be a comprehensive LightRoom lesson, but it definitely gives a nice foundation for the students to explore and create their own workflows. I review how to crop, make minor corrections, and then adjust for exposure, color corrections, and noise. Finally, I show them how to export their images for print or for web viewing.
But wait! We forgot something. What about those images we took for focus stacking? Well, we worked with those as well. I showed everyone how to open those images as layers in Photoshop and blend them into one master image capturing all the sharpest parts, that can then be brought back into LightRoom for further editing, if necessary. Whew! That's a lot of information to cover in one day, but we did it! After a few final questions and a pose for our group photo it was time to close the books on another successful Aperture Academy workshop.
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.