When it comes to macro photography, its success is often dependent upon
the photographer's understanding of light. The biggest issue is
vibration. Any movement, however slight, of the camera or the
subject causes a blur. The closer you are to a subject, the more the
photograph is going to capture any vibration or movement. Even a
tripod-mounted camera can cause a vibration when the shutter is
pressed. If the subject is far away you most likely won't notice
this vibration, but when the subject is very close, this vibration is
much less forgiving. One solution is using light.
If you add light you can reduce the amount of time the shutter is
open. And the less amount of time the shutter is open, the less
time for vibration to interfere.
One of the best lights is natural light. Working in direct sunlight
allows for much shorter shutter speeds, and also allows for more
spontaneity. Finding a sunny outdoor spot and photographing the
things around you is a good way for the amateur macro photographer to
gain experience. However, shadows cast by the equipment you are
using or by the subject itself can be underexposed. It can also
cause stark contrasts, which are sometimes desired, and sometimes
not. Like all photography, when it comes to macro photography
experimentation is key.
Outdoor areas that are shady have less directional light, and therefore,
fewer shadows, than areas that are directly lit. In many cases,
shady outdoor areas have plenty of light for the photographer to work
with. Working in shade will reduce the contrast but can also result
in a greater amount of detail.
A photographer can also manipulate the light he or she is working
in. There are three basic ways to manipulate light:
- You can block direct sunlight, turning a sunny area into a shady
area. To do this, all that is required is a hand, body, or item to
stand in the way of the light.
- You can change the direction of light, adding light or removing
shadows in dark areas. This can be done using reflectors.
Some reflectors are colored, making results even more interesting.
- You can diffuse light, by spreading direct sunlight over a wider
area and making it softer. You can do this with a professionally
manufactured diffuser, or you can build your own using any
neutral colored, semitransparent material. Diffusers can be vast,
stretching over the entire area to be photographed, or they can
merely be comprised of a small amount of material stretched over
a frame in front of a flash.
When it comes to artificial light, the macro photographer has two
choices: continuous light, or instantaneous light. Continuous
light is light that is permanent, such as a floodlight or light bulb,
while instantaneous light is temporary, such as a flash.
The benefit of continuous lighting is that it can be manipulated to work
like natural lighting. However, you can't manufacture as much light
as you can by using a flash.
Flash photography can cut down on shutter speed and is also much brighter
than continuous lighting. However, using flash photography requires
much more experience than using continuous lighting.
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