Seeing the World Close Up: Three Methods of Close-up and Macro Photography | Jimmy Henderson | Skillshare

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Seeing the World Close Up: Three Methods of Close-up and Macro Photography

teacher avatar Jimmy Henderson

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Close up filter


    • 3.

      Extension tubes


    • 4.

      MPE 65 lens 1


    • 5.



    • 6.

      Macro results


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About This Class

In this class, we'll look at three different ways to get your camera close (very close) to your subject:

1) Using close up filters

2) Using macro extension tubes

3) Using a macro lens

This class is intended for students with some photographic experience, but are looking to expand their skills out of the ordinary and into macro photography. Some photographic knowledge is assumed. It's assumed you know how to operate your DSLR camera, for example. For the project, you'll also need to have access to one or more of the tools we discuss in the class.

Meet Your Teacher

Hey, I'm Jimmy. I'm a photographer and filmmaker, so I enjoy both still and moving pictures. I've made a documentary film about an Army Reserve unit that was sent to the Vietnam War, and made a photographic journey along US 1, from the Canadian border to Key West, Florida, among other things. For the past few years I've spent a lot of time making macro photographs of bird feathers, which have been exhibited around the United States.

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Level: Intermediate

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1. Intro: Hey, I'm Jimmy Anderson. I'm a photographer and filmmaker, and it may seem a little strange that I would be standing well in my kitchen to tell you about a photography class that I'm teaching on skill share, and it may be under ordinary circumstances, but I'll explain in a minute why I'm here, you know is a photographer. We're always looking for a way to change. Our perspective, aren't. We will raise the camera will lower. It will move it from one side to the other and sometimes will change the distance from the camera to the subject. And that's really what this class is about. It's about moving that camera very, very close to the subject into the close up on macro range for photography A few years ago I was walking along the beach and I happened upon a brown pelican feather in the sand. It was really cool, so I picked it up and I put it in my head, you know, And then I brought it home with me after I was done, and it sat on the table that I passed by every day until finally one day I saw it no longer as a feather, but is a collection of elegant shapes and color and texture those things that we like to include in photographs of all sorts. And it occurred to me then that if I could fill the frame with that feather than I could probably make a pretty interesting photograph. Well, that started a journey for me, and I photographed a lot of feathers after that which have been exhibited around the United States, I mainly used three different methods of making those photographs. I started with a close up filter on the front of the lens, and from there I went to macro extension tubes that went between the lens and the camera body. And then I went to a full macro lens. Now each of these methods has advantages and disadvantages, and we'll talk about some of those as we look at these methods of photography. So why is it that I'm standing in my kitchen? Yes, because I got the munchies. Baby has, uh, as your project in this course, you're going to find a common household object and photograph that using one of these three methods and you'll see it in a way that you've never seen it. And that's the idea because it's not just a way to press a button and move the camera closed because we're talking about a new way of seeing. So I hope that you'll stick with me through the remainder of this class and you'll learn some things and hopefully find some stuff that you can use on your own in your own work, so we'll see you soon. 2. Close up filter: Well, the 1st 1 that we're gonna look at is the close up filter. It's called a filter. It's really of were very weak lens on the camera, and this is also the simplest. We come in for a close up, we can take a look. You can see here that it really is. It's a week lends. It's kind of like your eyeglasses, and that's kind of what it's doing for your camera. He's come in various strengths. This one is a plus four. It's one of the upper end of the range there. 1234 I think they have a five. Also, this is a four. It's the simplest. Uh, it just screws on the front of the camera. In this case, I'm using adapter to make it fit. The smaller linds opening of my camera just goes on like that, and the good thing about this is you still have preserved your focus ability. That is the ability to turn your focus so that you you're done so, um constrained. As far as having to move your camera forward or backwards when you're working in close like that, Well, let's take a look inside and see what it's like as we operate. Okay, so let's look at my set up here. Basically, I am looking straight down at this common household object A yo yo. I mean, surely you have one, don't you? If not, you gotta have one. You got to go get one. You got to go do it now. You can't wait. You got to do it. It's a yo yo, for crying out loud. Yo, yo is very important in today's society. But I digress. What we want to do is I've got the close up filter on the front of my camera, and, um, I've got a light coming from this side. This one is Ah, This one in this case is an led and set for daylight balance. And I've got coming from It's a backlight to me. I realize you're looking at me from the opposite angle, but from from my cameras perspective, it is a backlight. Got a lavender jail on this light to give me a little color. That is Well, it's unnatural. Um, so I'm just gonna I'm gonna show you what my camera sees here as I adjust the focus. So this is I'm going to focus all the way. This is focused to infinity. And then just that you can see how much focus range we still have, even though it's useless to us mostly going to start bringing this into focus as we get closer in closer. So you see how close I am to the object. I'm a matter of maybe 3.5 or four inches. I'm just going to take a shot every now and the end here so that you can get some idea of what it looks like when we go into post and take a look at this for the sake of the movie I am shooting. Really? I'm at F 2.8 my S 06 40. If we were to go straight into still mode, it would be somewhat different. Uh, because what I really want to do is be stopped down somewhat, and here you're going to see the darkness as I adjust. And that's it. F eight. Because depth of field is one thing that we always have to deal with when we're working at these kinds of distances just to give you some idea, this is 5.6, okay, and we'll drop these into photo shop and take a look and see, See what we think 3. Extension tubes: now, The next level after that is the macro extension tubes. These things usually come in a set, and, uh, and usually you'll end up with three of, um in a box just like this. So here we have. Ah, this is actually three of them stacked together. It's a 13 millimeter, a 21 millimeter and a 31 millimeter extension tube. Remember, the thing about focusing closely is that the farther away the lenses from the, uh the film playing or the sensor plane, the closer you can focus. So these tubes are designed in those various thicknesses to move your lens farther away, and they just come off just with just with the tab, just like you're removing the lens from the camera. Just like that, I find that I almost never have used the shorter ones and tended to stick with the 31 millimeter whenever I used extension tubes. One of the funny things that I noticed about this particular set is that they have ah, grizzly bear pictured on the front like you're going to get that close to a bear to photograph in macro. A scowling bear is not something that I want to see up that close. Well, let me show you how this goes in. I'm going to take that off the back and then the limbs comes off the camera just like you would expect. And you line the red dot up with the red dot Just like you do. If you're working with the camera, it goes in. And then the red arrow in this case or a red dot on your version lines up on your camera just like you're putting online lends. And then there's your completed macro set up. And the funny thing here is that while you do still have your focus ability with your lens , you may find that it's really not such a great thing. And you may find that you're focusing quite a bit by moving the camera physically back and forth. So let's take a look at what this looks like as we do our little set up. Okay, I've got the 31 millimeter extension tube between my camera and the lens, and, uh, and again, we're gonna take a look through the camera and see just what we've got. We have you still maintain that ability to adjust your focus slightly, but because the distance from the lens are from the camera has been increased. You no longer have infinity focus as an example. And, um, your focus range has shifted significantly. So I'm just Ah, I'm going through the focus. I'll show you This is infinity and then coming all the way back back to where we are. One of the things that I like about this particular yo yo is the fact that it has the ridges that it has. They're really quite attractive in the light. And again, I'm going to stop down the lens 5.6 and f eight just so you can see, um, we'll take a look at the differences in these once we get this into a post and you can see one thing that I should point out is the fact that now we're not nearly as close as we were with the close up. Filters were now at least six inches away, and we lost our ability to get any closer, actually, So I tried. And by moving closer, we ended up being unable to focus that closely. So everything that we do here was kind of a mixed bag. Everything has its pros and cons, and you just have to find it. So let's drop this into post and take a look and we'll see what our differences are. 4. MPE 65 lens 1: Well, the other thing that I want to share with you is the idea of a true macro lens. Now, in this case, I've already got my 100 millimeter macro mount into the camera. This lends does go to a true oneto one or life size called one X. Very often, most of the longer zoom lenses don't actually that call themselves macro don't actually go into the true macro range. They maybe half life size or so that is when we talk about loud life sized. We talk about the size of an object in real life compared with the size that it is on your camera's sensor. So in this case, I'm using a full frame camera. It's just about an inch and 1/2 wide as an example. So if I were to photograph something that were an inch and 1/2 wide in real life, if it filled the frame on this camera, then that would be life size or 1 to 1. Anything other than that you can go to times life size or whatever, you know, um, the 100 millimeter will do that. I do, however, also haven't have another lens that is somewhat deceptive in its size, and that is the cannon M p e. 65 millimeter. This lens is really not at all like any other lens that you've used. It does not focus in the traditional way. Instead, you have toe move the lens closer or farther away from your subject. It also begins at life size that is 1 to 1. And then as you rotate the lens barrel, it goes to X or two times life size three x four x all the way to five times life size. It's really very interesting lens toe work with truly extraordinary. This is the lens actually that I used for probably most of the feather photographs that I have had exhibited around the country. Um, it is a little awkward to use. I will tell you that up front, that's a little awkward to get used to. That's really the thing. Once you get used to, it is not bad at all. No, but just getting used to it. Maybe something. One thing that I should know while I've got it here in my hands is that once you get out into the farther reaches four x five x I think Beginning at three X, If I remember correctly, you start to lose light. And that is because of what's known as bellows extension. It comes from the large format days when the farther away you put the lens from the barrel , you would start losing light in the bellows. And that happens with this lens simply because of this extreme distance that you're talking about. Now, the truth is, you can make up for it. In many ways, you could change your eyes so you could lengthen your shutter speed. You know any of those things you could open your aperture or some or if you need to you. But the thing is, you just need to know that that happens. Otherwise, it'll catch you off guard. Well, this being a regular lens, it goes on just like you would expect any leads to go on. Just line the red dots up and click it on, and then you're ready to go to work. So let's take a look at this one and see what we see through it. Okay? This time I went to the the real macro lens. This is that 65 millimeter, uh, in p e that I talked about. Um I've got it said at the life size or one X setting now, And, uh, just to show you what this is like, um, I have placed this onto a macro rail so that it could be more easily adjustable here on the side has got a release lever that lets me move the camera into the approximate range of focus. And then once that's locked in, then there are a couple of wheels one on the front and one on the back, these little neural knobs. As you can see, I hit the table pretty good there. And then, by turning the neural knobs, you actually move into your fine adjustment and notice the depth of field on this. It's so so fan in it. There's not much there at all. And that's one thing that you deal with with any macro kind of image. So this is Ah, this is at one X, and I'll stop down again so we can get some sense of depth of field. That's a 5.6, and I'll go ahead and shoot one. A deaf eight. Okay, well, I know you're dying to see what happens if we try enlarging anymore, so I'll open this up, bring it into the now two times life size. Find a focal point here. I know what this point is kind of like, What are you looking at? It's really very, pretty abstract, but but we kind of lost sense of what the yo yo was all about. We kind of lost its true yo yo Dennis didn't we didn't see if I can adjust this angle a little bit and maybe give us some part of what we had before. So now it two times life size and we'll see if I can bring this in. Yo yo, String is no longer yo yo string. It's a younger rope in it. That's 2.8 5.6. Okay, let's just keep going, because those were crazy that way, three times life size. Now you may notice that as I increased the life size eyes have to start pulling the camera away from the subject, and that's something that's kind of counterintuitive. We don't really expect that to be. We think the larger the image, the closer we have to go. But somehow this lens works differently. Okay, so this is it. Three times life size 2.8 and 5.6. If a Shall we go further? Oh, yeah. Look at that. Notice that it's now darker than it waas. And that's because of that bellows extension factor that we talked about. 56 Let's go ahead and see if we can see if we can max it out. - Yeah , In this case, it's no longer about the yo yo. It's about the string. I'm bumping the I s o up so that we can get a better view here and 5.6. Okay, This should give us a pretty good thing to look at once we get it into photo shop right now . Okay. Well, let's take a look, then. 5. Diffraction: You know, one of the things that we really struggle for in macro photography is adequate depth of field, and there are a lot of things that come into play when we work in that area. And one of the problems that we run into is Lin's diffraction, because we're always in that struggle to get the depth of field that we're after. You know, we're always trying to use the smallest Apertura we can, but there are some limits, and I want to talk about that for a few minutes here, sharpness versus depth of field in every lens, there is one particular Apertura at which your lenses sharpest. It's just the physics of Glass versus Elin's one particular Apertura and is usually two stops or so from its widest opening. After that point, the sharpness is reduced due to in effect called Lin's diffraction. So let's consider how that's gonna be this. Suppose you have a 2.8 lens F 2.8 is your widest amateur, and you can stop all the way down to F 32. Using this rule of thumb, we can say that our sharpest part of the lens is going to be somewhere around 5.6. I have 5.62 F eight and that that's a pretty good rule of thumb. It's not exactly like that with every limbs that you run into, but as a rule of thumb, it's gonna be a very good guide for you. So the question is, how does this affect me? Well, diffraction occurs whenever light passes through an amateur. Doesn't matter how big the aperture is or how small the aperture is. There's gonna be some amount of interference caused by the waves being pressed through that opening, I say. Pressed through, Um, it's really it's pretty complicated, and that's beyond the scope of what I'm trying to discuss here. But diffraction occurs whenever light passes through an amateur, and it's small apertures. That means that your sharpness is reduced. And the funny thing is, you go to a lot of effort to use a small apertura so that you get the greatest step the field possible, and then you end up with your picture. That's not sharp. And you think, uh, do I not know how to focus anymore? What have I done? Did I bumped the camera? Well, you didn't the It's just a matter of physics. When light waves go through an opening, they interfere with each other and sharpness is reduced. Its result. So let's take a look at ah Linds test chart. And this is provided by Amateur Photographer Magazine, British magazine. You can download this from their website and use it to test your own lands. Just so you know what you're dealing with. So this is the entire test chart. But we're gonna be mainly interested in this area over here because this is going to show us a zey clear example. This is going to show us what we're looking for. And this is it. F 2.8, the particular lens that I was working with. The cannon. 100 millimeter F 2.8 back row goes from F 2.82 F 32 and this is F 2.8. If you look now, this is a print. This is printed out on standard papers, so there is a certain amount of bleeding, but this will be clear over the course of this, what we're really looking for. So you can see the area here is clear between each of the dark strives. This is it at four. And it actually looks a little sharper now, doesn't it? We're seeing a little sharper edge. You can more clearly define where those where the ink bleeds is in the paper. And then this is 5.6. Where sharper still, But watch this. We go to f A and immediately there's immediate difference. Again, I'm gonna back up on this. Is that 5.6 And this is it. F eight after 11. F 11 looks just about the same as F eight to my eye. I'm sure there is some measurable difference if you were to use a laser or something. But again, we're talking practical here. And so, uh, we're going by I quite a bit f 11. I have 16 F 22 becomes pretty mark that have 22 and then f 32. You know, here you would think, Dude, you didn't focus at all. But the truth is, I was on the tripod camera. That is the camera. I was standing behind the camera itself, was on a tripod and was locked down solid. But here it clearly looks on sharp. And that's because we were stopped down to get 32. So just to compare, uh, this is F 32 and this is a 5.6, which we have just determined to be, probably the Sharpless Range. I did not use half stops as you noticed. And it in truth, it's quite possible that the sharp is the absolute sharpest was between 5.6 and eight, and I'm just using 5.6 because I used full stops only so again there's F 32 F 5.6, and it's almost ironic, isn't it? Because we so frequently think of, Oh, use those smaller aperture to get a sharper picture and then you discover, Well, that's not really the case at all. So how are you going to deal with this, then? You know you have linds diffraction. There's nothing you can do about it. What can you do? Well, you can accept it is a fair trade for the depth of field that you need. Just go ahead and stop down and accept that your your image is not gonna be the absolute sharpest that you could hope for. That's one possibility. Another is that you can take it into post into photo shop or a camp for the photo editing software of your choice and put a sharpening filter or an uncharted mascot across it. You know, there are a lot of ways that you can sharpen it. You just need to keep in mind, however, that what is missing cannot be put in. So there is some limit to what you can attain when it comes to sharpness in your image. If it was not photographed at its most, uh, sharp at the sharpest point in millions, 1/3 option is that you can shoot at the lenses sharpest aperture and use focused acting to obtain your desired depth of field. And to be honest, that's what I do most of the time, the feather photographs that I make reference to quite often almost every one of them had some sort of focus stacking in it. And that was because of the the minimal depth of field that we get when we're photographing in macro, you have to make up for it somehow. And if you're relying on stopping down the lens to have 16 or 22 to get your greatest step field than In some cases, you're selling yourself short. You know, there may be some sharpness in there that you're completely missing. Now, to be fair, sometimes you will not notice. You won't know this lens. Defer action and dependent on the subject matter. It may not be an issue at all. And if that's the case, then you have done well and and you can photograph to your heart's content at whatever happens where you like. However, if you're if you're after your absolute sharpest images, sometimes focus. Stacking is the only way to go. Um, I'd be happy to do a focus stacking class. If enough you were interested. Just drop a comment. Send me an email, whatever. Let me know somehow that you're interested in focus stacking. You can do it in photo shop, and there are a couple of very fine, very fine Softwares out there that will help you to focus stacking. He look and focuses a great one that I used quite a bit and serene Stacker is another, um, each very good focus stacking software's. So let me know if you're interested in I could do a class 6. Macro results: Well, now that we've gone to all that kind of effort to shoot our macro images, let's take a look at what the results look like. We'll start with the close up filter because that's where we started and you can see here. This is that F 2.8, um, you can see some interesting things happen. One thing to keep in mind is that any flaw in your lens is gonna be made more apparent with the close up filter simply because it is an additional piece of glass in front of your lens . It Another potential problem with the close up filter is that it also can have flaws itself . And in this case, let's go toe 5.6. You can start to see there is some chromatic aberration in some of the highlights right around here. It's kind of noticeable that may be more or less noticeable, dependent on your lens, and you're the Apertura that you're shooting that, but you do need to keep that in mind. Any time you put another piece of glass in front of your lens, you are affecting the light path. So, um, it will also magnify any flaws in your linds, so you just have to keep that in mind. The good news about a close up filter is that very often you confined fairly low priced ones that are not horrible, and sometimes they're actually pretty good. Even better news is that if you're willing to spend the extra money, you can get a very high quality close up lens, and it will just go in front of your other favorite lens and turning it into a close up or macro lens. This is at F eight of that same close up filter. You can see that the depth of field at any aperture is actually fairly limited now with F eight. If we were standing outside shooting the landscape, we would expect FAA to give us a pretty good depth of field. But because of how close we are, you remember we were like 3.5 or four inches from the subject. Um, you end up with a very limited depth of field, and that's just the nature of things. So with extension tubes, they are quite a bit different. Um, the good news about extension tubes is that they have no glass in themselves. And so it won't show the problems with your lens any worse than it than it already is. The bad news is, uh, you do lose some light because of that bellows extension factor. Other good news is that you have your choice of lenses still, so that you can use a very high quality lens. Assuming you've invested in some high quality lenses. Uh, using an extension tube will keep that high quality glass. It's probably extension Tubes were probably the cheapest actually, of the three methods that we looked at. You confined some very low priced extension tubes, and because they're hollow, you know they don't have any glass. You don't have to worry about those kinds of flaws. And the big difference in extension tubes is whether or not they have electron ICS contained in there as a way of keeping contact between the lens and the camera body. That way, you can adjust the the aperture of your lens through your camera body, just like you always do, and any meat oring functions. Any of that stuff that is, Lin's dependent still happens, and they still could be fairly low cost. You can get some that have no electron ICS, and they are the cheapest. And but the bad news is you have to rely on complete manual operation in that case. So this is the extension tube using F 2.8 and F 5.6. Again, you see very limited depth of field. Interestingly, here it seems like our depth of field is slightly greater now. That's probably due to a magnification factor. I say greater, I mean greater than what we saw with the close up filter and it f A. Obviously, we do have a different field of view than what we had with the close up filter. So there are some differences there. What you don't see is the chromatic aberration showing up from along the edges that we saw with the close up filter. Now, why that while that was a pretty decent piece of glass, it can't help but have some flaws, and in this case, using the extension tubes, you don't see those flaws. And this one, I think you'll probably find the most interesting now this is that glorious in P E. 65 millimeter macro lens and I include this not because it's well Actually, I include it because it's not such a common lens, and you may not even ever see it otherwise. So this will give you a chance to take a look at some of the results that that we processed through there. And this is at life size or one X, and you see this is just about the same as what we saw with the extension tubes. This is it. F 2.8 and F 5.6 and F eight again. Depth of field is what it is, and it's what you would expect at this kind of magnification. The good thing about macro lenses is that they were specially designed for macro photography, so any kind of they tend to be very flat field. You don't get a lot of barrel distortion or any of that sort of lends problem. Because the lens was intended to be used very close like that, they tend to be pretty high quality lenses. On the whole, everybody loves to get a macro lens, and if you get a macro, if you get a standard lens that is able to go to a full macro to life size, it opens up a whole lot of possibilities for you. When you go to shoot, you're not limited to stand in five feet away or even a foot and 1/2 away. You end up being several inches. The bad news about the macro lens is that it does tend to be the most expensive of the solutions that we looked at. On the other hand, you are paying for the quality and for the additional engineering. So take that as a consolation prize when you go to shell out the bucks. For one, this is a coming up with the two X or twice life size. Look at those neat little ridges that start to show up in the flaws in our in our yo yo the light patterns where the plastic was molded interesting again, the complete lack of depth or lack of depth of field at F 2.8. At 5.6, it shows up, you start getting mawr now. This actually is approximately the sharpest part of the lens, and you don't see any chromatic aberration or distortion in this range. And if if I were to do a focus stack with this, as I mentioned in the other segment. This is the aperture that I would use 5.6, or between 5.6 and eight. Three x when this has become quite a large piece of string, heading it on in 5.6. You can see here that the difference between 2.8 and 5.6 at this kind of magnification is really quite remarkable. And then at F eight, using the three eggs, you can see all the individual fibres. And if you were having Teoh having to retouch some of these, you might find it interesting, because the color is that the fibers themselves produced when the light comes through is quite interesting on its own. Well, let's continue and see how close we can go four times life size. We're talking about getting right up to that string, which now looks something completely different than what it looked like when it was just only yo yo yo yo string becomes something other than just string. Once it is taken to this level of abstraction, that's it. 5.6 and then all the way in five times life size. And this is 2.8 and 5.6 again very limited depth of field here. But you could again do the focus stack if you were interested in going that route. So let's wrap it all up. There are a couple things that you need to keep in mind when you're shooting macro photographs. One is the rules of photography. Do not go away just because you have a fancy lens that you condone. Shove into the face of a bug. You always have to keep in mind the idea of composition. Composition is a law. It's not a suggestion if you want your viewers to identify with your subjects. If you want them to pay attention to what you photographed, you must pay attention to composition and keep in mind the idea of shape and color and texture. All those things play into any photograph, whether it's the grandest landscape or a macro image of anything, the end of a pin or the face of a toy, any of those things. Another thing to keep in mind is that once you begin photographing Mac Ro, it takes you out of the ordinary world, and it actually if you want to think highly of yourself, it kind of takes you out of the ordinary photographer two dozen it because most people don't shoot like that, they don't get close. And the really good news is if you keep practicing macro, you will never, ever run out of photographs because every ordinary object that could be photographed in any other method. Once you pull out your macro lens, it becomes a whole new object. So keep at it. I'm eager to see what you what common household objects you use as your project image and be sure and stay in touch. And again if you're interested in, ah, focus stacking class, do let me know and we'll see what we can do about that. Well, I hope you've enjoyed it. I hope you got some tools that you can use hope you found some techniques and maybe a little bit of inspiration in there. So thanks again, hope to see you soon.