By: Jim Rose
July 05, 2016
Normally I would write this blog in the winter months when it is cold and rainy outside. However, since I like shooting in the rain and it’s going to be 102 degrees outside today there is no better time to set up my home macro studio and create some great pictures.
First, what do you need to set up a home macro studio? Let’s start with the lighting equipment. I used two table lamps purchased at a local department store. The best ones to get are the ones with adjustable necks so you can get the light where it needs to be. Also, make sure you get lamps with LED lights. LED lights are smaller and lighter than regular bulbs, and they produce very little heat.
Any Canon EOS DSLR will give you great results. For this project, I chose the Canon EOS 80D. One of the reasons for choosing the 80D is the articulated LCD screen. Since I use Live View for most of these images, the articulated screen can be very handy when the camera is in low or high positions. You can rotate the screen so it is easy to view without having to kneel down or get on a stool to see the screen. An EF-S 60mm macro lens was used for most of the shots because it allows you to get in really close. If you don’t have a macro lens, a standard kit lens like the EF-S 18-55mm or a similar lens will do the job although you won’t be able to get in as close as you would with a macro lens. You can add a close up lens or an extension tube to your standard lens to allow you to get in close if you don’t want to invest in a macro lens at this time.
You will also need a few camera accessories. First is a good tripod. Having a tripod will allow you to shoot with longer shutter speeds and keep the ISO as low as possible to get the best image quality. Second, a cable release will allow you to take pictures without touching the camera. If you don’t have a cable release, set your camera to the two-second self-timer mode so you can activate the shutter release by hand. The camera will wait two seconds then take the picture. This two-second delay will allow the camera to stabilize and reduce vibrations that would cause the image to be blurry.
Our first project is called “Candy Reflections.” For this shot you will need to make a light box from a plastic shoebox and a clear plexiglass cover. Position the LED lights on the side of the box and add some small colorful candy to the bottom of the box. Cover the box with the plexiglass and spray water on the plexiglass until droplets form. Position the camera so you are looking straight down into the droplets. Turn on Live View and focus manually on the reflections you see in the droplets. If it is difficult for you to see the focus, use the magnify feature in Live View. The aperture will determine how the background will look. I would use the Av setting on the camera and start at f/16. Try different apertures and you will see differences in the background. Now that you have created a light box, try other subjects. Change the clear plexiglass to white and you can photograph backlit leaves and cut fruit.
Next we are going to create a “Light Tent.” The purpose of the light tent is to reduce shadows and reflections of shiny subjects. You can purchase a purpose-built light tent, but for this project, I actually used a bathroom trashcan. Make sure the trashcan is white and translucent. Lay the trashcan on its side, position the LED lights above the trashcan and you’re ready to shoot. I used the Av camera setting at a small aperture such as f/16 to get the depth of field I needed for the size of the subject. This technique is great for shiny subjects and also works well for the photos I use for selling via eCommerce.
Our last project is “Miniature Figures.” You’ll have to take a trip to your local hobby shop and buy a few small figures that are made for model railroads. Next, it’s all about your imagination. The key is to put the figures in interesting situations. Here are two of my favorites: “Cleaning the LCD Screen” and “Mowing the Lime.” Both of these shots used the LED lights we bought along with a few props. The backgrounds were made using art paper purchased at a crafts store. Again, these pictures were photographed in the Av mode with the actual aperture based on the subject and how I wanted the background to look.
Have fun with these macro projects and use your imagination to create your own. In my next blog we will stay indoors with macro, but we will be using Speedlites to stop action and create amazing images with water droplets and the moving subjects.