Lighting for Macro Photography

bjd

EOS RP
Aug 29, 2011
537
41
Hi,
I've lately been trying to do some Macro Photography, Canon 5DIV and EF 100 f/2.8 Macro lens.
I have a dead Dragonfly that I am using as a subject. Currently I have a cheap light tent with
two daylight Lamps outside of it. I'm also using three flexible LED lamps to light the
subject from close-up.
Please ignore the framing etc. of the attached shot, I just wanted some close-ups of the side
of the body and the hairs. This is a stack of around 40 shots, using Zerene stacker.

IMHO the lighting is still too harsh. I have built caps for the LED lamps using tracing/greaseproof paper which
makes their light more diffused, but looking in detail I see too many blown-out reflections in the water droplets.

The eye had a very large blown-out area that I needed to edit out.

Does anyone have any ideas how to improve the lighting?

I also added a close crop to show the detail as the normal size supported here is too small for the details.

Cheers Brian
 

Attachments

bjd

EOS RP
Aug 29, 2011
537
41
Skatol said:
I would suggest increasing the distance between the subject and light source. Increasing the aperture may help as well.
Hi, thanks for the tip, the LED lamps are very close, so you may well be right.
Cheers Brian
 

Mikehit

EOS R6
Jul 28, 2015
3,313
502
The point of a light tent is to create a diffuse light that mimics an infinitely large, infinitely placed light source so moving the lamps will have limited benefit other than making the light dimmer and if you want to bring the specular highlights within dynamic range the insect itself will become very dim. I think they look fine as they are.
Placement of lights is also important because it is shadow that gives feeling of texture and depth so having lights equally spaced around the tent may not be the best placing.

Another thing to consider is that different stacking programs operate differently - some accentuate specular highlights others less so.
 

Zeidora

EOS RP
Feb 15, 2015
668
10
The images look very acceptable to me. With Zerene, I noticed I have to underexpose the frames by at least 1 f-stop to avoid blowing out highlights. I assume you shoot RAW so doing a batch conversion at -1 is no problem. I do it in DxO Optics Pro. If you lose the shadows, then do a curve adjustment. Save as 16 bit .tif files, and also save the Zerene output file in 16 bit. That will give you more leeway in post-stacking tone adjustments. Zerene handles 100 of my 16 bit 5DsR 300 MB files no problem. I hope you have a decent computer. For the 50 MP files Zerene requires >5GB of RAM. My 6 core MacPro soup can with 32 GB RAM runs hot for a few minutes doing stacks.

Water droplets will have specular highlights, no way around it. It's the nature of water droplets.

What are "daylight lamps"? Incandescent tops out at about 3400K. I guess you could add a blue conversion filter.
 

bjd

EOS RP
Aug 29, 2011
537
41
Mikehit said:
The point of a light tent is to create a diffuse light that mimics an infinitely large, infinitely placed light source so moving the lamps will have limited benefit other than making the light dimmer and if you want to bring the specular highlights within dynamic range the insect itself will become very dim. I think they look fine as they are.
Placement of lights is also important because it is shadow that gives feeling of texture and depth so having lights equally spaced around the tent may not be the best placing.

Another thing to consider is that different stacking programs operate differently - some accentuate specular highlights others less so.
Hi, thanks. I have two lights outside the tent, left and right. But the three LEDS are around the Camera, so
not shining through the Tent. Plenty of glare, but maybe not enough shadow as you point out. I never thought that the stacking software may play a part, so I will look into that too.
Cheers Brian
 

bjd

EOS RP
Aug 29, 2011
537
41
Zeidora said:
The images look very acceptable to me. With Zerene, I noticed I have to underexpose the frames by at least 1 f-stop to avoid blowing out highlights. I assume you shoot RAW so doing a batch conversion at -1 is no problem. I do it in DxO Optics Pro. If you lose the shadows, then do a curve adjustment. Save as 16 bit .tif files, and also save the Zerene output file in 16 bit. That will give you more leeway in post-stacking tone adjustments. Zerene handles 100 of my 16 bit 5DsR 300 MB files no problem. I hope you have a decent computer. For the 50 MP files Zerene requires >5GB of RAM. My 6 core MacPro soup can with 32 GB RAM runs hot for a few minutes doing stacks.

Water droplets will have specular highlights, no way around it. It's the nature of water droplets.

What are "daylight lamps"? Incandescent tops out at about 3400K. I guess you could add a blue conversion filter.
Hi, the Lamps are 30W 4000 Lumen 5000K and sold as daylight here.
I do shoot in RAW but export to 16bit TIFF from LR as input for Zerene, and save its output as 16bit TIFF too.
I'll try run eafter reducing exposure by 1 stop and see what happens.

I guess you are right about the droplets having highlights, its just that I found them much too bright,
so maybe a curve adjustment is the way to go.
Thanks for your thoughts.
Cheers Brian
 

Mikehit

EOS R6
Jul 28, 2015
3,313
502
bjd said:
Hi, thanks. I have two lights outside the tent, left and right. But the three LEDS are around the Camera, so
not shining through the Tent. Plenty of glare, but maybe not enough shadow as you point out. I never thought that the stacking software may play a part, so I will look into that too.
Cheers Brian
By all means have lights left and right but you can vary the relative strengths by having them different distances. You can also use the LEDs round the camera but I would consider using them as 'fill-in' to prevent deep shadows. Lighting in these circumstances is all relative - if you cant adjust the power on the LEDs boost the lighting on the lamps (move them closer if you can) and increase shutter speed to bring overall exposure to what you have at the moment.

And you can adjust the the amount of 'glare' from the droplets by deciding to have the lamps slightly behind the subject or slightly in front of it.

So many variables...
 

bjd

EOS RP
Aug 29, 2011
537
41
Mikehit said:
bjd said:
Hi, thanks. I have two lights outside the tent, left and right. But the three LEDS are around the Camera, so
not shining through the Tent. Plenty of glare, but maybe not enough shadow as you point out. I never thought that the stacking software may play a part, so I will look into that too.
Cheers Brian
By all means have lights left and right but you can vary the relative strengths by having them different distances. You can also use the LEDs round the camera but I would consider using them as 'fill-in' to prevent deep shadows. Lighting in these circumstances is all relative - if you cant adjust the power on the LEDs boost the lighting on the lamps (move them closer if you can) and increase shutter speed to bring overall exposure to what you have at the moment.

And you can adjust the the amount of 'glare' from the droplets by deciding to have the lamps slightly behind the subject or slightly in front of it.

So many variables...
You are right; I just tried out a few variations..... and lost track of what I had tried and which photos were which..duuhhh.
Anyway I tried editing to -1 stop and that made a great difference to the Stack created by Zerene, here is a
quick and dirty stack using the same sources as the photo I posted this morning. I think the highlights
are far better under control and the rest is OK too.
Thanks for your help.
CHeers Brian
 

Attachments

Mikehit

EOS R6
Jul 28, 2015
3,313
502
I think that looks OK. Provided it isn't too far underexposed (problems of noise etc) you can lighten it in post processing without getting too much of a 'glare' look from the highlights.
 

Zeidora

EOS RP
Feb 15, 2015
668
10
That new -1 processed one does look better. The highlight on the eye is WAY better. Maybe even try -1.5. For stacking jobs, I never ETTR, but rather make sure that the histogram's right tail is well clear of the edge.

Re the 30W 4000 lumen 5000K lamps, sounds like compact fluorescent. Mixing CF with LED may work, but I would check color temperature on each: shoot one then the other on same white background, and check in LR what color temperature is showing in the RAW file. If they are identical, you are lucky, if not, adjust one to match the other with color correction filters. If you don't know how to select color filters, look up Mired scale.

The problem with unequal color temperatures can be odd color casts at the edges of your highlights. It looks to me that you want an as "natural"/documentary photo as possible, so "artistic" color fringes are not what you try to get.
 

bjd

EOS RP
Aug 29, 2011
537
41
Mikehit said:
I think that looks OK. Provided it isn't too far underexposed (problems of noise etc) you can lighten it in post processing without getting too much of a 'glare' look from the highlights.
Yeah, just a simple trade-off really, and me making sure to try to get the exposure as correct as possible while shooting. Photography 101 I guess!!!!!
Cheers Brian
 

bjd

EOS RP
Aug 29, 2011
537
41
Zeidora said:
That new -1 processed one does look better. The highlight on the eye is WAY better. Maybe even try -1.5. For stacking jobs, I never ETTR, but rather make sure that the histogram's right tail is well clear of the edge.

Re the 30W 4000 lumen 5000K lamps, sounds like compact fluorescent. Mixing CF with LED may work, but I would check color temperature on each: shoot one then the other on same white background, and check in LR what color temperature is showing in the RAW file. If they are identical, you are lucky, if not, adjust one to match the other with color correction filters. If you don't know how to select color filters, look up Mired scale.

The problem with unequal color temperatures can be odd color casts at the edges of your highlights. It looks to me that you want an as "natural"/documentary photo as possible, so "artistic" color fringes are not what you try to get.
Hi, yes they are CF Lamps. Thanks for the tips.
I am somewhat dismayed that you missed the artistic touches I added :(
My aim at the moment was to master the techniques of getting the stack correct, I'm doing it manually using the
Canon Camera connect app, main advantage being no camera shake at all. And to get the documentary shot perfect, the artistic framing or focus plane, and creative lighting is supposed to follow on.
Cheers Brian
 

Mikehit

EOS R6
Jul 28, 2015
3,313
502
That is really impressive 8)

I quite like the background at it is blurred not to be distracting but not plain white. It could almost be a natural texture - maybe try adding a tint of brown-green-olive-something if it does not distract from the main subject itself