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Studio macro lighting - matching "real life" appea

 
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Beatsy



Joined: 05 Jul 2013
Posts: 1504
Location: Malvern, UK

PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:07 pm    Post subject: Studio macro lighting - matching "real life" appea Reply with quote

I hope this might prompt a mini-discussion on the topic of natural-looking lighting in studio macro situations - based around experiences, tips and tricks. I had a short session today which illustrated a small facet of what I mean. It lent itself nicely to a short picture narrative, so I thought I'd post it in that format in the hope of kicking off a conversation. Here goes...

I was studying the seed pods on this little plant in our garden today and decided they were interesting enough to take one indoors for stacking.


I stuck a pod on the rig with the usual "all-round diffusion" under a few Janso-style lamps, ran off 50 frames (Minolta DImage 5400 lens @ 1.8x on FF) and PMax stacked them in Zerene.
Yuck! Way too flat and boring; nothing like I saw in the garden (with or without loupe). The internal seeds are near invisible for a start.


So I thought I'd try transmitted lighting by pointing an undiffused lamp at the seed pod from behind, shading the lamp so no light went straight into the lens.
Yuck (as expected). Even flatter looking too, but at least the seeds show up now.


The obvious next step was to combine reflected and transmitted light and do a stack with that.
Not too bad. A hint of unexpected colour (yellow patches) but it's looking more like I saw by eye. But it's still flat and lacking relevant textures.


To regain some the missing texture, I turned off all the diffused lamps except one which I pushed closer to the diffuser (on the right) to provide a large, soft, directional light skimming across the front of the seed pod. I left the undiffused light on the rear as in previous shots.
Now we're getting somewhere - but texture still isn't as pronounced as I saw through the loupe. The surface looks a bit "waxy" to me (which it isn't).


For the final attempt, I removed the diffuser altogether with one "naked" lamp skimming across the face of the pod and the other lighting from behind.
Bingo! That's exactly what I saw when turning the seed pod around in the light and examining it through a loupe. The papery texture stands out, as do the finer details. Some may prefer the previous image aesthetically, but my goal was to capture what I (thought I) saw - not just a representation of it.


In the end, I used two naked spot lamps and no diffusion at all - normally a complete no no! Low magnification helped of course, and higher mags would not be any where near as forgiving, but it worked in this case. Of course, I could have taken my MP-E 65mm into the garden and got a similar result with a single shot at 2x in-situ. But that wasn't the point. Besides, I don't think the MP-E resolves as well as the DImage 5400 when pixel peeping. Individual cells are easily visible, but I can't show them here as I've used my allotted limit for pics.

What do you think? Does it look natural to you? What kind of things do you do to assure a natural look for studio stacks (any scale)? Or perhaps you don't care, or don't think it even matters at all. Love to hear your comments and experiences. With pics if you have 'em.

Cheers
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Pau
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Joined: 20 Jan 2010
Posts: 4726
Location: Valencia, Spain

PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
...but I can't show them here as I've used my allotted limit for pics.


This is an interesting subject, be aware that at the technical fora the image limit per day does not apply, at least if they are relevant, so please post it
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Troels



Joined: 15 Feb 2016
Posts: 421
Location: Denmark, Engesvang

PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have the same experience: with non-glossy subjects I often get a better rendering of the surface texture and a better decription of the 3D shape with a more directional and less diffused light.

I often use a half-sphere shaped diffuser and a single Jansjö lamp very close to the diffusor. Soft but clearly directional light.

For small and glossy objects it is nice to be able to create completely diffused light. But you should never be dogmatic.
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Beatsy



Joined: 05 Jul 2013
Posts: 1504
Location: Malvern, UK

PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 2:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pau wrote:
Quote:
...but I can't show them here as I've used my allotted limit for pics.


This is an interesting subject, be aware that at the technical fora the image limit per day does not apply, at least if they are relevant, so please post it

Ahh yes, forgot that. Attached is a part of the final image (shot with bare lamps) at 100% crop. As you can see, there's lots of fine detail that's actually specular reflections (edges of cells) so it wouldn't stand up to significant magnification. But it worked well enough at this scale.

As Troels quite rightly says, never be dogmatic (which I was becoming regarding diffusion).

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ray_parkhurst



Joined: 20 Nov 2010
Posts: 2040
Location: Santa Clara, CA, USA

PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I run into a similar issue trying to match the so-called "in-hand" look of coins versus photgraphing in studio environs. This is very different from an outdoor/naturally-lit situation, but the principles are the same...always try to match the direction and apparent size of the lighting to get the same result. For coins, this usually means getting lights as high as possible, since that's how they are viewed in-hand. In the natural environment, you have the direct sunlight, plus lots of diffuse light created by the sky and lots of reflections from nearby objects. I have set up a rail-mounted ringlight, with appropriate regions masked, that I can move from up close to give the low-angle lighting you ended up with, or farther away to raise the angle even to the point of direct reflection. Of course, coins are not transparent, so no backlighting is done...
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