In preparation for a long winter with limited outdoor photographic opportunities, I went shopping on Amazon last weekend. My goodies arrived on Wednesday, and I celebrated their arrival with a quick kitchen-based photo shoot. Satisfied with the chrysanthemum picture on the right, I posted it as my daily photo on Shuttercal… and a couple of my buddies there mentioned that they’d like to know how it was done. (Hi Becky! Hi Keri!) So here goes.
Here’s my mercifully short and inexpensive equipment list:
- camera, tripods, and mum
- external flash – Canon 430EX ii – I already owned it
- 24″ light tent ($26.99)
- soft box flash diffuser ($9.95) (used for the Wednesday shot)
- hot shoe flash trigger receiver ($21.12) (used for a subsequent shot)
The real magic of these background-less shots comes from using the light tent. I had created one last winter out of a cardboard box (there are DIY light tent instructions all over the web) but it was pretty flimsy and unreliable, and I figured I could part with $27 for a new one. Besides providing a solid background, light that comes in through the top or sides of the tent is diffused nicely, softening glare and shadows.
On Wednesday, to avoid the glare that comes from an on-camera flash – even an external one – I used the soft box flash diffuser, which worked well for the flower. I found that it still left a glare when I took pictures of more reflective stuff such as glass.
Yesterday I had the time to try out the hot shoe flash trigger receiver, which allowed me to set up my flash off-camera (thanks to friend Scott – a different Scott from the blogger – for making me aware of this handy-dandy device!). It works by attaching one piece to the hot shoe of the camera, and another piece to the flash. When the camera triggers the hot shoe, it sends an FM signal to the receiver and lights up the flash. The resulting photo was a different view of the same mum, but with the light from a controlled direction this time:
This morning’s rain – the dregs of Hurricane Irene – has given me some time to play with the black backdrop that was included with the light tent. The subject is what’s left of the flower arrangement that contained the mum. (Notice that it’s a different color purple – that’s because I had different adjustments to the white balance. You’ll have to guess what the real purple is!)
And here’s how everything was placed to create this piece of art:
Here are some things I’ve learned in the last few days:
- I was getting a bunch of shots where bottom half of the picture was completely black. I found this forum that had bunches of people saying that the problem would require a repair – yikes! – until someone pointed out that a shutter speed that’s too fast (in my case, over 250) makes it hard for the flash to sync with the camera. Phew.
- With a high shutter speed out of the question, I had to shoot in manual mode, go with a low ISO (which was a good idea anyway), and a small aperture around 22 (which worked out nicely for good depth of field on the flower arrangement).
- I found a few interesting and helpful web sites:
- http://blog.timlaytonphotography.com/2011/02/using-a-light-tent-cool-lights-for-macro-photography/ (it would be nice to have the cool lights someday. No rush.)
I’m looking forward to experimenting some more with my new toys!