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Help With Macro

Discussion in 'Through-the-Lens Club' started by bigzebra, Feb 7, 2007.

  1. bigzebra

    bigzebra

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    Hello, this is my first time posting here. Before I get to my questions, I’ll give you a little background:

    I purchased a Rebel XTi in December as a Christmas present for myself (and my wife) with the intention for using it for work (I’m a cop). Additionally, I have always been interested in photography, so I wanted something more that a point and shoot.

    So, my wife has started her own website peddling the jewelry she makes. We wanted to take professional looking photographs of her products and decided we needed to add a macro lens to our collection. After quite a bit of research, I purchased a Canon EFS 60mm macro lens. (I had been debating with myself for some time as to whether or not it was feasible to get an EFS lens, as their long-term usefulness to me, should I upgrade to a full-size sensor camera in the future, seems unclear.) I also purchased a Manfrotto tripod and the head that has the compressible handle which allows it to swivel.

    Instead of shelling out a couple hundred more clams on commercially available macro light boxes, we made our own macro light studio. I took a large cardboard box, cut the sides out, taped white nylon fabric on the open sides, and bought 5000k florescent light bulbs for the light source. I generally position two lights on both sides, and photo from the top.

    Since we are new to photography with an SLR camera, we can’t seem to get the pictures quite ‘right.’ I have been tinkering with the settings, but I have found the best setup to be with the aforementioned lens, a Hoya polarizing filter (to eliminate reflections), and the shutter time around 1 second. I also set the color balance to the white sheet of paper the jewelry sits on. I let the camera set the f stop, which is usually 5.6 or so.

    The problem we’re having is the backgrounds of the pics aren’t coming out WHITE, which we need for the professional looking results we are after. Here are some examples of some of the pictures we have taken. (The ‘Purple Pearl’ is close, but ALL of the pictures on this page need to be retaken) http://tammaleensbeads.com/store/WsDefault.asp?Cat=Bracelets&Sub=9&isThumbs=Yes&Thumbs=200

    This picture came out pretty good, but it somehow got fuzzy when she put it on the webpage: http://tammaleensbeads.com/store/WsDefault.asp?One=16

    Our goal is to have her products have a WHITE background so it appears as though it’s floating, and there is no discernable difference in the color of the background when it appears on the webpage.

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts and advice, and sorry for the long-winded post.
     
  2. Litespeed_67

    Litespeed_67 LnL operator

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    Can you post an original file somewhere or send it out in email? It'd be easier to see what was going on if we could see the EXIF info.

    I'd go back to basics. Set you White Balance to 5000k you have stated your lights are outputting and put everything else back to normal. How bright are the lights you are using? 1 second at f/5.6 seems like it must be very very dim. I'd also be interested to see which ISO you are shooting at (which is contained within the EXIF data). You might want to leave the filter off to start with as well, eliminating as many variables as possible will help. Back to brightness, you may need more illumination if you want vibrant photos. I'd try to get enough light to allow a 1/125th second shutter at f/5.6 with ISO 400.

    I'd also like to see a picture of the setup you are using, maybe we can offer some changes that will make it work better for you.
     

  3. bigzebra

    bigzebra

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    Litespeed_67, thank you for the help. I'm using 100 watt equilevent bulbs, and 100-200 ISO. When I do not use the filter, the beads leave reflections. I do not know how to send you the whole kabootle with respect to the image information, but here are some pics I just took of our set up. Hope this helps you help me! :)

    edit: Gotta figure out how to post pics....
     
  4. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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  5. bigzebra

    bigzebra

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  6. bigzebra

    bigzebra

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    Some pics of the setup.......
     
  7. bigzebra

    bigzebra

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  8. bigzebra

    bigzebra

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  9. bigzebra

    bigzebra

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    One more.......
     
  10. Fred

    Fred Lifetime Member Millennium Member

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    IIRC, generally the background has to be about two stops brighter than the subject lighting in order for it to record as white. I may be wrong, but from your pictures, it looks like the back ground is in the same lighting, or even a tad darker than the subject would be.
     
  11. MrsKitty

    MrsKitty

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    Pop over here and ask these guys. You can find jewelry posted in the still life/b&w/experimental forum pretty often. Seems that it almost always gives people a fit. I have read the advice before but I can't remember any to pass along off the top of my head...

    What do you think of the 60mm? It is on my want list as I have a longing for macro and it is one of the lighter lenses that I could handhold (bad rotator cuff and I cannot stand the thought of being tied to a tripod).
     
  12. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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    That would be one of the reasons for the backlit table link I posted above. It should be possible to make one if someone is handy. The key issue here is the elimination of shadows. Now, it's possible if someone is really clever with post-processing to do it in photoshop, however.

    One thing I also noticed in the pictures from the website is shallow DOF with only parts of the item in focus. While interesting artistically, perhaps, it is rather unorthodox from the product catalog photography point of view.

    One last thing was rather strange pixelated shadows. Not sure where that came from, but I would guess post-processing, perhaps a very aggressive compression.
     
  13. jm_usmc

    jm_usmc Two eagles

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    Buy a gray scale card and meter off of that. You are confusing your camera by metering white. It thinks the white is 18% gray and if you use gray that should fix the problem.
     
  14. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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    Good point, I missed the fact that it was auto-exposure. It would be best to do manual exposure and test until you get it right. Once you get it perfectly, keep it that way until you change your lights.
     
  15. bigzebra

    bigzebra

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    Yeah, I've thought about that, and I'll be attempting that soon.

    The pics that are out of focus toward the back of the product my wife took hand held. She will be updating those pics soon.

    Somehow that is happening when she resizes the pics for the website and we are not sure how to correct that.

    I made a smaller light box tonight, dropped the polarizering filter and got some pretty good results. Here's an example.

    Thanks again for everyone's help!
     
  16. bigzebra

    bigzebra

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    Thanks for the link!

    I love the 60mm as it fits my needs perfect. I don't really have much in the way of expierence to go by though. I got it over the 50mm for several reasons, manily the reviews I read on Amazon.com. Someone there said because of the quality of the optics, it deserved an 'L' desingation.

    Here is one more example of a photo I took tonight.
     
  17. bigzebra

    bigzebra

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    I mean here.....
     
  18. MrsKitty

    MrsKitty

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    You are so not helping my bead/jewelry making addiction. Your wife's work is beautiful!

    If you don't already have a copy, don't write off the 50 1.8 as it is a great lens for $75. Mine is my favorite lens because it is lightweight, fast and tack sharp.

    I want a macro sometime soon. Unfortunately, my patience level makes chasing bugs around a bit hard for me (and I still can't find a spider here!) but I really think when I pick one up, it will be the 60. If I ever get to go full frame, I would rather have a lens that I use a lot now and have no use for later than one I might get to keep on using but use very little now, if that makes sense.
     
  19. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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    bigzebra, the new photos are much better when comes to tonality, but they still lack critical sharpness. I wonder, what aperture are you using? Perhaps you can find a sweet spot around 8 or so. Still, could it possibly be a little out of focus? It does sharpen nicely (see attachment), but I would hope for more "tack-sharp" from the full size sample, particularly from a macro lens.
     
  20. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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    Here is the attachment (for some reason it didn't make it in the first post).