we looked at the type of kit needed to shoot close-ups of nature. While a macro lens is the best choice, there are various cut-price close-up attachments available that will also do the job nicely, making close-up photography a genre accessible to all. In Part 2, we will look at how to take better close-ups.
Light is a key ingredient to all photographs – and close-ups are no different in that respect. However, light can be in short supply when working so near to the subject, so you may find it will need supplementing. Why is light reduced in close-up? Well, a degree of light is naturally lost or absorbed at higher magnifications. Also, when working in such close proximity to the subject, it can be difficult to avoid your body or camera physically blocking light. It is not all bad news, though. When shooting macro photos, arguably photographers have a greater degree of control over light than with other types of wildlife.
The light’s colour, contrast and direction naturally plays an important role in enhancing the appearance of miniature detail, but when working in such close proximity to the subject it is easier to manipulate light by using flash or reflectors. Personally, I favour using natural and reflected light. While flash can be essential for certain miniature subjects – particularly when a fast shutter speed is the priority – when possible I rely on using available light in order to achieve natural looking and authentic results. You can buy dedicated ring, twin and LED flash units for close-up photography, but they require a high level of diffusion and careful use to achieve a natural feel – something I believe is essential for wildlife photography. With the latest crop of DSLRs having such good higher ISO performance, relying on just natural and reflected light is far more practical than ever before.
I tend to use reflected light a lot in my work, as bounced light produces very natural-looking results. Basically, reflectors are circular disks – with either a white, silver or gold side – which can be positioned near to the subject in order to bounce light onto it. Small foldaway versions are all you need for small subjects – the likes of Kood and Lastolite produce them, costing in the region of £15.00 – £20.00. Alternatively, a piece of card covered in tin foil, or a mirror, will do the job. A reflector is a must have accessory for close-ups in my opinion, allowing you to control the light and its direction. You can alter the light’s intensity by moving the reflector closer or further away and – unlike flash – you can see the effect of what you are doing instantly and adjust the reflector’s position accordingly. Using one, it is possible to relieve dark, ugly shadow areas and add extra illumination to small subjects in shady or overcast conditions. The difference they make to a close-up image can be startling, as shown in the comparison below – the first image is without a reflector, and the second is using one: