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Out off my depth
Lens: SMC Pentax-D FA 100mm F2.8 Macro WR Camera: K3 Photo Location: Uthrecht, The Netherlands ISO: 800 Shutter Speed: 1/125s Aperture: F10 
Posted By: Carpon, 06-30-2015, 12:51 AM

As you might have read I now the proud owner off a SMC Pentax-D FA 100mm F2.8 Macro WR. Bit green in shooting Macro but really like it. I have read and youtube'd almost everything there is to find on the subject and techniques but this left me even more confused. I get the main principal behind the POV, shutter speed, ISO and aperture to obtain DOV, sharpness and motion elimination but the point is I don't have a very steady hand anymore (some nerve damage I have) and find most off my efforts not sharp due to the longer exposer needed if shooting in higher iso or higher aperture (for sharper images with more DOF). Tried higher ISO but lack the (PP) skills to get these pleasing to look at. To make a long story even longer I'm missing something and need you're advice, help and pointers in how to...


1) Get sharper picture's
2) More control of light (is a ring flash helping there)
3) Get my higher ISO pictures acceptable
4) Prevent my background from darkening




Included a 800 grainy shot witch is what I get most off the time, only exposure and WB correction (bit off darkening right lower corner) done in Lightroom, no sharpening done in PS conversion to JPEG.

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06-30-2015, 02:49 AM   #2
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Moved to Macro photography forum for better help. That's what this forum was supposed to be about. Helping those realize what needs doing in when shooting macros.

DOF is everything. Lighting can be done with on board flash if diffused. Higher ISO not such a great idea, with flash it's not necessary. As for shaky hands, I have that problem too. I use a monopod at times, but prefer not to, so I do a lot of laying on the ground, sitting on the ground or kneeling on the ground.

Hope this helps. Others will chime in later to offer their advice also.
06-30-2015, 02:59 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Carpon Quote
1) Get sharper picture's 2) More control of light (is a ring flash helping there) 3) Get my higher ISO pictures acceptable 4) Prevent my background from darkening
1) you know it already, lower ISO helps a lot, F11 is already good. You could combine with flash and or use a small tripod / monopod / beanbag or a gorilla pod
2) Ring flash helps a lot but it will introduce some other problems (using the Pentax AF160) Pic 1 as its two halfs and not a real ring (can be nice and ugly depended on the object, scene). Pic 2 does not show that. can be limited with a polarizer. On board flash does the trick for some with a proper diffuser there is many DIY project about it.



3) use e.g. lightroom and remove / reduce the graininess (detail>noise reduction [Luminance & Color]).
4) more complex light set up flash or led. ring flash already helps but a set up with two flashes one for the object (e.g. insect) one for the back ground.

Last edited by max_pyne; 06-30-2015 at 03:04 AM.
06-30-2015, 03:33 AM   #4
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Tripod & flash are the routes to sharpness in macro. I use a tripod 90% of the time when doing macro, but when possible take photos of the same subject both without & with flash and find that the flash image almost always looks a bit sharper or "crisper" than the tripod-only shot, even when the nonflash shutter speed is relatively high (1/60 or 1/125). Best flash technique: a regular flash with a diffuser (softbox, reflecting card, home-made, tried many options, they all seem to work) on an off-camera cord so you can quickly vary the angle of light. The best lighting direction is not always predictable, although from the upper left works 90% of the time. I also use a ringlight which some disparage because it has no modeling, but with hairy insects, shadows add confusing detail and flat light commonly works better. I use an old Sunpak ring light in manual mode.

06-30-2015, 04:53 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by WPRESTO Quote
Tripod & flash are the routes to sharpness in macro.
I think this is the key. I try to handhold, but for true macro that becomes really difficult. High magnification, shallow DoF,..
Once you get a flash setup, you don't have to worry about getting enough light, so you can choose shutter speed and aperture that keeps the photo sharp. You might want more than one flash, or a flash on a trigger and holding it separately.
Anyway, you are discovering why macro photography is so difficult

Oh, one more thing. I am surprised the photo is so grainy at ISO 800. There are some PP things you can do about this. First is the technique called Exposing to the Right (ETTR), but this might not be super practical. Next is Noise reduction (NR), which has in-camera settings for the jpegs. For photoshop you can get Topaz Denoise (you can get discounts from this forum) or one of the other plugins (NoiseNinja? There are a couple plugins and standalone things out there). These can be really good. Most photography raw software (Like Lightroom, FastStone, Aftershot Pro) have built in NR, which can be good, too. In PP, adding brightness or a lot of contrast, saturation, will make the noise more noticeable as well.
And finally, if you don't want noise, don't crop the photo too much. If you crop it, you essentially magnify the noise. Instead, get closer. If you then resize that photo down, to a smaller size, a lot of noise will be lost in the resampling.
Sharpening? You should add sharpening in post. If you do it correctly (select detail, edge radius, amount) then you will increase the details more than the noise. If you do it wrong, the noise will become sharp, but the rest of the photo will look odd. Every one of these thing takes time to learn, so don't give up.

---------- Post added 30th Jun 2015 at 13:55 ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Carpon Quote
2) More control of light (is a ring flash helping there)
It might, but some of the cheap "ring flashes" are just LED lights that you put around the lens, and they are not super bright. this means that for some uses they are not powerful enough, but they still add a colour cast and can make the background seem darker by comparison, because it is not lit up. This is why using more than one flash can help, or using a flash on the side that illuminates more than just the subject

And that's not a bad photo you uploaded. The important stuff is sharp and in focus, overall photo has high magnification, you are definitely on the right path

Hope you don't mind, I did a quick edit in Lightroom. This took me less than a minute, and it would look much better still if I had the actual raw file to work with instead of the processed and resized jpeg. PP is important. Film had to be developed, and so do digital photos.
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06-30-2015, 05:33 AM   #6
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With the Pentax 100s you can go past f11. In the field, in bright sunlight I'm shooting at least f13, usually 1/250 to 1/500 and letting the ISO float up to 3200 if required. If it's breezy or cloudy my settings will change. If it's nice and still, I can drop my shutter speed. A tripod is out of the question, and with the GPS on my K5 I cannot mount a flash. If it's sunny I don't really need it. for my research in the field, I'm willing to accept some sub-par images if it allows me to make the identification.

Around the yard, I will use a flash occasionally, and have to learn to use the Sunpak. In daylight the on-board flash isn't bad for fill.

You will get darker backgrounds when using a flash in macro. You just will, because you've highlighted your subject. If shooting RAW and using a program like Lightroom you can try boosting the shadows, which should lift the background. Otherwise, accept the contrast because you're really interested in your subject, not the plants in the background. Research some of the homemade diffusers, too. I've seen some nice ones made from plastic bottles which use a homemade light pipe effect.
06-30-2015, 05:40 AM   #7
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Along with what has been mentioned, consider using a tripod (or other type of stabilization), with shake reduction off, and the 2 sec shutter delay with a cable or remote release. This allows the mirror to clear and most vibrations to settle. I also use defused flash and/or reflective screens to fill/add light on subject. Enjoy!
06-30-2015, 06:06 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Carpon Quote
1) Get sharper picture's
2) More control of light (is a ring flash helping there)
3) Get my higher ISO pictures acceptable
4) Prevent my background from darkening
Use flash. The built-in will work if that's all you have, but it's better with a diffuser. External flash on a flash bracket or macro bracket will give more optimal lighting. I'm not convinced by ring flash.

Use 1/180s shutter speed to combat blur from shake and subject motion. Use higher ISO to keep the background from getting too dark. Depending on your camera, you should be able to go as high as ISO 1200, most of the time ISO 560 should suffice.

"Noiseware" is awesome for noise reduction. One-click processing, and it is available as free shareware (Community Edition). The free version will only process one file at a time, paid versions are inexpensive and will allow batch processing.

Here's a good site for practical tips: The Quest for a good bug shot

NOTE: Please read this caveat if you own a K-3: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/177-macro-photography/298687-k-3-macro-di...ml#post3299118

06-30-2015, 06:08 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Hogdriver Quote
Along with what has been mentioned, consider using a tripod (or other type of stabilization), with shake reduction off, and the 2 sec shutter delay with a cable or remote release. This allows the mirror to clear and most vibrations to settle. I also use defused flash and/or reflective screens to fill/add light on subject. Enjoy!
Oh that reminds me. I have turned off shake reduction as well, since I'm shooting fast anyway. It seems to help with that fast shooting for some reason if I'm moving the camera around a lot, and since it takes a moment to stabilize after turning the camera on, it seems better to leave it off.

Really tripods depend on what you're doing. If you can use them, do so. If you're tromping around the prairie chasing bees, nope. there is no doubt that more light is always better since it keeps your ISO lower and shutter speed higher.

I shoot TAv mode most of the time, with AF.C and center focus point since it's the single target I'm interested in. Get good at switching to MF when required to get the shot, too. You can then "roll" the focus while exposing shots.
06-30-2015, 06:48 AM   #10
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Most macro is done with manual focus, i.e. move the camera to the focus plane.
06-30-2015, 06:51 AM   #11
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I almost never use AF
06-30-2015, 09:59 AM   #12
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Wow, thank you people for you're response, great tips and clear advice. Tripod/monopod will try to incorporate that in my efforts to intrude in the live off bugs, already doing that with the non moving objects, mirror up 2 seconds shake control of (with remote) is something that will give the sharpness a boost. Shake reduction off, will give that a shot. Reflective screen to bring in more light, should have thought off that (but didn't), will try to borough/try-out a ring flash from my local store to explore that route. Did all my work with natural light, never was a big flash fan but that was many years ago when it was all or nothing No AF is a lesson learned, manual (pre)focussing is improving every day Again thank you all for your support and useful links helping me in to picking up new skills and developing my photography, much appreciated!
06-30-2015, 11:04 AM   #13
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If you haven't gathered from the responses, there are many, many ideas on how to do macro, and many methods that work. Gave a program recently on macro - lasted 90 minutes. Most devotees of the small develop their own methods, as you will inevitably. But two best pieces of advice given, I believe: 1) use a tripod if you possibly can; 2) try flash (still with camera on a tripod if possible). As one camera magazine observed decades back: tripods are most invaluable accessory we all love to hate.

Last edited by WPRESTO; 07-01-2015 at 03:47 AM.
06-30-2015, 11:05 AM   #14
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About 90% of my photography in the field is autofocus. Use the plant as your target. Be one with your camera, you'll learn the focus peculiarities. Only when the wind is tough or the contrast is low - brown/green dragonfly on brown/green plant in front of brown/green background - do I need to drop to manual. Other times I'll get an image or two with auto, then get some with manual.

That said, we all follow the same rules. The hardware is what it is. It's all compromise, and I take that with Autofocus there will be plenty of times I have a less-than-perfect image still suitable to document my sightings. I also get plenty of keepers and my rate seems to increase over time. This year I get more better shots than last year. In this, it's like any other skill - know your tool, know your subject, know your goal. Choose your technique accordingly. I'm in the field chasing moving targets, I cannot lug a lot of equipment - just the camera. I find it brilliant for the task. Have a look at my Flickr albums to see what I'm doing.
07-01-2015, 01:54 AM   #15
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The range of advise given is vast and as you would already have noticed there is no one single correct way to do macro. Personally I do most of my work handheld and in natural light.

I have found an excellent tutorial produced by B+H
This fellow has a way of cutting through a lot of bull and getting down to the fundamentals.I hope you find it as useful as I do.
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