Special Lighting Techniques
There are several special lighting techniques you can use.
Fiber Optic Light Source
Fiber optic light sources are available that offer highly controllable, small light sources. They generally consist of a quartz halogen light source inside a metal box, which is fed into one, two, or more flexible arms, usually around
1.5 feet long (0.5 meter), containing lengths of glass fiber that channel the light. One example is the Kaiser Macrospot 1500. Some units also have an electronic flash tube, making them excellent for freezing the movement of subjects such as pond life or small insects. Their great advantage is that the light source emitted from the fiber optic arms is cold, and so it can be placed close to living subjects. The arms can even be immersed in water if
appropriate. Although expensive, fiber optic sources are excellent for small subjects, and secondhand units often can be found on Internet auction sites such as eBay.
Be careful when using fiber optic light sources to not bend the arms excessively, as this can fracture the glass fibers.
A small light box can be very useful in the macro studio for photographing transparent or translucent subjects such as leaves, fern fronds, and the like. Ideally, it should be daylight balanced, though images can be easily color balanced in software, particularly if you are shooting RAW files. Once you have framed the subject in the camera on the light box, mask off the rest of the light box area with black paper or card to minimize flare.
Tent lighting is used for highly reflective subjects such as coins or other metallic subjects. The subject is effectively enveloped by a white translucent tent through which light is shone. Tent-style units are now sold for photographing small products for advertising items on Web sites such
as eBay, but for many small subjects you will need smaller tents. White translucent plastic coffee cups with the bottoms removed, or white Perspex translucent lampshades are very useful (available in most furniture or lighting stores), though you can also construct one from tracing paper.
When working with the Canon MP65 lens, because the distance between lens and subject is so small, I often attach a collar around the front of the lens
This is a technique derived from microscopy for viewing transparent or translucent subjects. The subject appears to glow against a black background. Light is shone through the subject at an angle, such that if the subject were not present, no light would appear in the lens. Any light deflected by the subject is seen through the camera.
You will probably need to use at least two lights for this technique. It is worth taping strips of black card to the sides of the flash units to direct the light more accurately and reduce the risk of flare.
You will probably be using electronic flash for much of the time in the studio, but other types of light are available such as daylight, tungsten, and fiber…
If your flash units do not have modeling facilities, then you can use small reading lamps to simulate the light given by the flash, though they rarely give a truly accurate result. Remember too that tungsten and quartz halogen light emit a lot of heat, which, when focused onto a small subject, can quickly damage it.
At some point, you will probably need to block out the light from windows so that you can assess precisely the light falling on the subject.
Don’t ignore the possibilities of daylight in the studio, and make use of its unpredictability and variability. Tracing paper over the window on a sunny day can turn the window into a large soft box, making it excellent for flower portraits, for example, or shiny metallic objects. Reflectors can be used to direct light onto subjects. You will probably need long exposures when working with daylight.
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