PHOTO SKILLS: BACKLIT STILL- LIFE
Are you looking for a weekend photo session that takes minutes to do and creates wall- worthy results? caroline schmidt has just the technique…
No lightbox, no problem! All you need is a sheet of paper and a window to capture these high- key blooms
WITH Spring On its way, it’s tempting to wait for wildflowers to pop up before bringing out your macro lens. But while the days are still wet and cold, a simple still- life is a good way to ease back into spring subjects and practise core camera techniques. Depending on how small your subject is, you could use a standard lens but a macro lens or extension tubes offer more scope to compose and capture detail that’s illuminated by the backlighting. Almost any pale, semitranslucent flower can work well with this set- up – tulips, calla lilies, white anemones – but when picking your subject also consider what they look like in profile when against the window. Flat- facing flowers ( like orchids), or ones with limited depth, will make the most of your macro lens’s small depth- of- field at mid- apertures and high magnification. Being able to see the stigma when holding the flower in profile can also add interest and give your image a point of focus.
1 Set- up All you need to try this technique for yourself is an A3 sheet of plain white paper, or piece of greaseproof paper. This acts like a diffuser, softening the window light and bleaching out any colour casts from the outside. Stick it to the window, before placing your flower in front of the paper and composing your shot with your camera on a tripod. There you have it: a free, instant lightbox.
2 Select your mode Set your camera to aperture- priority mode and a low ISO to retain quality. As your camera will underexpose the scene to compensate for the backlighting, you’ll need to dial in at least one stop of positive exposure compensation ( add more later if needed). Keep referring to your camera’s histogram to make sure it’s not weighted too far to the right and overexposing your highlights.
3 pick your aperture Depending on the angle of the subject to your camera’s sensor, its proximity to the lens and the type of lens you’re using, pick an appropriate starting aperture. As I’m using a macro lens and shooting at an angle, f/ 9 to f/ 11 gives the main subject sufficiently shallow depth- of- field for my taste, but you may want to stop down even further to f/ 13 or f/ 16 for added depth- of- field.
4 Set focus Use either single- point AF or manual focus to pin- point your focal point. With low contrast scenes, such as this, manual focus often proves the easiest option for consistent results, especially as your camera is attached to a tripod. To ensure sharp shots, consider using a remote release, as physically pressing the shutter button can still cause unwanted camera shake on lengthy exposures.