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Please critique my beginner macro workflow/images

 
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Xanthocryptus



Joined: 15 Mar 2014
Posts: 9
Location: New Zealand

PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2017 2:09 pm    Post subject: Please critique my beginner macro workflow/images Reply with quote

Hi guys,

After much confusion, reading, and tinkering, I began my foray into macro by using the reverse lens technique that Rik outlined on these forums. It got me excited about the possibilities allowed by using cheap equipment to capture pretty good close up images.

My current setup is a bit different now, and I wanted to describe the workflow and show some of the images it produces for critique. I'm looking for advice and tips on how I can improve my images: maybe I'm not taking full advantage of my equipment/software; maybe I'm not using best practise in my workflow; maybe I should be getting crisper images etc.

A note on my subjects - they are dead insects. I'm a trained Entomologist, and while I photograph my subjects as a hobby, they are all mounted properly on pins and card points, labelled, and will be submitted to the largest insect repository in my country (which is lacking in specimens of the sorts I'm interested in, mainly Hymenoptera).

First I'll describe my equipment.
1. Canon 550D with 18-55mm kit lens and a set of extension tubes with metal contacts to allow autofocus.
2. Manfrotto 785B tripod.
3. LED Desk lamp.
4. Simple DIY lightbox.
5. Magic Lantern firmware, Adobe Lightroom 6.9, & Zerene Stacker.

Now the workflow.
1. Set up camera, subject, lightbox etc.
2. Use Magic Lantern to take a series of images through the focus plane of the subject at even step sizes (typically ~50 images. I normally use a step size of 1 or 2, and I use 1 image per step).
3. Import images into Lightroom to export as TIFF (remove RAW images from catalog after this).
4. Align and stack TIFFs in Zerene using Pmax.
5. Import stacked TIFF into LR and make some basic adjustments (colour, contrast, sharpening etc).

Obviously some of the images are not sharp all the way through to the back because I didn't take enough images right through the image. I can experiment further with each subject to improve this.

I know that the lighting needs to be improved - I have a cheap AmScope ring light on the way that I can put in front of the camera (or attach to the lens) and take the image through. At the moment the lamp is facing downwards diagonally, lighting the subject from above the lens.

I also know that I need to improve my Lightroom skills, and I'm actively reading up about that too and watching tutorial videos.

I've tried adjusting the stack of TIFFs in LR before stacking but it doesn;t appear to make much difference from what I can tell. Is there a standard workflow in this regard? (i.e. do most people adjust before or after stacking?)

Regarding Magic Lantern: Focus stacking is not as simple as it was when this video was produced. It's no longer a matter of specifying a start and end point, and telling ML how large you want the step size to be (it would then use this info to determine how many images it needed to take). Now you have to specify a start point, and then specify how many steps in front of, or behind that point you want to capture. This means that you have to find your start point, then use the live view controls to zoom through the image plane to the end of the subject to get the number of steps needed. It was frustrating to figure this out for myself as I wasn't sure why the video was different to my controls. (At least this is my interpretation of how it works now, please correct me if I'm wrong!)

Any feedback or criticism is much appreciated.

Aucklandella sp. (An endemic genus of ichneumonid wasp)



Pseudofoenus sp. (An endemic parasitoid that attacks an endemic species of bee)



Hydrellia tritici (Black pasture fly, an introduced fly)

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ChrisR
Site Admin


Joined: 14 Mar 2009
Posts: 7181
Location: Near London, UK

PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2017 5:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So this is the kit lens, reversed? On a ring thing connecting the contacts? Then they're not looking too bad!

More diffusoin, would be good for sure (look at some of Nikon User's pictures for records)

Are you sure you have no vibration - a few shots on flash willl soon prove the point.
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Deanimator



Joined: 23 Oct 2012
Posts: 336
Location: Rocky River, Ohio, U.S.A.

PostPosted: Sat Mar 25, 2017 9:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The subjects look great.

It would be nice if you could get the device holding them out of the picture, either through composition or change in DoF.

I haven't been able to get anything that good, although I started with 1/8" gnats and a sub-optimal work area.
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Xanthocryptus



Joined: 15 Mar 2014
Posts: 9
Location: New Zealand

PostPosted: Sat Mar 25, 2017 2:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ChrisR wrote:
So this is the kit lens, reversed? On a ring thing connecting the contacts? Then they're not looking too bad!

More diffusoin, would be good for sure (look at some of Nikon User's pictures for records)

Are you sure you have no vibration - a few shots on flash willl soon prove the point.


No the kit lens is not reversed in my newer setup - its just attached to the main body with some extension tubes.

I'm quite confident theres not alot of vibration because ML takes the images automatically and I leave the room when it's doing this. But of course houses can be a bit wobbly in the wind, and there are other people walking around so I might try to use a firmer base than carpeted floors. I could test with flash as you say.

Deanimator wrote:
The subjects look great.

It would be nice if you could get the device holding them out of the picture, either through composition or change in DoF.

I haven't been able to get anything that good, although I started with 1/8" gnats and a sub-optimal work area.


Yes I will try that - I've also experimented with using the clone tool in LR to get rid of the pin and specimen holder.

Thanks for the feedback so far Smile
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