Unlike other genres of photography, macro photography allows you the most control. I find that backgrounds are just as critical to the success of a macro image as the subject itself. My first tip on getting closer was for circumstances where you couldn’t control the background. My second tip is to show you that in most cases, you can control the background and it is relatively easy! The butterfly image above was taken in Butterfly World in Coconut Creek Florida. There are thousands of live butterflies in the aviary with a great variety but many times the backgrounds are less than appealing. What to do in that situation? I will walk though the aviary looking for a location with a nice background and ignore almost everything else going on! Once I find a bloom that is isolated from the background I will patiently wait for a butterfly to land on it and fire away. Using this technique in the field will always make for stronger compositions, as cluttered background will often distract from the beauty of the main subject.
This month I was invited by Sigma to test out their brand new Sigma 24-105mm F4 lens and to shoot a series of bridal images to demonstrate the versatility of the lens. I decided to put together a fashion-influenced bridal shoot in a stunning location and with the help of my incredible talented creative team. Once I had put together striking visual elements, I would then test all features of the lens that would be important to me as a working photographer.
For several years I photographed weddings, and all the challenges that come with them. I realized very quickly that the last thing I wanted to worry about was my gear. I had to focus on the posing, the lighting, keeping everyone happy, my extremely long shot-list, and much more. I needed to know my gear was reliable and would help me get those must-have moments. When I started I didn’t have a second shooter or assistant; I was the one-woman band expected to make every shot count.
Over the last few months I have been testing the newest version of the Sigma’s 120-300 f/2.8. I have nothing but good experiences with the older version of this lens so I have been looking forward to working with this lens over the winter and spring at home in Southern California. So far my experiences have changed my view of this lens, the newest version of the 120-300 f/2.8. The previous version was good. I found that this latest version has quick and accurate autofocus; the image quality is superb and the focal range excellent for nature photography.
The Sigma 105mm F2.8 Macro EX DG OS HSM lens has become one of my favorite lenses for macro photography in the field. So what makes me reach for this lens when Sigma offers five macro lenses when I own all of them? The answer is balance- the 105mm lens is really good at everything and one of the best in terms image quality. This lens can give you the sharpest results possible with an excellent balance of size, weight, working distance at a very high value per dollar price.
When photographing flowers, people often make the common mistake of trying to capture the entire flower even when there are distracting or unwanted elements in the frame. In many cases an arboretum or flower show do not allow tripods either…so what is the solution? The simple answer is to get closer! You don’t need to see the entire bloom and foliage to get your point across and macro lenses are especially well suited for this task. The image above of the Gerber Daisy is a great example of this philosophy.
With the lights this close to the bottle the focal length of the lens is critical to the success of the image. Normal or slightly wide lenses place the camera so close to the subject that controlling the reflection of the camera and studio stand in the bottle becomes an issue. For this set up I used the 150mm f/2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM macro lens made by Sigma. This focal length is perfect. The camera is well back from the set allowing room for working around the set both for adjusting the lighting and for adding to the scene. This lens is incredibly sharp and lens elements are multi-coated- it helps reduce flare from the lights and their reflections in the bottle.
Ok. I admit to being somewhat of a snob when it comes to the speed of the lenses I use. The list of my f/2.8’s includes the 120-300mm, 70-200mm, 24-70mm, 150mm Macro & 105mm Macro and a 15mm fisheye. For f/1.4 the list is all primes with the 85mm, the 50mm and the new 35mm Art lens. All of these speed demons are from Sigma of course.
So along comes the latest member of their new Global Vision lenses; the 24-105mm at what I thought was a not-so-speedy f/4.0…
In 2011 I released my first children’s picture book, CURIOUS CRITTERS, which featured close-up photographs of twenty-one animals. All the shots were taken with Sigma gear. The book really took off with children and families across North America. Within four months we sold out. To-date, we’ve sold over 100,000 copies.
When your job is to flatter your portrait subjects, you need as many tools in your photographic toolbox as possible so you are prepared for any features, and any ‘flaws’.
I think it is important to mention that I am not judging people’s appearance. As a fashion photographer, I often get to photograph what society considers “ideal” forms of beauty. What I notice time and time again, however, is that certain models’ “flaws” are what make them unique and memorable. In fact, there are several supermodels with so-called flaws like gapped-teeth, unusual noses, and more.
What matters is not what society says is ‘perfect’ but instead how your subjects perceives themselves. You want them to feel confident, attractive and proud of the images you provide them. You want to help them reduce anything they are self-conscious about and help their expression glow in their images.
Photographers, can you feel that excitement in the air? Do you see all the posts about it on social media? That’s right… WPPI is around the corner!!!
So what IS WPPI you ask? Here’s how it is described on their website:
About the Show
WPPI Conference+Expo is the premier industry event for photographers and filmmakers specializing in the creative and business aspects of wedding and portrait photography and filmmaking. Each year, nearly 13,000 professional and aspiring photographers and filmmakers attend WPPI to learn new techniques from industry leaders, build new relationships to grow their business, experience new products and solutions from major manufacturers to improve their productivity, and enjoy the many attractions in Las Vegas. WPPI is a week-long event combining educational seminars with a major industry trade show and networking events, all designed around learning the latest techniques, building new relationships and growing a business in a friendly, fun environment – all at one time, in one place.