The Money Shot
I’ve started upon the path of documenting how things are done just so others can learn from them. So here’s the problem/solution.
Problem: My cousin wanted me to take a picture of this rare gold coin he wants to sell on flea bay. Only 1000 were made, and it’s 1oz of gold.
There are two solutions to this:
A) A professional setup, requiring strobes, softboxes, backdrops, etc.
B) The lazy man’s minimalistic setup.
Since I’m doing this for free, and I’m too lazy to go to my gear closet to whip out the setup required for A), I chose the path of least resistance. B)
2) A macro lens (I’m using a 100mm macro lens) but if you don’t have one, Any other lens greater than or = to 50mm will suffice.
3) An understanding of manual mode for your camera, and overriding your autofocus so you can focus manually.
5) A window for lots of sun. If no window or sun is present,
I recommend full spectrum light bulbs
These bulbs pack a punch and they don’t have the nasty orange hues that traditional tungsten bulbs do. They’re daylight balanced at 5500Kelvin. You take a few of these, turn them on and you’ll have the power of the sun at your disposal. I’ll go over a typical setup at a later date with a DIY (do it yourself) softbox.
My setup, I decided to shoot straight down. I knew there wasn’t much light to begin with and I didn’t feel like dragging anything out. Under ideal conditions, to get the sharpest picture, I would normally shoot the aperture at F11 or so. But that will require a lot of light. So I compromised and shot it at F 5.6 aiming the camera as parallel as I could to the subject.
Here’s a crude drawing I did to explain why:
Note: this is simplified! So people can understand! I don’t want any complaints as to why I’m not factoring distance and lenses into the equation) Imagine the coin is the flat line. The red X is where I’m focusing the camera. The circle, is what would be considered ‘in focus’ or sharp. At F2.8 The circle only covers a smaller section. So at lower apertures, you get less of a circle.
At higher apertures, F11, the circle is larger/Deeper. Therefore at an angle, I could get most of the coin to be sharp. Which is why I had to be as close to parallel to the coin as possible. Because I knew I didn’t have enough light to shoot at F11…so The more parallel I got to the subject, the more I could get away with at shooting at smaller apertures. This is the reason why I shoot groups of people 2 or greater at F5.6 or stopped down further (towards F11).
For this shot, you can see that the background is blurred,
with some of the text being sharp. If you note my crude drawing above that, I followed the same principal. I aimed my focus point (the red x) on the text at the lower end of the frame. Since everything else was at deeper behind it, I knew it would be blurry if I shot it at lower apertures. So I intentionally shot this at f3.5 to make that ‘circle’ smaller, to make everything else blurry.
The final shot: 1/20 a sec F 5.6 ISO 800
I wasn’t too happy with the outcome, but quite frankly was too lazy to setup lights. Remember, usually for macro photography, you want to be in manual focusing mode. As great as autofocus is, nothing beats the human eye when it comes to narrowing focus at that range.