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Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), with morning dewQuite a strong image as is but a greater depth of field would be even better. Not sure wha aperture range you have, and tiny apertures on none specialist macro lenses can result is soft images. Ideally about f11 or 16 if the lense quality will take it and a tripod to deal with the long exposure.

You are relying on a degree of back light here and that is important to the efrect. Given time and equipment, you could set up a flash out of shot slightly behind the subject onan extension lead to emulate that lighting and give the intensity to get the small aperture.

Whilst high ISO is one route, critical quality will suffer and a minimum ISO is always the best choice if possible.

Toen wij uit Rotterdam vertrokken (when we left Rotterdam)The huge danger with not using AWB as the standard setting is that you forget to reset for each shot in different lighting, or that you don't really understand colour tempersture. I would leave the camera set on AWB for grab shots as it usually gets things close to correct.

Then, if you understand, use your own chosen settings for specific shots or sequences providing you understand what the colour temperature implications are.

Russian doll feeding her chickensA polariser will not stop this because the reflected light is not polarised. Even a diffuser will not stop glare on shiny surfaces, but should help reduce it. The answer is not easy. Very flat lighting in the first place, then brighten and up the contrast to put some punch back.

The pro answer is a light tent. These are used for shiny small objects. Completely surrounf the object with a white translucent object with a hole for the camera lens, then light the light tent fromthe outside as evenly as possible.

21/07/2014 - 8:35 AM

Portrait attempt

Portrait attemptNot bad at all, and I like the tight crop. The lighting is not ideal. Rather flat giving low contrast and mainly mid tone grey which causes that flat effect. You need a bit more light to brighten things up, but a touch of extra contrast here will help.

Natural light portraits can be very nice, but you still need a bit of modelling in that light. Enough to give some shadows, even faint.

16/07/2014 - 7:49 AM

Susie at Glendalough House

Susie at Glendalough HouseYou have a good basic image but, as above, it is very under exposed. You have first rate gear, you have shot in RAW and on manual.

Does the unprocessed image look under exposed. I assume it must. How did you meter? If shooting in manual, you must have something to base the settings on? No idea what stage you are at, but this will have looked very under on the LCD, so I guess the metering was out.

Having said that, you shot in RAW, and you should be able to easily recoup this degree of under exposure in a RAW file.

Are you getting the basics right?

OK, the light level was very low, but you must get exposure and focusing right. Absolutely basic requirements.

Shoot in RAW + Best JPG. Shoot one on auto and one on the manual setting you think is right. Auto will be close, Best JPG will be close. Compare the results and work on the RAW file to get an image better than the Best JPG.

Often better, in my opinion, to keep sharpening in RAW low and give it a final boost in the image processor as necessary.

07/07/2014 - 7:54 AM


FlowerThis is rather nice. I would normally prefer the narrow plane of sharpness nearer the front, but it seems to work well here. Steer clear of close up lenses. Even the best degrade performance. Extension tubes are probably the cheapest way into macro photography, giving light loss due to extension, but no degrading of light.

A zoom lens is not a good bit of kit for macro at any time. On tubes, you need to be careful of the focal length used, wide not being a good idea, and fof macro you will regularly need f18 to f22 for depth of field. Most zooms are not at their best at such apertures.

Buy tubes and a 50mm 1.8 lens. Cheaper than a macro and the combination will work well, if much slower than a dedicated macro lens.

The real answer is a macro lens. I would always recomment the Sigma 105mm. The lens many magazines use to test camera bodies.

07/07/2014 - 7:31 AM

Damselflies on Lily

Damselflies on LilyThings look good at this size, but I suspect the high ISO might be visible in a big print. This is well observed and taken. Ideally maybe a little closer, but already at 300mm.

Even using auto, learn to stear clear of the preset modes. Not a good way to learn. Here, the ideal settings were 100 or 200 ISO for quality, and f11 for depth of field and to use the lens sweet spot. Most lenses perform at their best at f8, f11. You then need a corresponding shutter speed for correct exposure. This may mean too slow speed tp hand hold at 300mm so camera support is a really good idea.

When out for walks I always have a monopod attached. Google it if it means nothing. Gives noteable extra support and doesn't cost the earth. Also doubles as a walking stick.

02/07/2014 - 9:50 AM

The Busker

The BuskerNice, and the colour is good. It suggests street lighting of the sodium variety and his look suggests ready to run if the law appears. I like it.

Colour balance? Does the image look good? If yes, the colour balance is right for the image, and who cares what it 'should be. I used to shoot quite a bit of technical stuff back in the late 60's and early 70's with Rolleiflex and, often, MPP 5x4. There were basically two film types as I remember and not for all different lighting. Not possible.

Daylight balanced and tungsten balanced. Mixed lighting is always a problem in the field, but in a studio we used tungsten lights and film. We had a set of Kodak Wratten colour correction filters and had a hand colour temperature meter. Knowing the Kelvin of the film, you added filters to correct the colour to that indicated on the meter. Blue shades to cool and red to increase.

Simple but a bind.

I know Willie advocates not using auto white balance. 99% of my images are on auto, which I find usually correct, but easy to alter in the RAW processor. The danger of setting other white balance values is knowing what the colour actually is - for example fluorescent light comes in many shades, and that you WILL forget to change the setting as light type changes.

02/07/2014 - 8:24 AM

Signature Spider

Signature SpiderNot bad from a phone, but you are trying to use an instrument just not meant for this type of subject as more than a general record. I have added my standard macro comments below as much for others as yourself as you simply cannot use them with a phone camera.

So, given the equipment, actually a decent record.

Macro means from about 1:2, half life size to about 10 times life size. Larger than that range is MICRO. Smaller is close up.

Ideally, when that close, you need a lot of depth of field, so a small aperture, f16 to f22. Wide aperture, shallow depth macro can be impressive, but tends to be more for effect than a technical record. Most lenses do not perform at there best at such small apertures.

Ideally you need a true macro lens. These come in fixed focal lengths only. NONE are zooms. Focal lengths are around 50mm, 100mm and 150mm. Go for the 100mm as it gives a good distance from the subject at 1:1. These lenses are designed to work well at small apertures.

The best macro lenses have internal focusing. The front element does not revolve and the lens dimensions do not change during focusing. It is best to not have a lens with rotating elements at all. Those that change length are best used on manual focus.

Exposure is the main problem. When very close to the subject, light can be restricted for various reasons, and at f22, you need a lot of light. For static subjects, a tripod is required and longer exposures but remember, outdoors, even a breath of wind can mean subject movement.

You need a fast shutter speed to avoid shake, you need a tiny aperture for depth of field and minimum ISO for image quality. Not easy. The answer is flash. However, this close the gun must be on an extension lead off the camera to point at the subject and, in many cases, you will get a black or very dark background.

There are specialist flash units available which attach to the lens filter thread. This is why internal focusing lenses are best. These flash units may have several heads but the most useful is the ring flash. They start at about 100 for simple units and can be quite a lot more with several internal heads and variable power to each.

I use auto focus on the lens when chasing fast moving insects with care that the lens focuses where I want it to. Manual focus always if there is time for accuracy. Flash can be on manual, with test exposures to get the exposure correct. I find my Sigma Ring flash works well with ETTL set, but does need compensation set. Compensation is usually +1 to 2 stops, calculated on each session.

If you do not change ISO or distance, then the settings remain constant.

With the flash, I easily achieve f18, ISO100 and any shutter speed I want up to the flash synch point.

There are a range of possibilities and you must design your own procedure. The above acts as a basic start point only.

29/06/2014 - 6:24 PM

Siamese fighter

Siamese fighterQuite a strong image. Hardly environmental, though, with the fish in an irnamental tank. May be slightly over saturated. Slow shutter speed and flash? Why do that.

If you are using flash, the shutter speed can be much faster providing the flash is controlled and correctly positioned.

25/06/2014 - 1:20 PM

After the Rain

After the RainQuite nice but slightly mixed feelings with regards to depth of field and corresponding sharpness plane. There is a lot of drops there, some very sharp, sone not, but no compositional shape. I would prefer a dominent area of extreme sharpness, with all the remainder at various degrees of softness.

The centre of the bloom being unsharp also pulls the eye.

23/06/2014 - 9:06 AM

Sunset over Rio de Janeiro

Sunset over Rio de JaneiroLooks effective, but I, too, think it lacks sharpness. Why f22? At this distance, f8 would have been enough, even f5.6, then you would have a sensible shutter speed and a potentially sharp result.

19/06/2014 - 8:48 PM

Silky way

Silky wayOh boy, what a lot of comment.

This is NOT high key. It cannot be. Not really open for discussion. Everything other than a small number of items should be very over exposed. This is a grossly over exposed sky and reasonably exposed foreground. Classic landscape error.

It needs a sky and it needs a subject. There is nothing really there compositionally and there needs to be a focal point.

If you, the author, like it, that is all that matters, but take it from an old circuit club judge, it wont win a lot of cups.

18/06/2014 - 8:29 AM

Yellow jacket

Yellow jacketIt looks like a Hover Fly to me. Many different species. Would not work in natural history record due to the plastic feel, but definitely of interest.

14/06/2014 - 3:02 PM


GlowNot bad at all. Pleasant colours and composition. I suspect half a stop less exposure might have been even better, and a slightly smaller aperture to increase depth of field. There is a very sharp plane in there, but it is shallow and it's a matter of taste if the various blurred areas are a few too many.

This is a close up, not macro. Manufacturers will call their close focusing zooms macro, but macro is 1:1 or great. Sonetimes stretched to 1:2. There is no such thing as a zoom which has true macro. Just a point on terminology.

29/05/2014 - 6:54 AM

Libertia grandiflora

Libertia grandifloraFor me, quite a long way under exposed. The classic problem when shooting something white. How did you meter? If n auto setting, you needed at least +1 stop compensation. If manual, you are not using your metering correctly and your LCD image should tell you this is under.

Otherwise, the image is good, but exposure and focusing are the two basic principles that you must get right.

I am less keen tan Willie on manual white balance. We did not have such luxuries in the days of film, having to buy either daylight or tungsten balanced stock with the only possibility of variation, colour balance filters. How many people had those? Manual white balance is best IF you understand colour temperature and if you have time. You must also remember to set the white balance as light source changes.

Always leave the camera on Auto white balance ready for that grab shot and reset to auto at the end of a session.

28/04/2014 - 8:26 AM


DOGDAY AFTERNOONToo much going on again, Ian. Too many distractions. I prefer the mono as the colour version is a touch flat, but your processing on the mono is a bit obvious and patchy. Particularly obvious is your dodging on the main figure which spills out round him. You need to use an much enlarged image and a smaller brush.

23/04/2014 - 7:00 AM


EspelhosI see what you are trying to do, but the bottom crop is much too dramatic destroying the balance of the image. You need more included at the bottom and care with her arm position - looks like prize fighter muscles.

22/04/2014 - 12:48 PM

Mirrored Lady

Mirrored LadyInteresting, but I would have either got in closer or cropped all the window frames off, just leaving the figure. Much more impact then.

09/04/2014 - 7:56 PM

Another Lovely

Another LovelyWas your camera new? Have you dropped it? It is possible to disloge the sensor slightly. There should be no lean. Set the camera on a tripod, set it dead level with a spirit level and shoot a vertical subject. That will tell you. Ifvthe sensor has moved, it would not be worth the repair bill I fear.

Quite like this. It is a pityvyou cropped the roof. Get lower and look up. Get it all in and make the converging verticals really work for you. It is a touch flat. It is often a good idea to boost contrast after a sepia conversion.