Sunday, 16 May 2010

Cheap and simple macro soft box

When taking macro pictures, or pictures of fairly small objects in general, a common problem is to get the lightning right. More even lightning can be achieved by using a "soft box", essentially a contraption that spreads light from one (or a few) light sources over a larger area.

A very cheap and simple soft box is a transparent bucket, like this one:

Preferably, it should have as neutral density as possible. If it has some colour tint, the images will get the wrong white balance. It is of course possible to adjust the white balance later, especially if you're using RAW images, but it is better to have as correct colours as possible from the start.

When photographing the object, place it inside the bucket, with the light source on one side, or from the closed end, like this:

In this case, I used a Panasonic Lumix GH1, with an Olympus 50mm f/2 macro lens. This combination can only be focused manually, which is no problem for macro use.

The light source is simply the sun light coming from the window on the top side of the image. One could also have used a flash pointing towards the side of the bucket, however, an off camera TTL flash would have been preferable, which is probably not so common for people to have for this system.

Here is an example picture, taken with (left) and without (right) the softbox. As you can see, the softbox image has softer contrasts. Besides, the picture taken without the softbox has reflections from the window. The right image also has some shadows next too the feet, which you may need to edit out later.

I used ISO 100, f/5.6 for both images. The shutter speed was 1/3.2 second for the left image, and 1/5 second for the right image, since the softbox steals some light.

Here is another example image, showing a Pelikan M425 piston filler fountain pen. I used f/13 to achieve enough depth of field.

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