photographing plants - the hob way

Discuss cameras, settings, composition, or anything related to photography - cactus or other subjects.
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hob
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photographing plants - the hob way

Post by hob »

First up equipment, it is well worth buying a good camera if you can afford one. Mine is getting on for 5 years old now so maybe worth looking for a second hand model if on a tight budget.

I'm using as my main camera a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 as i like the quality of the leica lens and the 10.1-megapixel high resolution.
you can see camera details here.
http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonicfz50/

Don't just throw the instruction book in a drawer :lol: read it at least twice find out what all the controls do and where to find them.

Another good piece of equipment to have is a reasonably sturdy tripod to mount your camera on.

I find my images look better if there is a plain uncluttered background surrounding the plant with nothing to distract the eye from the plant. Backgrounds do not need to be anything elaborate i use a simple piece of black cloth to stand the plant on.

The set-up
Image

To be sure to get the whole plant in focus i use the aperture priority mode and set the aperture to around F8 (the bigger the "F" number the wider the depth of focus) in dull or low light the camera will compensate by setting a slow shutter speed to gain correct exposure.
Slow shutter speeds lead to what is known as camera shake making the image blur which is where the tripod comes in holding the camera steady, at slow shutter speeds even the slight movement caused by pressing the shutter button can cause slight blurring so to be sure of a still camera I set the self timer to 2 seconds before I press the shutter button.


Once the image is taken (you might want to take several at different angles) download to the computer and have a look at a decent size on the monitor (I can't tell if I have a reasonable shot on the tiny camera screen) If you are not happy with the image go and have another go, digital images cost almost nothing to take and bad ones are easily deleted.
You paid a lot of money for the camera don't be afraid to use it, the more images you take the better the chance of a good one, with rechargeable batteries and the cheap cost of memory cards the cost of shooting images is next to nothing.

happy snapping

hob
incurable cactoholic
growing rebutia's with a mix of others.
peterb
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Post by peterb »

Thanks for the info! what I do so far: Sony Cybershot, point, shoot, import, crop and adjust color in Picasa. :-)

peterb
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SnowFella
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Post by SnowFella »

Not that I'm anything more than a hobby photographer but one tip I've found handy when shooting things like this is to if possible shoot RAW+JPG rather than JPG alone, provided you are the type that do postprocessing on your images that is.

JPG that most cameras shoot are preprocessed in the camera and you loose alot of detail by that. RAW on the other hand is just what it sounds like, the raw output from the camera without any noise reduction, smoothing, sharpness or colour corrections applied.

Downside is the size a RAW image takes up, I've got a 14.2 megapixel DSLR and one JPG image comes in at around 3Mb...a RAW image on the other hand can be over 3 times that size.
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Harriet
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Post by Harriet »

RAW is a great way to capture pictures if you are going to be tweaking them in programs such as Lightroom or others. But I have found, and you can see here on the forum, that if you have the right setting on your camera to start with you are going to get some pretty darn good pictures. Even the new point and shoots are rivaling the DSLRs in many ways, and the way they process JPGs just keeps getting better.

And as to Hob's setup, well, that's just cool. I don't have a good tripod -- just a cheap table top thing and a monopod that I bought mostly for its walking stick value (and that's all it is really good for).
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Ken Shaw
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Post by Ken Shaw »

Harriet,

Your monopod is probably good for more than just a walking stick. I find that the added mass stabilizes my cheap little camera and adds a lot of clarity to the shots.

When I learn to upload, I'll show you.
"I like the spikey ones
better than the squashy ones"
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Harriet
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Post by Harriet »

Problem with my monopod is that I cannot move the camera the way I want when I want. Hob's tripod has a gizmo that allows him to position the camera so that it can be aimed up and down as well as left and right --- the only way to move the camera up or down with the monopod is to do a kind of weird limbo, or just ignore the monopod altogether. I want the steady tripod with the ability to quickly position the camera's angle when I am using a big lens for things like tracking a shuttle launch, or when out bird watching. And, of course, for getting good closeups or macro shots like Hob does with his set up.

Just another thing on my long list of ways to spend money.
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DaveW
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Re: photographing plants - the hob way

Post by DaveW »

"Problem with my monopod is that I cannot move the camera the way I want when I want. Hob's tripod has a gizmo that allows him to position the camera so that it can be aimed up and down as well as left and right --- the only way to move the camera up or down with the monopod is to do a kind of weird limbo, or just ignore the monopod altogether."

Your monopod will have a standard tripod thread so just buy a cheap ball and socket head to go on it. Plenty on EBAY or photo dealers:-
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Re: photographing plants - the hob way

Post by DaveW »

The only things I use in addition to Hob's set-up are a remote cable release to avoid shaking the camera (even on a tripod) when making the exposure and I also tend to use a diffuser between the light source and subject to cut contrast, particularly on the bright sunny days our plants need to flower, otherwise our set-ups are virtually identical and as you see from Hob's pictures produce the desired results.

Cable Release:-

In the old days you could get a cheap cable release that screwed into the shutter release button for about £2. With the advent of electronic cameras the releases now are electronic so you can pay up to £60 or more for the camera makers release, which is a lot for what is just basically just a two position switch one end of a bit of wire and a plug the other, but can get one for very much less off EBAY. The alternative is to use the cameras self timer to trigger the exposure so you are not touching it at the time.

Diffusers:-

I use one of the circular spring open diffusers of the Lastolite type, which are really just made of white rip-stop nylon on a spring steel hoop frame, but you can get these much cheaper than Lastolite's off EBAY which are usually made in China. They often come as a central diffuser with a zip-on outer set of reflectors.

http://ronbigelow.com/articles/flowers-1/flowers-1.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

You can make your own diffuser by pinning or sticking a sheet of white tissue paper onto something like a picture frame and holding it between the sun and the plant as you take the picture. The problem with using such diffusers is you need three hands, so either need your camera on a tripod so you don't need to hold it, also preferably using a remote release so you can hold the diffuser between the sun and subject, or instead a willing assistant to hold the diffuser for you if you are hand holding the camera.

A diffuser on a bright sunny day is ideal for white flowers where the contrast range between the white petals and shadows on them would be too great for the sensor to reproduce. The example below was taken in harsh full sunlight, but with a hand held diffuser between the sun and the plant.
Gumnocalycium  stellatum.jpg
Gumnocalycium stellatum.jpg (97.75 KiB) Viewed 8641 times
Ron43
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Re: photographing plants - the hob way

Post by Ron43 »

DaveW wrote:The only things I use in addition to Hob's set-up are a remote cable release to avoid shaking the camera (even on a tripod) when making the exposure and I also tend to use a diffuser between the light source and subject to cut contrast, particularly on the bright sunny days our plants need to flower, otherwise our set-ups are virtually identical and as you see from Hob's pictures produce the desired results.

Cable Release:-

In the old days you could get a cheap cable release that screwed into the shutter release button for about £2. With the advent of electronic cameras the releases now are electronic so you can pay up to £60 or more for the camera makers release, which is a lot for what is just basically just a two position switch one end of a bit of wire and a plug the other, but can get one for very much less off EBAY. The alternative is to use the cameras self timer to trigger the exposure so you are not touching it at the time.

Diffusers:-

I use one of the circular spring open diffusers of the Lastolite type, which are really just made of white rip-stop nylon on a spring steel hoop frame, but you can get these much cheaper than Lastolite's off EBAY which are usually made in China. They often come as a central diffuser with a zip-on outer set of reflectors.

http://ronbigelow.com/articles/flowers-1/flowers-1.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

You can make your own diffuser by pinning or sticking a sheet of white tissue paper onto something like a picture frame and holding it between the sun and the plant as you take the picture. The problem with using such diffusers is you need three hands, so either need your camera on a tripod so you don't need to hold it, also preferably using a remote release so you can hold the diffuser between the sun and subject, or instead a willing assistant to hold the diffuser for you if you are hand holding the camera.

A diffuser on a bright sunny day is ideal for white flowers where the contrast range between the white petals and shadows on them would be too great for the sensor to reproduce. The example below was taken in harsh full sunlight, but with a hand held diffuser between the sun and the plant.
Gumnocalycium stellatum.jpg
What are you using to get that solid black background. Everything black I've tried does not end up solid black.
Thanks.
Ron
DaveW
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Re: photographing plants - the hob way

Post by DaveW »

I use Black cotton velvet Ron. But that can sometimes just be a start because if it does not come out jet black due to light on it with having a solid colour background you can then use the paint bucket in your post processing software by setting the colour to black and then just flood the background with it. This usually works, but in some cases it can bleed into petals or spines, but in that case just use "Edit" and remove it again.

As an example, if once you have a solid background colour be it white, grey , black or any other colour you can change it in post processing using the paint bucket tool. Here is the same shot taken against a black background but then changed to blue using that method, but I could have changed it to any colour or shade I wanted.
Echinocereus reichenbachii pailanus.jpg
Echinocereus reichenbachii pailanus.jpg (40.52 KiB) Viewed 8544 times
Echinocereus-reichenbachii-.jpg
Echinocereus-reichenbachii-.jpg (40.2 KiB) Viewed 8544 times
In some cases if wrinkles on the background catch the light you may have to fill these in separately with the paint bucket, but it usually works OK. Cheating, well maybe but no different to spotting prints with Indian Ink, knifing out ladies wrinkles or dodging under the enlarger in the old film days . :D
Ron43
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Re: photographing plants - the hob way

Post by Ron43 »

DaveW wrote:I use Black cotton velvet Ron. But that can sometimes just be a start because if it does not come out jet black due to light on it with having a solid colour background you can then use the paint bucket in your post processing software by setting the colour to black and then just flood the background with it. This usually works, but in some cases it can bleed into petals or spines, but in that case just use "Edit" and remove it again.

As an example, if once you have a solid background colour be it white, grey , black or any other colour you can change it in post processing using the paint bucket tool. Here is the same shot taken against a black background but then changed to blue using that method, but I could have changed it to any colour or shade I wanted.
Echinocereus reichenbachii pailanus.jpg
Echinocereus-reichenbachii-.jpg
In some cases if wrinkles on the background catch the light you may have to fill these in separately with the paint bucket, but it usually works OK. Cheating, well maybe but no different to spotting prints with Indian Ink, knifing out ladies wrinkles or dodging under the enlarger in the old film days . :D
Thanks Dave. I've been filling the background with black in Photoshop, but thought there may be a better background to start with. I've used black velvet as well as black foam core board. And yes at times the color does bleed, but I can work around that.
Thanks again,
Ron
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Re: photographing plants - the hob way

Post by DaveW »

If you can shade the black background to keep the light off it is OK. The best method is the black box method where you photograph the plant in front of a box with it's interior blackened rather like photographing somebody in front of a cave entrance where the light cannot reach the back of the cave. This link is a version on that method:-

http://digital-photography-school.com/t ... ng-flowers" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Surprisingly enough searching the web I cannot find an example of it, though I thought it was a well known method for macro photography. As said the idea is to use a black pretty well non reflective material like black velvet or matt black paint and put it in complete shade so no light shines on it. One of the best ways is to line the end of say a cardboard box with black velvet or paper, though paint will do, plus having the rest of its interior blackened to stop light reflections and then stage your plant in front of the opening shooting towards the darkened end of the box.

Edit: at last found an example of black box background in use by BrianMc if you scroll right down to the bottom of this link:-

http://www.bcss.org.uk/foruma/viewtopic ... ox#p189313" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Ron43
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Re: photographing plants - the hob way

Post by Ron43 »

Thanks much Dave. I'll try these methods.
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Re: photographing plants - the hob way

Post by DaveW »

Thanks for the list James.

Yes there are free photo editing programs out there. Photoshop is very expensive but Photoshop Elements, sort of "Photoshop Lite", does all I need. However it is still is not free. In fact I believe no new versions of Photoshop are being made for sale, all the upgrades will be done on the rented Cloud version. Sort of a charged for version of Windows 10, in that there will only to be upgrades and not an entirely new version in future. However Photoshop Elements is still available in new versions each year to buy since it is aimed at amateur photographers and not professionals. Actually I believe Photoshop was originally intended for the printing trade in order to alter pictures for printing and was only later taken up by professional photographers who often sent in material for publication, hence it has a lot of the functions for altering pictures for graphics and print purposes.

Personally I prefer to buy something and have it on my computer along with my images, so if Elements goes on the Cloud I will probably change to a free online ones since I hate renting software.

https://lifehacker.com/what-photoshops- ... -494225482
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Re: photographing plants - the hob way

Post by leland »

I recently downloaded a free program called Gimp but found it way too sophisticated for my current needs. The Zoombrowser program that came with one of my earlier Canon cameras works for my needs and I am used to it. Some family members were using Picasa but it was discontinued.
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