Nick Carver Photography Blog

Photography Tips, Tutorials, & Videos

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NEW: Macro & Close-Up Photography Online Course (on sale now!)

Announcing the ALL NEW
Macro & Close-Up Photography Online Course

New Macro & Close-Up Photography Online Course

Special introductory price for the first 10 days only!
Normally $197, now on sale for $170 'til July 19th!
Click Here for More Information

After months of hard work, I'm proud to announce the launch of my brand new Macro & Close-Up Photography online course! With 6 weekly lesson guides and 8 video presentations, this course is one of my most extensive. From equipment to composition to camera settings, this class covers all things macro.

This course will teach you how to create great close-up shots with huge magnification. And it's not all about expensive macro lenses! You'll learn about all the more-affordable equipment for getting close and how to create magnifications much greater than what a macro lens can deliver. You'll also learn what camera settings to use, how to figure out your shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, how to compose your macro photos, how to control light, and much, much more!

As with all of my online courses, this 6-week course can be taken at your own pace! Start whenever you're ready and take as long as you need to finish.

6 Weekly Lesson Guides
162 pages in all with 316 example images and 67 illustrations

New Macro & Close-Up Photography Online Course

8 Video Presentations
70 minutes in all
New Macro & Close-Up Photography Online Course

Click here for more information about this course.
Sign up at the low introductory rate before it's too late!

And be sure to check out my new Discount Packages here.

Photography Tips: Bug’s View

Skill Level: Intermediate

I think flowers are probably one of the most photographed subjects on this planet. They're beautiful, they're interesting, they're colorful and, most importantly, they are cooperative - they never get bored of posing and they never complain that you made them look fat.

But because these beautiful plants are so often photographed, it can be really difficult to get an original shot. Most flower photos end up looking about the same when you really break them down. That's why when I go to shoot flowers, I try to do everything but my first approach. Whatever my first inclination is in framing, composition or angle, I try to do something else. That's what led me to today's tip.

Next time you're out shooting some flowers, leave your macro lens in the bag and strap on your wide angle. With a wide angle lens and a really low point of view, you can get this really great effect of looking up towards the sky from beneath the flowers that makes you feel as if you are viewing the world through a bug's eye. Here's an example demonstrating this technique:

Not your average flower shot, eh?

It's quite simple to get this effect, but there are a few things you need to pay attention to in order to get the best shots possible. First off, as I mentioned, put on your wide angle lens. This gives that distorted, wide view that really makes the final viewer feel like they are in the picture.

Next, you have to make sure your exposure is going to come out right. You'll be shooting up into backlit flowers with the bright sky behind it. This lighting scenario is going to trick your camera into making the picture too dark if you don't do something about it. If you know how to manually meter, just lock in your exposure before you start snapping away and you'll be good to go. If you're going to shoot in Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or Program, push the exposure compensation up to something like +1.3 to +2.0 in order to make the picture brighter. Take a couple test shots to nail down the right compensation value.

Your camera's autofocus system is going to drive you nuts in this scenario. The AF can't focus on clear blue sky and it doesn't do well with backlighting, so chances are it's just going to be searching for focus nonstop and really slowing you down. So, just switch it to manual focus and pre-focus to the closest possible distance.

You'll want a pretty decent depth of field, but your wide angle lens has a big DOF as it is, so I'd recommend shooting somewhere around f/8-f/16.

Lastly is composition and how to actually take the shot. You're going to need such a low point of view that your camera will literally need to be on the ground. This won't allow you any room to look through the viewfinder, so you'll have to use the "shoot and pray" technique. Basically you will hold your camera down into the flowers, pointing upwards toward some flowers you think will make a good composition, and then just fire away. You won't see what your camera is seeing, so you'll just have to sort of guess what it's looking at and "pray" you got a good angle on it. Change your camera angle slightly between shots to cover a wider range and snap 5-10 pictures, then review on your screen to see how you're doing. After that, try an entirely new angle and composition and repeat. Shoot until you're sick of it or until the light's gone - whatever comes first.

Depending on how wide angle your lens is, you may find yourself getting some accidental self-portraits. Try to stretch away from your camera as best you can to avoid getting in the shot while you have it pushed down into the flowers.

This technique can be a little trickier than it sounds, but if you keep all the above tips in mind (especially on the exposure and auto focus), you'll do fine. It can be addictive, so go nuts! Now go out and get some new points of view on those flowers!

Red Skimmer Dragonfly

As is the norm here in Orange County for May and June, we've had pretty ugly sunsets. The ol' "May Gray" and "June Gloom" marine layer has been suffocating the coast nearly every evening. And with the inland hills dried up from the heat, there just isn't much landscape photography to be had within the county borders. I'd love to travel somewhere to get a taste of new scenery, but my private lessons have been booming and duty calls.

Nevertheless, I still managed to get out and take some shots. But instead of a sweeping vista, I focused my 100mm macro lens on a red skimmer dragonfly that's been hanging out in the backyard.

Red Skimmer Dragonfly

The trick with dragonflies is to not bother trying to sneak up on them - they know you're coming and they will fly off. The way to get close is to first figure out where they like to land. I've found that dragonflies (at least these red skimmer dragonflies) will usually return to the same perch over and over after doing some laps in the air. So once you've figured out where your dragonfly likes to land, get up close to the perch while it takes a lap flying around. They don't seem to mind returning to that same perch with you right next to it, so long as you don't make any quick motions. Apparently they respond to motion more than your proximity.

Then, once your dragonfly returns to its perch and you're nice and close, slowly bring your camera up to your eye and start snapping. It'll pose for you like a supermodel so long as you don't move too quickly. And keep that shutter speed fast if you're going to be handholding your camera.

Red Skimmer Dragonfly

Red Skimmer Dragonfly