Ideas for indoor macro/closeup photography ideas without fancy gear

susannemcom

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Hello people.
Before covid-19 I had escaped a job that made me miserable, and was just adapting to life after university, trying to develop freelance services. I had an idea to try to get into stock photography but for now I'm not sure. In any case, I have a huge passion for photography and want to develop my skills, even if I can't sell any photos.

I had planned to set up a simple studio at our office in town but now I'm stuck at home. To stay positive about the overall situation, I'm trying to focus on doing more photography and hopefully get better at it. The thing is that we have a small house and were also before this struggling to declutter (we have moved from a huge house in Sweden to a small Irish cottage). I have no areas inside the house that are decent for photography with clean backgrounds etc. I've taken a few nice photos in the kitchen but now that's my husband's office.
What I have is a small area in one of our rooms where I have set up a wooden board close to a white wall. I'm thinking I can try some macro/closeup projects there. I've checked some YouTube videos on different macro ideas but all involve having a lot of lighting equipment etc. I don't have anything like that.

Can you give me your input - brainstorm about interesting ideas?

What I HAVE is:

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
with the little flash that came with it + a Nissin i40
A normal tripod
A gorilla pod
A monopod

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH OIS
Panasonic Lumix G, 25mm, F1.7 ASPH
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro
Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 12mm f/1.4 ASPH
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 45-200mm f/4-5.6 OIS

I have good natural light inside when the weather is good.
I have a large garden with (eventually) wildflowers and all kinds of things that grow in the south of Ireland

What I do NOT have:

I have NO flashlight or other decent external light equipment (it's possible my husband can dig out a building light, but only one).
I have NO equipment for using off-camera flash
I have NO softboxes

When the spring takes off and the weather is better, I have lots to photograph in the garden. For now, I need interesting macro ideas to do inside with the light and equipment available.

I also have a problem with the macro lens, perhaps I should post that in a separate thread. I'm struggling a lot with setting the focus on the macro lens - I've never been happy with the autofocus on it so I use manual focus with peaking on but often I still don't get sharp images. I don't know if I still get camera shake because of poor tripod?? Or if I should use autofocus instead because of poor eyesight (but I thought that's what peaking is for)?
I use my iPhone as a remote shutter. The problem appears when I use longer shutter speeds, outdoors I usually get good photos also handheld.

Well that's a lot, but thanks in advance for any input, whether it's about the sharpness/focus or about ideas!
 

junkyardsparkle

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I'm struggling a lot with setting the focus on the macro lens - I've never been happy with the autofocus on it so I use manual focus with peaking on but often I still don't get sharp images. I don't know if I still get camera shake because of poor tripod?? Or if I should use autofocus instead because of poor eyesight (but I thought that's what peaking is for)?
At true macro magnifications (close to 1:1) every little thing can compromise a carefully set focus, even just taking your hands off the camera after manually focusing if it's not a very solid tripod setup. Focus peaking is neat, but for really accurate fine focus I find that using magnification is still required. You could try taking the same shots with on-camera flash vs. long exposures, that should help you determine if camera motion is the problem. If you decide to use flash, there's a thread here with some examples of DIY softboxes, etc... much of which could also be applied to a work light or whatever you have available. It sounds like the Nissin i40 has optical sync abilities, so you probably do have some off camera flash capability using the stock flash as a trigger, maybe with some cardboard added to block direct light from the subject... just thoughts. :)
 

Hendrik

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You don't necessarily need flash to do this sort of photography. See this post for some ideas. One of the images was shot with an O60 macro using daylight and a reflector (white 8 1/2 x 11 copy paper - A4).

See also these posts: Concertina, Viola, Viola da Gamba. They were all shot with ambient light (on dark afternoons) against a black velvet background using foam board either for reflecting or blocking window light.

If you can get the Nissin to sync optically, then a lot is opened up to you. As @junkyardsparkle suggests, the Olympus flash can be used as a trigger. In a small room I expect it wouldn't matter where it was pointed so you could bounce it off the back or a side wall or the ceiling for extra fill.

This was an exercise in using a single flash. The image is slightly brighter on the right, but the flash was positioned at the left. The flash was shot over a baffle to a reflector on the right. The baffle on the left acted as a moderately opaque diffuser as well as a reflector. If I recall, the main flash was triggered optically by the on-camera flash which was aimed straight up at the ceiling.
 
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sgt08

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It's true you don't *need* flash but honestly I find it makes macro shooting much easier, even in good light. Using flash will allow you to shoot at whatever the max sync shutter speed is for your camera, essentially freezing any small movements you (or your subject) might make. Stop down to f/8, set your focus point to a small box and move it to wherever you want it to be on your subject, and let the camera shoot the instant it achieves focus.

Fortunately you already have the tools you need. Even your Nissin flash on the camera body will give good light if you rig up a little softbox/diffuser. There are lots of instructions online for ways to make a homemade macro diffuser to soften the light, using simple items like packing foam or a small tube made out of a cereal box or something lined with foil with kitchen paper at the end. The idea is that you want to make the light appear as large as possible from the perspective of your subject. If you can set it up so the built-in flash triggers the Nissin, then you can even hold the Nissin in one hand to move it around to get the light in different positions relative to the subject instead of just straight-on.

Many people use manual focusing too, but if you are hand-holding the camera I think you might need to manual focus to about the right spot and then use your body to shift slightly and shoot once the focal plane is in the right spot. That's what I do if I'm shooting outside in good light without a flash, say.
 

susannemcom

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Thanks lads!!! :thumbup::thumbup: I've found a video on how to set up the Nissin flash, if this works I'll be super happy! I'll definitely check out ideas for DIY softboxes. I'm very lucky - my husband is receiving a new laptop today or tomorrow and it should come with packing foam...

Today we have good weather so there are plenty of good photography options.
My main problem now (not counting the more serious problem out there) is that the text on my Nissin dials is wearing off and I basically have nothing left on the small dial. I'll have to create some DIY solution for that. Now it's set to manual because that's what I've always used.
 

Bushboy

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Lol. But you already have the fancy gear...
I can’t do closeups without tripod and cable release.
Backgrounds make or break most pics.
Lately I’ve been using the little flash that came with the camera. It’s been quite the interesting thing to play with...
 

Richard_M

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I rarely have an issue with AF using the 60mm macro. Sure it can sometimes get confused when the subject is small and there is a busy background. In these situations I put my hand in front of the subject and let the camera focus on my hand, then it will focus on the subject. About the only time I use flash inside is for moving subjects, e.g. water droplets. For everything else I use ambient light if daytime, or the down lights if it’s dark.

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Petrochemist

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I rarely have an issue with AF using the 60mm macro. Sure it can sometimes get confused when the subject is small and there is a busy background. In these situations I put my hand in front of the subject and let the camera focus on my hand, then it will focus on the subject. About the only time I use flash inside is for moving subjects, e.g. water droplets. For everything else I use ambient light if daytime, or the down lights if it’s dark.

View attachment 811531
Nice close up, but it's not even remotely macro, which is why AF generally works fine.
Most tea cups are ~3" across & your scene is around twice that. To meet the normal definition of macro the subject should be less than 1" across when using MFT.
DOF reduces drastically as magnification goes up.
 

Richard_M

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Nice close up, but it's not even remotely macro, which is why AF generally works fine.
Most tea cups are ~3" across & your scene is around twice that. To meet the normal definition of macro the subject should be less than 1" across when using MFT.
DOF reduces drastically as magnification goes up.
The photo was included to show an indoor image without the use of flash, it is also a focus stack. Most of my macro/ close-up photography is in the bush photographing native orchids. These are generally tiny and not always in good light, or an ideal location.
 

ThereAndBackAgain

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I've made fairly efficient reflector diffusers by scrunching up cooking foil, flattening it out again and gluing it shiny-side-down to a piece of cardboard. Quite handy for a bit of side-light.
 

ac12

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As @ThereAndBackAgain said, easy and cheap; aluminum foil on a piece of cardboard for support. You just have to figure out how to hold it in position as you shoot.
A friend of mind shoots in her bathroom at a specific time of day, when the light coming in the window gives her good lighting for still-life.
I use a simple desk lamp. When shooting inannimate objects, they don't move, so a 1/2 second exposure does not matter.

Tip: get a 4-way rail like this
https://www.ebay.com/itm/4-Way-Macr...130608?hash=item2637ee70f0:g:n04AAOSw0vJcH2wL
And put it on the tripod.
It makes it easier to do macro/close up. If you want to move the camera an inch, you don't have to pick up and move the tripod.

For practice, I would just do something simple for the background.
Like a sheet or towel, lay one end on a table and lift the other end up at 90 degrees, and attach to a support, or tape to the wall. That gives you a seamless background, from horizontal to vertical.
If you are doing macro (IOW TINY subject), a sheet of paper would do.
 

JNB

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Though I have more sophisticated equipment, I often use natural window light and a white cardboard reflector. The window light varies from directional and strong to soft and diffuse depending on the time of day and weather. For close-ups, backgrounds can be all kinds of things. I've used white or coloured paper, white china plates, flagstones stolen from the garden, large dessicated leaves from the garden and so on. For subjects, you may have some things in the garden even though it's off season. Lots of household items, including food. Be prepared to learn a few things like post-processing to achieve the look you want, focus-stacking, and so on. Mostly, HAVE FUN.

Afternoons and Coffeespoons
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Springs Embrace (a Slinky toy)
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The Curl (pencil shaving)
_1010448-Edit-Edit-Edit.jpg
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Dessicated hosta leaf (On a flagstone from the garden. My first try at focus stacking)
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Raindrops on my window (screen reflected, colour toned.)
_1040016-Edit-Edit.jpg
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Forks (cell-phone pic, low sun coming in window)
Forks.jpg
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susannemcom

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Though I have more sophisticated equipment, I often use natural window light and a white cardboard reflector. The window light varies from directional and strong to soft and diffuse depending on the time of day and weather. For close-ups, backgrounds can be all kinds of things. I've used white or coloured paper, white china plates, flagstones stolen from the garden, large dessicated leaves from the garden and so on. For subjects, you may have some things in the garden even though it's off season. Lots of household items, including food. Be prepared to learn a few things like post-processing to achieve the look you want, focus-stacking, and so on. Mostly, HAVE FUN.
Thanks! These are super cool. I hate the idea of focus stacking but I might try it just to learn how awkward it is and what it can do.
I'm going to play around with kitchen stuff today. My husband found the working lamp so I have a very good setup now, PLUS I have my Nissin flash set up with TTL! I'm also going to make a reflector with kitchen foil as someone recommended.
I think this will revolutionise my photography.. now if I only had a good solution for background and diffusers. But I have some ideas.
 

susannemcom

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Brilliant! You're reminding me that I can use my iPad to get that kind of reflection.
 

JNB

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Desiccated leaf in the back yard yesterday. {I realized that I'd misspelled desiccated in my previous post. One of those words that's easy (for me) to forget how to spell. At my age, I second-guess myself all the time when playing Scrabble.} :)

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WaltP

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Desiccated leaf in the back yard yesterday. {I realized that I'd misspelled desiccated in my previous post. One of those words that's easy (for me) to forget how to spell. At my age, I second-guess myself all the time when playing Scrabble.} :)

View attachment 812342
Simply gorgeous!!! I like it with a little more left cropped out, but either way it is beautiful!!
Thanks! These are super cool. I hate the idea of focus stacking but I might try it just to learn how awkward it is and what it can do.
I'm going to play around with kitchen stuff today. My husband found the working lamp so I have a very good setup now, PLUS I have my Nissin flash set up with TTL! I'm also going to make a reflector with kitchen foil as someone recommended.
I think this will revolutionise my photography.. now if I only had a good solution for background and diffusers. But I have some ideas.
I hope that Nissin strobe also does manual, and that it goes low enough in power to make your life easier. Otherwise ND filters (on camera or flash) can reduce that light to useable levels.
 
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