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Sometimes I like a black background because it helps to isolate the subject -very handy in situations where the background might ruin the shot because there’s just too much going on. But what about those situations where you want to show the subject in its natural environment? When shooting close-ups it’s easy: Just set you camera to shutter or aperture priority and use a little flash for fill (about -1 1/3 to -2 FEC). The range of exposures will be limited by the amount of natural light and the ISO you want to use, but you’ll get even lighting throughout the frame.

But what if you don’t want to be limited by the available light? What if you’d like to shoot at life size with a small aperture to get more depth and at the same time get some ambient light into the scene?  You can use what I call the Sunny 16 Rule for Macro, but to understand why it works it helps to know what the Sunny 16 Rule is and how shooting at life size changes the settings.

If you are shooting on a bright sunny day then you can set your Fstop to 16, and your shutter speed to the reciprocal of the ISO that you are using. So if you want to shoot at ISO 100 then your shutter speed is 1/100 of a second. Need to shoot at 1/200? Then set you ISO to 200. With those settings you’ll get pretty close to the ambient exposure on a bright sunny day -when shooting toward infinity...

You can easily shift the exposure around, you just have to make sure that you keep the ratio between Fstop, shutter speed, and ISO the same. Want to shoot at F11 instead of F16 and stay at ISO 200? No problem -you can increase your shutter speed by a stop to 1/400 of a second (it would have been 1/200 at F16) to eliminated the stop you gained by moving from F16 to F11. Or if you wanted to set your Fstop to 11 and your ISO to 100 then you could increase the shutter speed to 1/200 of a second. Piece of cake...

But what about shooting at life size -does the Sunny 16 Rule still work? It does, but you have to take into account the effective aperture you’re shooting at when the lens is focused at life size, which is two Fstops higher than what you have the camera set to. If you have your camera set to F16 then the effective aperture at life size is actually F32. You’ll have to make up that two stop loss and if you wanted to keep your shutter speed at 1/200 of a second you’ll have to set the ISO to 800...

But lately when shooting at life size I've been using F11 which is effectively F22. That's only one Fstop higher than 16, and if I want to keep the shutter at 1/200 of a second then all I have to do is set the ISO to 400 and on the 40D that's not a problem -and with good noise removal ISO 400 isn't an issue on most cameras (I use Noiseware Professional). So with the camera set to F11, 1/200 of a second, and ISO 400 I am pretty close to the ambient exposure for the scene but the subject is going to be in heavy shadow -just not much natural light reflecting off of it unless the sun is at my back.

This is where the flash comes in. Since the ambient light is exposing the background it’s a simple matter of putting the flash into E-TTL mode and letting the camera determine the exposure for the foreground. The end result is a nice balance between the ambient sunlight and the flash. You have to diffuse the flash, and the better the diffusion is the smoother the transition between the flash light and the sunlight will be. It’s also best to under expose a little with the flash (-1/3 to -2/3 FEC). The image I’ve included with this journal post is an example of using the Sunny 16 Rule for Macro -notice the blue sky in the background (natural light) and the lighting on the bee (flash).

A final note: At life size I could set the Fstop to 11 (effectively F22), the ISO to 200, and the shutter speed to 1/100 of a second to expose for the background. But when using the Sunny 16 Rule for Macro I’m shooting close the ambient exposure for the subject, how close depends on the angle of the sun -if it’s over my shoulder then there is a lot of sunlight hitting the subject and coming right back into the camera and I might not be able to freeze all motion with the flash. I still need to experiment with shifting the shutter speed instead of the ISO to see how much I can lower the shutter speed and still get a sharp subject. If you want to experiment on your own one way to do it, and to see the effectiveness of the ambient light, is to set up your camera and take a few shots without the flash turned on. If the subject is completely black in the frame then the flash will freeze the motion for you even if you’re using F11, ISO 100, and 1/50 of a second.
A guide to using the Sunny 16 Rule to get macro images with natural looking backgrounds.
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:iconkpitaokverna:
kpitaokverna Featured By Owner Mar 15, 2011  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you!

Hugs
Felipe Duran
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:iconmssbehave:
mssbehave Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2009
this is amazing!
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2009  Hobbyist Photographer
Thanks :)
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:iconmssbehave:
mssbehave Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2009
you welcome :)
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:icondandelgrosso:
dandelgrosso Featured By Owner May 17, 2009  Hobbyist Photographer
Hello,

This deviation has been featured in my latest journal: [link]

Thanks so much! :D
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner May 17, 2009  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you!
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:iconironmanbr:
ironmanbr Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2008
Thank you!
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Glad to help!
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:iconironmanbr:
ironmanbr Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2008
:bow:
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:iconbellalleb-stock:
bellalleb-stock Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Thanks!
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:icon1the1:
1the1 Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2008
good work mate, i had never heard of that before but had been figuring out something similar myself with the last shot i took of the hoverfly with the swayed blue backdrop. You just unlocked it for me now, thanks for the info!
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Glad to help :)
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:iconkillerangel47:
KillerAngel47 Featured By Owner May 22, 2008
Very interesting and informative!!
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner May 22, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Thanks for the feedback!
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:iconkillerangel47:
KillerAngel47 Featured By Owner May 22, 2008
You're welcome!! :XD: :hug: :D
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:iconchaval:
chaval Featured By Owner May 21, 2008
Very nice, I need to try higher ISOs on my macros, but I really hate the noise... I use NoiseNinja for reduction, but you also loose detail.
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner May 21, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
With NoiseWare I haven't noticed any loss of detail -and if I am then no one is spotting it... ;)
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:iconviedymin:
viedymin Featured By Owner May 21, 2008
Ok - but what if i have Camera with max F8.0 (other are 3.2 and 4.6) and ISO - 64/100/200/400?? This rule wil be work? Sometimes I have problem with black background cause its badly in photo like here: [link]
I like natural background/ lot of green in macro and sometimes I dont know what to do.

And i dont ever know how to do photos of a black models :/
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner May 21, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Sounds to me like you are using a pro-sumer camera that has a fixed lens (not a DSLR). The biggest limitation with that type of camera is the limited Fstop range. Try setting your Fstop to 8 and the ISO to 200 (same exposure level as F11 @ ISO 400) with a shutter speed of 1/200 of a second and adjust from there.

The good news is that you're shooting with an ultra wide angle lens, so at F8 you'll get a lot of depth...
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:iconblackwyld:
BlackWyld Featured By Owner May 21, 2008
The quality of your work is what I aspire to.

I have only had my digital SLR for about a year but I am completely in love with macro work.

Your photography inspires me whenever I see it.

If you are looking for an eager student.. you have one right here!
Thanks for all these informative articles. :)
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner May 21, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Just practice my friend -lots and lots of practice...
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:iconjoker0720:
JoKeR0720 Featured By Owner May 21, 2008  Professional Filmographer
You = awesome... I plan on using a lot of your techniques when I can finally take the images off my camera (computer is on the fritz)
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner May 21, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Thanks 8-)
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:icongogirlanime:
gogirlanime Featured By Owner May 20, 2008
EXCELLENT man, the shot and the whole written part!!

I hope you enjoy my latest, it's macro.
:thumb86231028:
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner May 20, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Thanks 8-)

The thumb code does't work in these posts. Can you send me a link to the image?
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:icongogirlanime:
gogirlanime Featured By Owner May 20, 2008
oh sorry, sure here: [link]
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner May 21, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Thanks 8-)
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:iconmacrojunkie:
macrojunkie Featured By Owner May 20, 2008  Professional Photographer
very smart,,.lovely colours,
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