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How to: Floral Macro on Black - II
by Wayne Johnson

Username: TTMaster
Nikonian in the USA

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I often have some spare time to dedicate to my hobby during the daytime. I don't want to wait until it is night and dark to do it, so I built a simple setup with plastic tubing to suport linen sides for diffusing the light from two reflectors.

Commercial light tents I considered were either too small or too big for the job and I wanted it to fit a table I had for the purpose.
Click for image enlargement
My setup

The backdrop is a dark cloth. Non-shinny velvet seems to work better for this purpose.

My setup works great. More so in the winter time when it is often hard to see the sun.

A set of 60 watt light bulbs are usually enough to provide the needed light. The heads of the reflectors are flexible head so they can easily be repositioned to get just the right angle. A tripod is of course a must. The lens is my 105mm f/2.8 Nikkor.


Whether you are picking flowers from your garden, a flowers market or a floral arrangements store, select flowers without blemishes or wilt. Although vibrant colors help, pastel colors can also look very nice. whether comon or exotic, interesting patterns or textures on the petals also make for more interesting photos.

Pick a room that can be easily darkened. If there is a window, cover it or shut the blinds. Turn off any overhead lights once you are all set up to prevent light from spilling onto the scene and background.

Position the light orthogonal, or at an angle to the lens, 90 is best. This means if you are shooting the flower straight on, the light should be above, or to the side of the flower. The background (black cloth or cardboard) is directly behind the flower, and should not be lit.

Click for enlargement

Fingerprints have the nasty tendency to show up in macro photography, so make sure you clean the glass with a cloth.


Images shown here were made at:
ISO 200, f/22,
6.0 sec
or similar exposures

On a D700 with 105mm f/2.8 Nikkor

Click for enlarged view  

If you meter against the black background, and then dial in -3.0 or -4.0 EV, remember your meter is setting exposure to neutral 12% gray. Or spot meter the flower and dial in -1/2 to -1.0 EV, if you are confident your background is three to four stops darker. Since I started shooting digital using a D300s, I found it is a bit easier to experiment to get just the right exposure for each arranegment. Shoot a lot of frames, and pick the best one!


Set your white balance to the temperature of your light bulbs. As it has been said before, Photoshop, with its "burn" tool is your friend! Any spots on the background that don't come out dark enough can be "burned" just like the old days in the dark room, set the tool to burn only to the darkest shades. Other than that, the photos usually need a simple levels adjustment, sharpening and resize. 

The colors are true, real, and jump out as a result of the contrast between the light and black background.

Good luck!


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