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Thread: Advise for Macro Lighting with Strobe

  1. #1
    blakedoyle's Avatar
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    Advise for Macro Lighting with Strobe

    Hi all,

    I have been experimenting with macro on my Sinar F 4x5, only to encounter many issues and re-shoots along the way.

    A current example:

    Shot in the studio with AlienBee B800s, one triggered by a Pocket Wizard the others follow via slave.

    Camera
    Sinar F
    210mm Rodenstock Sironar-n F5.6
    Portra 400

    Metering (All taken incident, Sekonic L-508)
    Background:
    2 B800 with reflector (1/4 Power)
    Meter - F256
    Subject:
    1 B800 with reflector & 20 grid (1/16.5 Power)
    Meter - F90

    Bellows 23in = 3 stop compensation

    Expose F32 1/8sec

    Results as follows.. As you can see, the subject is drastically too dark. There's some detail, but it's drastically under exposed & the vibrant color is non-existent.

    This was scanned on an Epson V800, simply laying the film on the glass. I've made slight adjustments in the scanner software in attempt to obtain the maximum amount of detail. No further editing was done.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Questions
    Metering: Is my incident meter and the modeling light not accurately portraying the scene? I only use the model light to predict the light shape, shadow, etc. but it seems to provide little to no use aside from focusing. I've tried using a 1 degree spot, but focusing on something so small with spot seems impossible. What's recommended for the most accurate metering?

    Depth of Field: How can one predict the depth that will be covered at higher magnifications? I'm trying to find the line between maximum aperture and avoiding diffraction. Alternatively, there are instances I'd like to shoot shallow, but it's hard to understand given the magnification what aperture is the perfect amount of DOF and what aperture may be too shallow.

    Color: I'm still working to learn how to control color with a desired film stock. I've been shooting without a lens hood, I'm sure this play a role in contrast and color, but what techniques are used to understand color in relation to the film stock, lighting source and subject? Are there dedicate color meters? As Portra and Ektar are similar daylight balanced film, does that mean the general rules will follow between these two stocks?

    Strobe: The B800s have created their own deal of tension in this as well. Consistent misfires and unpredictable modeling light projections. Are there tips to helping these two issues? Also, I've been told strobe may have it's own unique color. How can I factor this in? As I'd prefer continuous lighting at this time, strobe is the only thing available. I feel they will be able to help vastly as I can freeze and multi fire to compensate for lost exposure in bellows. Still, this invisible aspect is really hurting my end result, as I can't accurately predict the lighting I've created.

    Overall: Many of these issues arise out of my lack of experience. As many before me had polaroid, I have no testing material to ensure that the lighting and exposure will be correct. What can I do to stop wasting film and time reshooting? Are there digital backs available for this purpose? I'd prefer not to use a DSLR, as I feel this will only complicate the issue. Alternatively, what are techniques available to help minimize these issues.

    If you've made it this far, thank you for your time & any advice you may have.


    Setup Photos

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    Last edited by blakedoyle; 6-Apr-2020 at 12:38.

  2. #2

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    Re: Advise for Macro Lighting with Strobe

    First, modeling lights are unreliable for metering and strobe brightness estimations, as the lamps output vary over time/use, so you should be reading the flash exposure directly... A 1deg flash spot meter would help a lot...

    For DOF, the best thing is to get used to seeing it directly on the gg... Longer lenses have a more abrupt fall-off, but training yourself using one for awhile will show you the limitations, so when you go back to shorter FL's, you will discover you have a little more breathing room... Most lenses are adequately sharp at f22, so don't over think it...

    Color will reveal itself on the lightbox later (you don't need a color meter for strobe)... A set of CC filters or viewing filter set will do while looking at it, then put that filter on camera while shooting with that film stock/processing combo... Most modern strobes are pretty good with color balance, so this might not be needed, except for maybe for old film, etc...

    The probable problem was the back light was way too bright, but subject light too weak... With chrome film you have about 1 stop over and under the middle grey exposure, but if the subject was too dark, the excess flare from the background can slightly inflate the exposure, often with a color shift... So the white background should read no more than 1 stop over, or bad things happen...

    But you are doing everything right, but probably have to reign in lighting contrasts...

    Good luck!!!

    Steve K

  3. #3
    blakedoyle's Avatar
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    Re: Advise for Macro Lighting with Strobe

    Quote Originally Posted by LabRat View Post
    First, modeling lights are unreliable for metering and strobe brightness estimations, as the lamps output vary over time/use, so you should be reading the flash exposure directly... A 1deg flash spot meter would help a lot...

    For DOF, the best thing is to get used to seeing it directly on the gg... Longer lenses have a more abrupt fall-off, but training yourself using one for awhile will show you the limitations, so when you go back to shorter FL's, you will discover you have a little more breathing room... Most lenses are adequately sharp at f22, so don't over think it...

    Color will reveal itself on the lightbox later (you don't need a color meter for strobe)... A set of CC filters or viewing filter set will do while looking at it, then put that filter on camera while shooting with that film stock/processing combo... Most modern strobes are pretty good with color balance, so this might not be needed, except for maybe for old film, etc...

    The probable problem was the back light was way too bright, but subject light too weak... With chrome film you have about 1 stop over and under the middle grey exposure, but if the subject was too dark, the excess flare from the background can slightly inflate the exposure, often with a color shift... So the white background should read no more than 1 stop over, or bad things happen...

    But you are doing everything right, but probably have to reign in lighting contrasts...

    Good luck!!!

    Steve K

    Steve, thank you for your response.

    1) As I test exposure, I am popping the strobes for the reading. I solely use the model light to see the shape of light and for focusing. In regards to the spot. As the subject may be very small, with a 1 degree spot, I find the subject blurry in the viewfinder & I'm unsure if I'm getting an accurate reading. This is why I have opted to use incident in the case. For instance, the fork prongs, I'd have to get extremely close to place the meter on a single prong. What do you think?

    2) I do have a set of viewing filters, do you mean judge this by eye? Then find the corresponding filter to place at the lens? I'm 100% unfamiliar with the coloring process. Ideally, I'm looking for best methods to handle color regardless of the lighting, whether it be strobe, continuous or natural.

    3) This is a great point. In my thinking, I saw my incident metering's as zones. For instance, I read the background at F256, 2 stops greater than my exposure base of F90. This led me to think that this will hypothetically fall into the same space as what would be a zone 7. Now that I think, the reflected value would provide a far different reading than my incident due the the color of subject.

    In this case, what would you change in the strobe reading to create this balanced contrast? I'm shooting Portra 400, so I have a bit more room for error than transparency. In my eyes, I was shooting at the subjects exposure, so it did not matter how bright the background was. It just have to be bright enough to create pure white. I agree, that the balance of light has caused this issue.

    Based on the technical data I've provided. What would you change? Maybe in terms of the incident readings I have been using?

    Again, thank you for your insight. I plan to re-shoot this evening.

  4. #4
    Pieter's Avatar
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    Re: Advise for Macro Lighting with Strobe

    If you have a digital camera that functions in manual mode, it can give you an idea of your lighting and exposure. I use one all the time like I would have used a polaroid in the past. It does not have to match the exact angle and position of the LF camera/lens (except for situations where there are critical reflections) to give you a good preview of your lighting and exposure. In macro shots, I suggest actually either setting up the digital camera first, or having a second tripod with the digital camera that you can swap out with the LF set-up for test shots. Another option is to fit an adapter to the LF camera that will take a digital body, but you will ned to shift the adapter around to shoot the entire area or just judge by the severely cropped image of the sensor.
    https://fotodioxpro.com/products/4x5...4b31e77e&_ss=r

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  5. #5
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    Re: Advise for Macro Lighting with Strobe

    Here is an example, in MF. The test shot was with a Nikon D4, 55mm micro lens.
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    Here is a scan of the final print, Rollei 6008 integral, 90mm macro lens.
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  6. #6

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    Re: Advise for Macro Lighting with Strobe

    OK, first expose for the key (subject) light, then fill (the "holes" of shadows), then background... Start with the reflective metal of the fork (which will be bright) and place that and the background +1 stop of middle grey reading... The darkest item is -1 stop to hold detail... The spot meter reading flash should be at the lens distance as close as possible to the lens axis, but on side of camera usually ok (unless object is very reflective)...

    "Zones" don't correspond directly to the scene range, rather there is usually 1 stop over middle grey for the brightest highlights, then 1 stop under for shadow or dark detail with chrome films, 2 stops under for color neg, and about 3 for B/W... Zones are the range of tones that fit into the above stops... Simplify and use above settings...

    As mentioned, you probably won't need color correction too much at all with strobe, but chromes are usually checked on the lightbox and filters added based on your (trained) eye... But with the color neg you are using, most can be fixed later unless severe (that can cause a color crossover somewhere else)... But don't worry about that, you should be close...

    As mentioned, excess bright white (background) can throw things off, and the IC can throw a lot of flare inside camera, so flagging the lights as best as possible is good, as well as shooting through a frame cut out mask (an old window mat will do) just beyond the frame lines to limit the IC excess...

    Try to reverse the incident meter to see the light coming from behind, but follow the range scale posted above...

    I do small stuff like this with cheap painting reflector lights with decent spectrum LED bulbs (mostly B/W), but easier to read lighting...

    Good luck!!!

    Steve K

  7. #7
    blakedoyle's Avatar
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    Re: Advise for Macro Lighting with Strobe

    Quote Originally Posted by Pieter View Post
    Here is an example, in MF. The test shot was with a Nikon D4, 55mm micro lens.
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Lemon test lo.jpg 
Views:	11 
Size:	50.6 KB 
ID:	202311
    Here is a scan of the final print, Rollei 6008 integral, 90mm macro lens.
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Lemon fnl lo.jpg 
Views:	11 
Size:	55.9 KB 
ID:	202312
    Seems this may be the best alternative to an expensive digital back. Thank you for the example! I have had a suggestion to use an older Phase One P30 back. Any experience with this?

  8. #8
    blakedoyle's Avatar
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    Re: Advise for Macro Lighting with Strobe

    Quote Originally Posted by LabRat View Post
    OK, first expose for the key (subject) light, then fill (the "holes" of shadows), then background... Start with the reflective metal of the fork (which will be bright) and place that and the background +1 stop of middle grey reading... The darkest item is -1 stop to hold detail... The spot meter reading flash should be at the lens distance as close as possible to the lens axis, but on side of camera usually ok (unless object is very reflective)...

    "Zones" don't correspond directly to the scene range, rather there is usually 1 stop over middle grey for the brightest highlights, then 1 stop under for shadow or dark detail with chrome films, 2 stops under for color neg, and about 3 for B/W... Zones are the range of tones that fit into the above stops... Simplify and use above settings...

    As mentioned, you probably won't need color correction too much at all with strobe, but chromes are usually checked on the lightbox and filters added based on your (trained) eye... But with the color neg you are using, most can be fixed later unless severe (that can cause a color crossover somewhere else)... But don't worry about that, you should be close...

    As mentioned, excess bright white (background) can throw things off, and the IC can throw a lot of flare inside camera, so flagging the lights as best as possible is good, as well as shooting through a frame cut out mask (an old window mat will do) just beyond the frame lines to limit the IC excess...

    Try to reverse the incident meter to see the light coming from behind, but follow the range scale posted above...

    I do small stuff like this with cheap painting reflector lights with decent spectrum LED bulbs (mostly B/W), but easier to read lighting...

    Good luck!!!

    Steve K


    Ok, I see what you mean. I'm still a bit confused as to why my initial exposure was so far off, given I had exposed based on the incident reading on my subject. Although the background was over blown, I don't see any light bleed that would lead to it influencing my subjects exposure so drastically. If anything it would have created over exposure?

    Regardless, as I reshoot & based on your response. Let's say hypothetically as a fresh start:

    All taken via spot meter close to camera lens:
    Meter Subject (Brightest point) F32
    Meter Subject (Darkest Point) F16
    Meter Background (Pure White) F32

    This totals a 3 stop range.

    Middle Grey Exposure = F22

    Then factor in bellows comp, etc.

    So at only +1 from middle grey (same as my highest highlight on the subject), the background will render pure white? Are you sure this will be sufficient? Would it hurt to go an extra stop to ensure?


    Or alternatively as you stated there is a two stop range for color negative, my scenario will look like.

    Subject Highlight F42
    Subject Shadow F8
    Background F42

    Totaling a 5 stop range.

    Also, what do you mean by IC?

    This has been very helpful. I understand now that I need to think of the exposure range more in regards to the film stock I use. B&W negative (7 stop), Color Negative (5 stop), Color Transparency (3 stop).

  9. #9

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    Re: Advise for Macro Lighting with Strobe

    The upper highlight range is based on what is still possible to separate in the upper values (mostly with chromes)... We would often place a yellow Post-em note on a white surface, then shoot a pull-a-roid and look if that was visible on the white... So that's really a zone IV area, but above that is just white... But in my practical experience, the area of highlight where you want to hold detail always turns out to be 1 stop brighter than the middle grey exposure...

    The normal ranges you noted are a little less; 5 stop for B/W, 4 stop for CN, and 3 stop for chromes... You get slightly more, but this is the safe range to go by...

    IC is image circle, so if you have a hot area outside of your image area, this projects inside your bellows, and can create an overall flare that can overexposed everything in the frame... Limiting it will give much better overall exposure, with better saturated color etc...

    Test this...

    Steve K

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