In this edition of Quick Tips, we take a look at shooting translucent objects right up close

Translucent objects – those that diffuse or distort the light hitting them – make ideal photographic subjects, when viewed up close. Stained glass, tissue paper and leaves are good examples. If you’ve ever visited Sainte-Chapelle, the Gothic chapel in Paris, you will observe the breathtaking effect light diffused by coloured glass has on a building. But you can find subjects that benefit from being backlit anywhere, such as a leaf with attractive venation or the texture changes when you hold a petal to the light. You can shoot objects in their natural environment, but for full control, take them home and set up a mini studio in front of a window.

  1. Try taping a leaf to a window and keep the leaf as flat as possible against the glass. You could also try placing leaves on a lightbox and shooting down on them. It can help to press them in a book first.
  2. If you have a DSLR rather than a mirrorless camera, use the mirror lock-up feature. It instructs the camera to flip the mirror out of the way before activating the shutter, allowing vibrations to die down.
  3. Macro subjects require precise adjustments to focusing, so it’s worth investing in a focusing rail to move the camera by just a few millimetres. An example is Manfrotto’s 454 Micro- positioning Sliding Plate.
  4. Ensure you clean the glass before taping your leaf to the window, because any dirt might appear as unsightly shadows in your shot. Give your leaf a quick sweep with a paintbrush to remove any debris.