Wildlife photographer Paul Hobson and three AP readers explore the possibilities of studio-based macro in our macro still life masterclass

Backlighting, Rim Lighting and Silhouettes

Effective backlighting can be achieved by placing a simple light source behind a semi-translucent piece of material such as Perspex.
Photo by Sue Howard
‘If you place a leaf on a piece of Perspex and shine a light underneath it, then you will be able to see all of the fascinating segments and venation that make up the leaf,’ says Paul. ‘You’ll have images where it’s not immediately apparent what it is the viewer is looking at because the edges of the leaf have been excluded. You could be forgiven
for seeing the shot as an aerial photograph of some rivers cutting through a landscape.’
A particularly interesting approach to lighting comes in the form of rim lighting. This works especially well
when dealing with a strong subject like teasels.
‘Rim lighting is a great way to create moody images,’ explains Paul. ‘It causes the edges of the subject to glow while the rest remains dark. It’s a very classic way of lighting that will give you some beautiful contrasts of light.’
The light is achieved by moving the light so that it is almost behind the subject, but not so much that the light source appears in the camera’s frame. It also helps if the background is black. One light can be used to illuminate one side of the subject or two can be used to cause every edge of the subject to glow.
Photo by Colin Haygarth
‘You should underexpose your shot using exposure compensation,’ says Paul. ‘However, you may find that you can’t get your exposure dark enough, even at -3EV compensation. If that happens, then you can look at how dark you were able to go using exposure compensation and then, working from there, manually underexpose your image until you get the desired result.’
Photo by Colin Haygarth

Given the right subject, it is worth experimenting with silhouettes, which can be achieved by placing your subject in front of the light source.
‘Dandelions are a good subject for this because they are part translucent, part opaque,’ says Paul. ‘The light shines through the seed spores and reveals the intricacies of the weed’s structure. Due to the high contrast of this kind of image it’s worth seeing what the shots will look like in black & white. Shoot it in colour first and then convert it into black & white in post-production.’

  1. 1. Macro Still Life Masterclass with Paul Hobson
  2. 2. Objects
  3. 3. Lighting
  4. 4. Backlighting, Rim Lighting and Silhouettes
  5. 5. Composition
  6. 6. White Balance
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