Jeroen, a Macro Photography Enthusiast doing macro photography since 20 years, he started with analog cameras, and he’s from Amsterdam, Netherlands lets see what he have to say about his Macro Photography.
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You have a fantastic and inspiring portfolio Can you tell us how you got started in Macro photography?
First of all thanks for the compliment and asking me to do a interview, I have been doing photography for over 20 years now, and yes, I even used analog cameras, but didn’t do macro back then, just street photography.
I’m glad I started out this way as you will learn what REAL photography is about, not to sound like a professional, but digital photography made things a lot easier for all of us. Anolog photography is still the best way to learn in my opinion, but that’s a personal thought.
I am passionate about anything of photography, in particularly, water drop photography, high speed photography, and macro photography. My passion about photography does not stop at photographing the world, me and a friend are actively inventing, building tools to further utilize modern technologies to explore and advance photographical techniques.
I started out doing macro like 7 years ago, not sure, but I always liked insects and spiders, and I have seen some really good shots online, so I educated myself by reading online about it and watching hours and hours of YouTube videos. I decided to buy a macro lens, and it was a standard 1:1 magnification, like most of us use, after a while it just didn’t do it for me, i wanted to get closer and closer.
I did lots of field shots and spend hours into bushes finding bugs, this isnt easy as most people will think…you need to take all your stuff, find subject and most of all you get very tired if you spend the whole day in the sun. I will not mention the 100’s of mosquito bites!!! Working in the field is a great way to learn macro and have fun, I don’t like to go in big groups, just by myself is the way to do it, you can take your time and not being rushed by others. Macro is just a great way to see the small things on this planet.
For the last 2 years i focussed more on focus stacking macro, this way you get a really great sharp image and a huge magnification, using a stacking machine which calculates all steps to take, I am using a Stackrail RS90 for doing this, but there are many other brands out there…. i will explain about macro focus staking here:
What is Focus Stacking Jeroen ??
Focus stacking is a powerful method to extend depth of field by taking a series of images at different focal plane and use computer software to pick the sharpest part of each image for the final result. One way to acquire such series of images is by moving the camera towards or away from the subject (or by moving subject towards or away from the camera) so that different part of the subject will be in focus in each image. Then by applying computer algorithm, these images will be combined into one sharp image.
In order to move the camera (or the subject for that matter) and automate the process of image captures, an automated rail system is preferred method.
However, current products on the market are extremely expensive and many macro photographers have to do it manually which is a tedious work to do. Besides expensive rail system, good stacking software are either expensive (but really good) or difficult to use (though free).
What took you to be at this level? As a successful Macro photographer
To be honest I don’t consider myself as a successful photographer, the most important thing first of all is that I like what I’m doing and have fun doing it. If there wasn’t internet you wouldn’t get the attention you do now, like this interview. So its a lot easier to get your shot out here for others to see.
I do like to get better each shot i take and i take more time before i take a shot, but its always hard to make shots you really like, if you go out in the field and you take like 100 photos, 90 will go into the trash bin, standards are being raised i guess if you do it for a longer period, in the beginning i was glad if there was some sharpness and didn’t mind the composition, that will change and you get picky about each shot you take…..
I’m not sure about calling it a level I’m on, is there a scale of levels ??, I dont think there is any, we all try our best, and we all need to have fun making photos. Sure some are better as others and understand photography better, but some people always use the AUTO function, the famous green button, and let the camera do all the settings.
I would recommend to anyone doing macro to not use auto settings and learn about light, ISO, shutter speeds and composition and more, you will make better shots as you have all control.
You ask me what took me to this level ? I think thats doing what you like first of all, and try to get better and better, thats just me, and i like to learn everyday, but if there are people that are happy if they take a good shot of a flower that isnt in focus, then that’s great to….have fun doing it.
I do like to get better in focus stacking, as you can get high magnification you wouldnt imagine, without using a regular microscope.
What difficulties you face in the field of Macro photography?
First of all field macro isn’t easy, although it looks like it to some people that don’t do macro, but it is. The most difficult thing for me is to get out of bed early mornings, as that’s the best time to start, you will get nice shots as there will be dew and water drops on the “sleeping” insects and when its colder outside insect are not as active as the need sun to warm up in the morning.
Also you don’t have to shoot in the middle of the day in summer time as its hard work and you get tired soon carrying all the stuff you took with you. You do need to take several lenses, extension tubes, flashes, food etc etc. its not that easy as it seems. Get a card to the gym as you need one, bending 100 times a day and taking the most crazy position will be hard for your body and muscles hahah.
Also one of the difficult things is to find insects, so you do need to know what you are looking for, when are they are most active, where do they stay or sleep / breed etc.
I’m not an entomology guy, I’m more of a photographer and ask friends what species it is afterwards, sure i do learn and recornize more species each time, but thats hard also. Most people will call a hoverfly a wasp, but it itsnt, mimicking in the insect world is one thing i really like…….and i love true spiders and jumping spiders…im just crazy bout spiders in general.
You need to move slow, watch everywhere and hope they stay in position for a few seconds, most dont hahah, so thats disappointing, but some insects allow you to take many shots as they dont move that fast or are scared of you….go early in the morning is my best tip.
What motivates you to take pictures and make them look great?
I think all the motivation comes from my brain, as I’m always thinking about photography even when I’m trying to sleep i get ideas to do it different and I will try them the next day.
Sure the internet gets you to see many photos, so i do get inspired by other photos I see, I think its hard to be different these days as photography is available for everyone, some mobile phones photos i see are incredibly nice and sometimes makes me want to sell my gear hahaha,…..
Just point and shoot and try to be different i guess, although in macro that isn’t easy, lightning and details are things i like most of all. Enjoy the art of photography as its so special to take a shot of that moment that will never happen again.
Typical question, which image is your very best till now? We know all of your images are best but we want to know that one best image
These two photos are just amazing for me, and these are my all time favorite images so far 🙂
What gear you usually use and what makes it different from others?
Ah that’s a good one, I don’t use the most expensive stuff like full frame cameras, or the most expensive lenses out there, I do have several macro lenses for different shots and locations / setups, but you can reverse a kit lens on your body and you can do macro as well.
As I’ve been doing it for several years now I’m able to use different setups, i use 3 macro lenses all different mm’s, 60mm, 90mm and 105mm, some objectives, extension tubes and raynox snap on lenses (raynox 250 and 202), and even regular kit lenses. I recently purchased a Laowa 2:1 lens 60mm, this means its 2x magnification in 1 lens, as I’m a Nikon user i cant use the MPE65 5x, which is still the nr 1 macro lens, but i like Nikon. You can add extension tubes to kit lenses or macro lenses, snap on lenses work great on regular 1:1 lenses, and there many setups available….just think shoot and learn.
I use a Nikon D5200 and D5000, those are “cheap” cameras, true, but you dont need to have expensive cameras for this kind of stuff, and i like crop cameras for macro as you get more magnification as a full frame camera. I like the D5200 as it has a 24mp sensor and its a good camera for what I’m doing, I’m not doing sports or bird photography so I don’t need all the fancy stuff and speed, full frame cameras give you, macro is the only thing i do.
For lightning i use a camera mounted flash and a diffuser on it to reduce the white spots on shiny objects or bugs, you can make a diffuser easy just Google macro flash diffuser for examples. I use a nissin DI700 flash and several others for macro stacking but thats mostly indoors in a studio. When you do macro stacking you get close to your subject so more light is needed, like explained above.
Do you like to do indoor/studio or outdoor Photography, and why?
I do both, as I’m not living in a country thats good for macro all year round, as our climate is rather cold here in Europe, I try to go out as much as i can, that’s the best thing, just enjoying nature. In winter time i like to do structures on things like crystals, Food, etc. Focus stacking isn’t just insects, it can be used for all subjects, even landscape photography.
I also like to do studio work, as mentioned before I’m into focus stacking now more then ever, and thats an indoor job, and it takes a lot of time to do a setup or prepare specimens. I do have my own small studio to do all sorts of photography, i also like water drop photography.
Focus stacking can be done using dead or prepared specimens from collections, as they need to stay still for a longer period of time, and these shots can be used for educational purposes.
Please note I kill no insects for this type of work (focus stacking) I only use specimens that are found dead in my garden, window sills and spider webs. Live insects are used at times but are more difficult to get a large stack.
Sometimes i take live specimens inside and make a small setup to make it look like a natural surroundings, and let them loose in there and take shots and you can make the best perfect shots, as you can adjust lights and more, this isn’t advised for flying insects though, but beetles or jumping spiders are great to take inside, and you just let them go once you are done taking your shots.
Some photographers will say they take all shots in a natural surroundings, but most are done in a studio environment, and it isnt a problem to do this as its a great way to learn macro photography.
Which programs you use for editing purpose?
I always use Photoshop as I’ve been using this for a long time and know all in and outs (i think), so i never use any other programs to edit my photos. I don’t even shoot on RAW most of the times, i used to, but it just takes to much time to edit and as most are for publication on the web so it isnt a problem, just adjust the colors and white balance. I do like to use several filters and plug-in, this makes photos look better.
Some will say i never edit my photos as its not natural but i think sometimes you should as your photos will look better for sure, and its 2017 and we have the tools to do it, so why shouldn’t we use them ?
Im not saying i dont like natural shots, but i also like the time editing them after a day out in the field and checking out the photos i took, that includes editing to make them look better, the way i like it to be shown to you, or on the internet.
Its still a form of art, so i edit it till i like it, thats the most important thing for me,…. if you dont like it, ok, its my photo and i like it,….There is no competition between photographers, we all try to get the best shots…some are payed and some just invest to get better, so there is no difference really.
As i do focus stacking explained earlier in this interview, i need to use other programs, as photoshop does good stacking, but not if you need to stack over 100 pics, so i use Stackrail Snapfuse and Zerene Stacker most of the time, this is to layer all the shots you took on a different depht of field to create 1 sharp image, after that i will edit and clean the insect in photoshop to remove dust etc.
Photoshop is awesome and i love it, its part of digital photography in my opinion.
What is the best advice you can give for the young upcoming photographers?
Ok, thats a hard one, i guess check the internet and YouTube and see if you really like doing macro, as it takes some practice before you get great images, and its frustrating at times. Just keep on shooting and shooting, try different settings, ask your friends, or people you meet on facebook, SHARING IS CARING !
I think the best advice is to be patient and you will learn in time, also understanding what your camera is capable of and how to change settings is really important. Learn how a digital camera works and what photography is about just the basic stuff, educate yourself.
Don’t try to be cool and buy the most expensive gear and lenses, see if there is another photographer in your area and ask if you can try out some stuff and if you can join him on a field trip.
Finally, what is your goal for life? As a Macro photographer
You ask me my goal, there isn’t any, as I don’t get payed for my photography it just costs me money to get better gear and other toys, so I have no goals…..
Sure its nice to be respected by others or get 10000’s of likes on the photos on FB, but what if there wasn’t internet, then its just you and your photos. So my goal is to have fun and try to do better every shot I take…..my goal is to have world peace,….that’s a dream i know !
Thanks for this interview and i hope you like my answers and photos,…..Jeroen.
Please check some of my best photos taken so far….
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