"There is no need to know everything - you only must know where to get the information"

I received some requests to make a "howto" page. I will cover here the following topics :

Taking photos
Layout hints


As I wrote on my ABOUT page, there is no need to use expensive equipment to get such pictures. You need a SLR to see the object just like it comes onto the film. To reach the macroarea there are several ways. On many lenses you will notice signs like 6:1, 4:1 ... sometimes with the text MACRO nearby. This may be enough for flowers and big butterflies. For smaller objects you have to use other solutions.

Magnifying Lens
One way is to use a magnifying lens in front of your original lens. There are several manufacturers of such lenses. The cheapest is just a simple lens - better (and more expensive) are specially calculated lens groups for 50mm standard lenses (MINOLTA (Maxxum) has such lenses). This may be a good starting point for inexperienced users of macros.

Extension Tube Set
Another good solution is the use of extension tube sets. These rings (mostly three sizes) increase the distance between the standard lens and the camerabody. Because the length of the extension rings are fixed you have to change them, when changing to other resolutions. When choosing this method get an automatic one that closes the aperture when you release the camera and which will transfer the f-stop to the camera.

A specially calculated macrolens is the better way. They are more expensive than normal lenses, but with such equipment you can reach resolutions up to 1:1 and sometimes more. The reason why I don't use such a lens is simple - I've many different lenses and want to use them.

IMHO, the best solution is a bellows. A bellows can hold all your lenses and has a sizeable distance between lens and body. There are three kinds of bellows:

You have to set up the aperture of the lens and the exposure time by yourself. If you are sure of your objects giving you enough time this is a good selection.

The aperture is controlled by a Y-release cable, but you need a camera that will also have a plug for this cable. Nearly all original bellows follow this method.

Full Automatic:
Means that the f-stop is transferred to - and the aperture is controlled by - the camera. You need not be concerned with exposure times, because everything is done by the camera in the same manner as a normal lens. As far as I know there is only one manufacturer (NOVOFLEX, Germany) for this type of bellows. I own one :)

NOVOFLEX has also built special lenses for this bellows. With the 105mm you have a very compact solution and you are able to make images from macro to long distances without changing the lens. Because it is sometimes hard to get extremly close to some insects, I put a 70-200mm zoom on the bellows. With this solution I have the ability to take photos from a wider distance. BTW you can put a 500mm lens on a bellows and then you may be able to capture insect photos from a distance of 2 or 3 metres - but the results are really not the best - the lens isn't calculated for this solution and ... (was just a try;-).
If you need a bigger magnification (for example you want to photograph the corners of any stamp) you can use any lens smaller than 50mm with a reverse ring. Automatic will not work, but you can reach sizes up to 1:6 (depends on the lens). The distance between the lens and the object is extremely small (6cm with a 50mm lens) and I think living insects are not very happy when you try this.


Taking photos

One important thing to be remembered with all macrophotography: you should use a tripod. Taking macrophotos is nearly the same as freehand working with a 500mm lens. It's possible without a tripod, but a tripod ensures sharp images.

I allways advise the use of a flash (or several flashes). Today nearly every SLR has an automatic flash exposure - you can buy a SCA300 adapter to connect other small flashes.
I'm using a main flash (on top of the camera) connected with a SCA300 adapter and two small ones (not bigger than a matchbox) on the left and right side of the lens. These small ones flash automatic with a 'daughterflash'(?) - electronic. They lighten the dark areas on the object, which cannot be reached by the main flash. To avoid overexposure I've sewn small bags that will fit over the flashes.

The biggest problem in the macro area is the depth of sharpness. On a resolution of 1:2 it is, for example 2-4mm. Decreasing the aperture will not work, because you need the light and there is a physical border with the light waves. Extreme aperture values will produce unclear images because the light is turned aside by the aperture.
Allways focus on the eyes (if any) of your subject - this is the point all people look at first.

Don't economise on film. For most shoots, I take three images with different exposure times(changing the ISO/ASA) value on the camera 1 step). So you're sure to get at least one correct image.

You should learn to 'scan' the the picture in the viewfinder. Starting in the upper left corner and just like reading check the picture line by line whether everything is viewable and if no objects hide something. With a little training this handling will increase your good output.

If possible go nearer to use the whole film format for your target object.

At least one hint for (IMHO) better photos. I often see images of, for example, from sunrises where the sun and the horizon are exactly in the middle of the photo. This looks boring. Put the main emphasis on one corner. The following three bitmaps will show what I mean:

The first one is the boring solution. The second has the main emphasis on the water and the third on the sky.
I think the last two images look more dramatic (Well, what do you expect from 2 minute drawings ;-)
This works with nearly all objects.



Many ask me how I've compressed my images so small (22k for a 800x600x24 image isn't bad ;-). It's easy - just decrease the JPEG quality factor until the image doesn't look good anymore - then go one step back.
On most software you must reload the saved image to see the effect !

That's all :-)

Well, not all ...
Allways save the image as true color and the JPEG compressed file under another name. Don't save the same JPEG image again and again, because everytime you save an image of already-compromised the compression code tries to remove more information.

Some other points you have to care.
Images with too much information cannot be compressed very well.
That means don't use dithering on truecolor images and then save them as JPEG - I cannot understand why some people write this in their HTML guides. If you have, for example, an image like my crapspider you may apply a blurry filter before saving it as JPEG.

JPEG can only handle truecolor and grayscale images, when you save an 8bit image (256 colors) as color image it's internally expanded to 24bit !
To save it as grayscale you must activate this - default is always 24bit.

If you have 8bit images use the Graphics Interchange Format. GIF can handle up to 256 colors, can be used as simple animationtool and may have transparent areas. Use GIF everywhere you need some of the above features (e.g. buttons, titles with transparent areas).
Try to reduce the color depth - my buttons for example are dithered down from 24bit to 5bit (32colors). But dithering is a solution for 'natural' looking images (like wood textures) - you can get smaller filesizes with colormapping (but looks bad with wood). This way will map all colors to the nearest in the palette (the OCTREE technique is - IMHO - the best solution).

A word reagrding my background. This is made of three different photos. The sky came from a photo taken in SanFrancisco CA, the grass is part of an image with the neighbours dog on it (you can't see it ? - my pet page is planned ;-) and the waterline is from Yellowstone. Resizing and combination was done in a graphics program. To fit the borders together I have copied one side - mirrored it and placed it on the other side of the image. Then did some small corrections to the resulting cutline and the same for the top and bottom. Darkened the whole image and compressed it as much as possible.


Layout hints

All the following topics are my personal opinion, there are some great pages out on the web that do not come under any of these points. It's allways a matter of taste, of course. If you like a specific page write, email the writer and tell them so and if you dont like it, write the reasons why. Most publishers are happy to recieve any suggestions or constructive criticisms. I've also received some positive and negative feedback and this page is the result of several such suggestions.

The most important thing : 'less is more'. So negate all the following points ...

You can find many places on the web with nice animation gifs, several buttons, different textures and so on. If you use them all on your page at the same time - your visitors will have to buy a faster modem or ISDN card and may search for another provider.

If you DO find nice images you like, put them on, whether or not they fit your theme: Hell, its your page, after all!

Life is all about motion so why not your page - use animation wherever possible. People will always look at, and probably admire, the animation before your text.

Use pictures only once - (the browser cache is only needed for the backbutton).

Your visitors may like (word deleted here) to analyse every page so use backgroundcolor - and textcolors as identical as possible.

You get so many fonts with CorelDraw - use them all - if possible on one page.

Well - on some pages I really think that the publisher thinks that way ...

... but now my meaning:

The images should fit together - the DeathStar from StarWars and the StarShip Enterprise will match but a starship and a fishing boat may only match if you have a page about ships ;-)

When you publish photos, try to crop the image down to the necessary information. I like to view images, but a photo 'My Cat: Tiger' where you have to search for the cat between all the furniture isn't nice to load and view. Scan the image with a higher resolution, select only the cat and crop it. The result is much better. Some of my images are cropped - on one side to arrange the object better in the photo on the other side to remove areas of no interest.

Create thumbnails and link to the original - don't decrease the full image with the HTML tags.

Give all your image links an alternate name (html command is: ALT="LinkToXYZ") that can be shown on missing images if a page is downloading slowly.

Don't use too many frames (I think up to 3 is quite enough - without frames is the best solution, but sometimes ... )

Don't upload your page until most topics are ready (I hate to visit a page 'Under Construction' with nothing else on it except a sign telling me exactly that, and only that :-(.

Check whether your links really WORK (on your WIN95 or OS/2 machine everything may work, but the UNIX machine of your provider may differentiate between upper and lower case.

If you're still working on a linked page show a simple page that tells this to your visitor. The link should produce a result other than merely showing the NOTFOUND page of your provider.

A short comment to any link away from your page would be nice. Recheck all your links occasionally and be sure to correct possible changes or remove the links if they are no longer available.

When you link to the search engines with a request concerning your linktopics it's great, but don't just link to yahoo and altavista and hotbot etc etc ... almost every user of the net has theselinks in his bookmark list - if not you can reach them from here anyway ;-).
New remark: GOOGLE is the best one ;-)

If you like the tool you use for creating your page it's OK to put a link to it (this page is done with StarOffice and EPM or maybe with COPY CON and EDLIN). But is there really a need to link to every tool and browser available ?

Only use the latest features if you have a page that covers this theme. Think on people like me, who will only turn on Java if there is something interesting to use it for. And there is really NO need for Active-X - only Win95 users can use it (what about OS/2, Mac, Linux and the other real operating systems ?). How would you feel if AltaVista used the additional features of StarOffice like StarBasic (nice for Intranets) and only users with the StarOffice browser can then make a search ?

Resize the window of your browser to see how your page reacts.

Finally test your page using other browsers than your preferred one. The results may look different and can mostly be fixed with some small changes. If possible check it also on different screen resolutions (800x600 should be OK but 640x480 is still used by some people - consider users of notebooks). BTW surely a 'Best Viewed With 16bit' must be a joke - should I downgrade from 24bit ? I think not ...

This is enough for me. Many people have written more in-depth texts about these topics. This is a link to the webreference page which gives you many links concerning these topics.

- back to content -

previous page back to start page next page

Text/Bilder/Design © 1997 Andreas Just