Mostly Lisa Photo tip: Turning Blah into Beautiful

100mm f/2.8 Macro lens, f/6.3, 1/40, ISO 400.

Posted on TWiP.

I try to rent different lenses for my dSLR as much as possible. I find it a great way to explore photography and keep myself inspired. I rented my first macro lens this weekend, the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro with the goal of DIYing a little macro studio and shooting some cool product shots. But, I really dropped the ball and ended up not having any time to shoot anything.

Plus, I was having some “bad creative days”. I sometimes have days where I have ideas, but I can’t completely visualize the end product, so I somehow talk myself out of even trying to figure it out. This endless circle of doubt just smacks my creativity in the face and wastes so much time, like my entire weekend.

So 45 mins before I had to return the lens to Beau Photo, I kicked myself in the rear and out the door with the goal of grabbing at least one decent shot. I poked outside my apartment building for something interesting to shoot and ran into this friendly spider.

At first, the shot didn’t look great. The sky was blah grey, there was no light, the spider’s web didn’t have any raindrops, it was all very bland. But, determined as I was, I crouched in a big mud puddle and angled the frame, so the spider was sitting in colourful background, instead of the grey sky. And bam! Something decent.

The focus on the spider was a bit soft in the final image, so I sharpened it in Aperture. I also amped the saturation of the yellow. The rest of the colours were just that vibrant. It’s not a shot I would ever dream of taking, but there it is.

The point is, even on your worst photo days, you can catch a great shot. Keep shooting, keep exploring, and stay positive about your photography. Just start shooting anything, inspiration will strike sooner than you think.

Mostly Lisa’s Macro Tips:

  1. Use Manual focus. Use Auto focus to help grabbing your focus if you are having trouble, then switch over to Manual.
  2. Get low. Often the best angle is the one where you have to kneel in a pile of muddy guck. If you have sore knees, buy one of those gardening foam pads to kneel on.
  3. Explore Aperture. A small DOF less than f/4 will emphasize the subject, and make it stand out more from the background. This method called selective focus, is great to use if you your background is really distracting, like the fall leaves in my spider picture above. Conversely, if you want all of your subject in focus you will need a larger DOF f/8 or higher.
  4. Shoot in RAW. Always. You will get so much more detail, it will amaze you. You can thank me for your amazement later. :D

Feel inspired? Here are some more photo tips and shoot ideas:

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    November 17, 2008 at 10:52 PM

    He would be terrified? I’m terrified!

  • Reply
    Eran Mahalu
    November 18, 2008 at 2:44 AM

    I was wondering how much does it cost to go on the “Rent a lens” train. Here in Israel, for example, renting a 100mm f/2.8 Macro is about $30 a day.

  • Reply
    Tyler Ingram
    November 18, 2008 at 7:56 AM

    I made myself a lightbox too based on that Strobist one. will show you my lightbox and how i made it for ~$10 :)

    I like the shot of the spider, the colours from the background (nicely bokeh’d) are great even if you bumped up their saturation.

    Those little garden orb-type spiders are good to take photos of when they are sitting in their webs. I’ve also taken photos of wolf spiders and made them look huge. Though that was with my SD750 and not my EOS 450D. Only macro I can to do with my EOS 450D is when I stand at the minimum distance for my 30-700mm and zoom all the way in! lol

  • Reply
    November 18, 2008 at 9:15 AM

    A friend of mine has just bought that same 100mm f/2.8 IS lens! :) I can’t wait to have a play about with it myself!

  • Reply
    November 18, 2008 at 10:16 AM

    Pasquale isn’t kidding. Just take a look:

    You can use the next button above the photo to page through the images. I definitely prefer Lisa’s smaller, more colorful Canadian variety.

  • Reply
    November 18, 2008 at 11:07 AM

    Haven’t got into the whole macro world yet. One of these days. Since I go on a lot of outdoor trips I primarily shoot landscapes.

    One thing I really want to try is to do long shutter speed like this:
    But I don’t know any camera stores in Vancouver that lend out ND filters.

  • Reply
    Mostly Lisa
    November 18, 2008 at 1:14 PM

    @Eran — Lenses cost from $25-35/day. My trick is to rent the lens on a Friday so that you get the lens for 3 days instead of one.

    @Pas – Gilly Weed!

    @Chris — oh come on, your not afraid of that little guy, are you?

    @Tyler — that lightbox looks so cool. I should start building one on a rainy day, which will probably be in a couple of hours. Right now it’s briefly sunny! and there was much rejoicing!

    @Dan — it is a sweet piece of glass. Auto-focus is super fast. and yeah for friends who loan you great lenses!

    @Ron — EEK! A Bird eating spider! and that wasn’t a small bird. *shivers*

    @Tawcan — Alexey’s stuff looks amazing. I’d love to get a book of his works. Try Leo’s Camera Supply. They might have ND filters.

  • Reply
    November 18, 2008 at 2:46 PM

    @Lisa Not so much a fear as a general hatred. All spiders that I’ve seen in person have been drab, monochromatic, ugly creatures that do stupid things like drape a thread directly in front of you so you end up wiping cobwebs off of yourself after you walk through it. Or they decde to take a walk on you, leaving that icky feeling you get after a spider has walked all over you. The spiders in these parts are rather impolite as well. They just don’t want to make a good impression on anyone. And they most certainly avoid pretty backgrounds like the one you found this spider on.

  • Reply
    What’s Up Wednesdays: Fun, Photos, and Phrases || Beyond the Rhetoric ||
    November 19, 2008 at 10:16 AM

    […] Lisa prides herself in being somewhat of a shutterbug, so she knows a thing or two about turning blah into beautiful. Even though I don’t own a DSLR, I really dig using the super macro mode on my Canon S3 IS. […]

  • Reply
    November 22, 2008 at 4:45 PM

    its a beautiful picture, keep up the good work

  • Reply
    November 25, 2008 at 11:09 AM

    I’m enjoying these macro pictures! I dont think Ive seen a macro picture with that many colours in it before, though.

  • Reply
    Derek K. Miller
    November 25, 2008 at 11:22 PM

    If you’ve rented a bit and like macro shooting, it’s a great opportunity to pick up a vintage lens for not too much money.

    Since macro lenses work best in manual focus, keep an eye out for older macro lenses on the used market, especially if you’re a Nikon or Pentax shooter (they haven’t changed their lens mount in decades, unlike Canon or other makers). I found a 20-year-old Nikkor 55mm macro (or “Micro,” as they call it) on eBay for the cost of a few days’ rental of a newer 60mm Nikkor that uses fundamentally the same design.

    I’m enjoying the results so far.

  • Reply
    November 26, 2008 at 12:54 AM

    Oh, sure. Go the equipment route. I’ve been spending all this time training spiders to model.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2008 at 12:22 AM

    ahhh, I loooooove macrophotography! It’s my favorite. I love having to really work for the shot like you described. This reminds me of a little silver tree frog I once shot in black and white. He really made me work for the shot. I have to go dig that one out of my archives, thanks for reminding me!

  • Reply
    Carlos Hermoso
    December 2, 2008 at 8:40 AM

    I just love that photo

  • Reply
    Carlos Hermoso
    December 2, 2008 at 8:45 AM

    By the way, have a look at my own photography showcase.

    I would love to know what you think

  • Reply
    December 2, 2008 at 6:48 PM

    Love your site! I used to do some casual photography. I especially liked using a macro lens and a large aperture. Sometimes I used a ring flash (which I often used at work). Wish I had more time to take more photos. Seems like I am usually somewhere where all I have at hand is the crummy “camera” on my iphone!

  • Reply
    Congrats to Rob & Lauren! Portrait Photo Champs! |
    December 2, 2008 at 6:59 PM

    […] This should be a great topic for you to do over the holidays. If you need a little help go here. […]

  • Leave a Reply