Macro photography tip series: electron technique

Articles | Macro photography tips

By Alejandro Arteaga. May 2019.

Inspired by my friend Frank Pichardo's article titled 8 perspective tips for macro photography, we are starting a whole series of articles about macro photography tips. In this one, which is the first of the series, I share with you the "electron technique," a creative approach to photographing macro subjects.

To illustrate the technique, I include below a collection of images of two glassfrog species photographed during my last visit to the cloudforest in collaboration with Nick Pezzote.

This is a Red-spotted Glassfrog (Nymphargus grandisonae). I photographed this gorgeous amphibian from an angle in which both eyes were visible. Mindo cloudforest, Ecuador. Photo by Alejandro Arteaga.

This is a dorsal shot, made to reveal the distinct red spots of the species.

In this picture, the dorsolateral angle shows the eyes of the frog as well as the spots on the back.

A full frontal shot is personal and, in a picture, brings the subject closer to the observer.

Finally, moving a few inches away from the subject makes it possible to include more of the subject's surroundings.

The "electron technique" is simply a way of photographing and lighting a macro subject from every possible angle and perspective. When approaching your target, imagine you are an electron orbiting an atom's nucleus. Like an electron, which does not have a definite position in relation to the nucleus, you should explore every possible camera position along an imaginary orbit around the subject. This will allow you to create a varied collection of images from which you can choose the most creative and visually pleasing.

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The "electron technique" also applies to lighting. Whenever you are using an off-camera flash unit as the main source of light for your images, make sure to change the position of the unit in relation to the subject. You will be surprised, and pleased, by the amount of creative photographic effects you will be able to design, even if the subject is totally motionless.

This is a male Bumpy Glassfrog (Centrolene heloderma), which was vocalizing from a leaf besides a river, and, at the same time, being bitten by a mosquito. I photographed the encounter using a diffused off-camera flash placed to the left of the frog. Mindo cloudforest, Ecuador. Photo by Alejandro Arteaga.

Here, the flash was placed beneath the leaf, so only part of the face of the frog, but not the mosquito, is revealed.

In this picture, the light from the flash was coming from above and slightly from behind the subject, thereby revealing the content of the abdomen of the mosquito.

For this shot, the flash was placed beneath the leaf and to the left of the frog.

Here, the flash was placed directly on top of the frog. This reveals the leaf, the mosquito, and the frog.

This picture was backlit. Notice how the bumps on the frog's back are revealed, as well as the blood inside the mosquito.

Finally, to get the most out of the "electron technique," use it as a reminder. A reminder to go beyond your desire to photograph your target only from the first angle that you think is most appropriate. You will thank yourself later when you realize a different, perhaps unusual, angle provides the best result.

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