Sunday, March 21, 2010

BEE-careful of really bad photography advice!

Yesterday I had the privilege of shooting some of the hardest working models you'll ever encounter. And while they may move fast and remain intent throughout ... a caring and knowledgeable In Focus artist can create some rather magnificent images without ever bothering them.

I'm reminded at this time of year of some really horrible advice out there when it comes to shooting macro or close-up photography. Sadly, most photographers take this nonsense for gospel ... and it just has to stop.

I would like to start by saying that is down-right WRONG to kill any animal (no matter how small or insignificant you think it is) in order to simply take a photo of it. Not that long ago a student of ours shared a story of another photo excursion she attended. The 'instructor' informed her that the only true way of getting a great shot of an insect was to actually kill the animal and 'place' him on the flower. He was talking about bees and it was a close-up workshop held at flower fields in Carlsbad.

I HAVE NEVER heard of anything so downright wrong or cruel. If the 'instructor' knew anything at all about light, the insects in question or his own equipment then his blind ignorance and savage approach to life, beauty and the truth would not have been so obvious. Even with the most rudimentary knowledge of photography this should NEVER have been a thought.

Please be careful when you choose which courses in photography you take ... and if something doesn't sound right, then, please take it with a grain of salt.

Sadly, there is no test taken, no examine given that certifies someone as a 'professional' photographer. Be careful of who you take your classes from and remember here at the IFLC we remain committed to not hurting anything when we shoot. (You would think this to be fairly obvious.)

I don't have any problem whatsoever achieving crisp focus and outstanding colors when I allow the animal to be himself. There is a way of capturing these images without EVER hurting the animals, trust me. That's what a flash and a tiny aperture are for. And besides isn't a photograph of them 'doing-their-thing' so much better?  I really wish these people (the ignorant professionals) would simply find a different job or maybe actually learn a little about their chosen career. Until then ... they need to keep their mouths shut.

To top it off, Robin recently showed me a book on macro photography that advocates the use of a 'kill' jar as well. Unbelievable!

The key to great close-up images is simply controlling light gang — adding it when you need it and knowing why (and how) to control it. It has nothing to do with shooting in a studio, building one outside and( for goodness sakes) it does NOT take a tripod to do it. Close-up photography (more than anything else) requires you to move quickly — not be stuck in one position!

Plus, it's okay if the wind blows. Don't run when the breeze is present ... just learn to deal with it.  You need to take charge of the situation my friends. You need to add light and you HAVE to do it with your flash off-camera! If you haven't bothered with a flash yet or have yet to learn why they are important, now may be the time.

Below are some images from a quick shoot at Balboa Park. My models were quite intent on their job ... as was I. It was me, one lens and one modified off-camera flash. I hope you enjoy these images as much as I did making them. And remember NO bee was hurt in the making of these images, no tripods were used and I never (not once) got stung!


  1. Well said Rod, and well done.
    Hopefully, whomever invokes the "kill" rule will stay away from human portraiture. Really no difference when you think about it. A bee is just much smaller.

    Some of these make awesome desktop backgrounds BTW.

  2. Yes, well said and well done. I had never heard of anyone using a "kill jar" until you and Robin mentioned it in one of your classes -- how appalling! So, if I wanted to take a successful picture of a bear, would I need to kill the bear first? I don't think they make jars that big!

    BTW, I think Robin and I were looking at the same book on macro photography that advocates the use of a "kill jar". When I saw mention of that, I remembered what you guys said in class and immediately closed the book and put it back on the store bookshelf. Unfortunately, or perhaps "fortunately", I don't recall the title. Besides, I would most certainly learn better techniques from Robin than some book (I'll be taking your macro class soon, Robin).

    It's because of you and Robin that I am more critical now when listening to or reading other photographers' "expert" advise on how to achieve that perfect average exposure (LOL!). And because of this, I've caught some flack from other photography forum members for speaking out against conventional photography -- but I don't care!

    Keep up the good work, guys! I'm really proud of you and I let everyone I meet know this and recommend your courses.



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