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Cameras

Welcome to my micro studio

When I add up the cost of the flash guns and other accessories, the horrible truth is that I've spent around £600 to take better pictures of rubber ducks.

I've been interested in photographing small objects for at least ten years, but I've never had the space for a studio -- or the money for all the gear that goes in one. However, I've finally managed to set up a micro studio in the corner of my office. It's ridiculously small, but I'm really pleased with the results.

My studio has three main components:

1. A Canon 420EX flash gun with a Lastolite Micro Apollo softbox, hanging upside down from a flexible bracket clamped to a shelf.

2. My Canon EOS 20D with a MR-14EX Macro Ring Lite.

3. A large sheet of white paper.


Here's my studio, tucked in next to my printer

The ring lite lights the subject (in this case, a rubber duck) and the regular flash gun lights the background. It's set up as a wireless slave, so it goes off automatically when the ring lite fires. Getting the flashes to talk to each other took several hours, but that's a story for another time.

The key to this setup is the second flash. Without it, it's difficult to get the background anywhere close to white.


On its own, the ring flash lights the duck, but it casts a shadow on the background

With both flashes in play, it's possible to get the right amount of light, from the right direction, on both the duck and the background -- and the exposure is short, so you can handhold the camera instead of using a tripod.


The second flash lights the background and removes most of the shadows

With some adjustments to the camera settings and the position of the second flash, you could get the background whiter, but this is good enough -- with a few minutes' work in Photoshop, you can make a cutout to use on a Web page or in a printed document. Or on stickers, like these.


It's easy to remove the background in Photoshop to create a cutout

When I think of all the hours I've spent messing about with tripods and desk lamps, or sat in front of my computer, trying to separate badly lit objects from heavily shadowed backgrounds in Photoshop, I wonder why I didn't set up a micro studio sooner. When I add up the cost of the flash guns and other accessories, though, the horrible truth is that I've spent around £600 to take better pictures of rubber ducks. Digital SLRs have got much cheaper over the last few years, but you can easily spend the same again -- or much more -- on accessories.

Why do I do it? It's more fun than decorating the living room.