Black and White Corkscrew Macro
Macro,  Photography Projects

Winter Stay at Home Photography Project – Try Black and White Macro Photography

Winter makes me think about black and white photography.  It could be the gray and cloudy skies here in the Midwest, United States.  Since I’m spending a lot more time at home this winter, why not try a Black and White Macro Photography project.

The fun thing about this project is that you get to see your house and belongings in a new perspective: Black and White + Macro.  In this blog, I’ll discuss and provide photos of different subjects that can be found around your house for Black and White Macro Photography.

I’ll also describe different techniques you can use to get different looks and methods to convert your images to black and white.

Topaz Labs

A Few Tips to Envision your Photograph in Black and White

  • If you are having trouble visualizing your macro images in black and white, the display can be changed to black and white in many mirrorless cameras.
  • To quickly preview your existing photographs in Black and White, press the V key in Adobe Lightroom.  Press V again to turn it back to color.

Black and White Macro Subjects

Kitchen Grater, f/9.0, Focus Stacking, 15 shots, Differential 10
Kitchen Grater, f/9.0, Focus Stacking, 15 shots, Differential 10

Kitchen Utensils

Kitchen Utensils make great black and white macro subjects.  Photographs with high contrast work well for black and white images.  I found that reflective kitchen utensils with a black background worked really well as black and white macro images.

A Well Used Fork, f/9.0, Focus Stacking, 15 shots, Differential 9
A Well Used Fork, f/9.0, Focus Stacking, 15 shots, Differential 9

Nicknacks, Art, and other Decorations

Seashell, f/10, On Camera Flash
Seashell, f/10, On Camera Flash

Most everyone has a bunch of collectibles, nicknacks, or artwork around the house. These make great black and white macro subjects. My wife has one of our bathroom decorated in a beach theme – goldmine for macro. That’s where I got the seashell for the above image.

Everyday household items like the light bulb below also make good subjects. Take an hour or so and look around your house, camera in hand for these black and white macro subjects.

Light Bulb, f/18, Handheld
Light Bulb, f/18

Money

Stacked Quarters, Taken in a Lightbox, f/10, 1/30 sec
Stacked Quarters, Taken in a Lightbox, f/10, 1/30 sec

Whether it’s coins or paper currency, money makes a good black and white macro subject. Foreign currencies are also fun. Try stacking coins or photographing them from above. For paper money try arranging multiple bills into patterns.

Indian Rupees, f/16 Handheld
Indian Rupees, f/16 On Camera Flash

Screws, Bolts, and Other Hardware

3 Screws, Focus Stacking, f/6,3, 15 shots Differential 9
3 Screws, Focus Stacking, f/6,3, 15 shots Differential 9

Screws and bolts are highly reflective which will provide good contrast for black and white macro photography. The curvy threads which provide for interesting subjects. Try photographing them from the top and side.

Fallen Leaves, Frosty Plants, and Other Dead Vegetation

A Different View of a Rose, f/9.0, Off Camera Flash
A Different View of a Rose, f/9.0, Off Camera Flash

Dead leaves and plants make interesting macro subjects too. They work especially well in black and white. Visit you backyard and garden for subjects. Bring them inside and photograph them in a lightbox or other macro lighting set up.

Weathered Winter Leaf, f/2.8, handheld
Weathered Winter Leaf, f/2.8, handheld

Macro Photography Techniques

To keep this project interesting and get different results, try experimenting with different techniques.  I won’t be covering these techniques in detail, I’ll just provide information to get you started.  I’ll also link to additional blogs for more information.

On Camera Flash

Try shooting different subjects around your house with an on camera flash with a diffuser.  If you don’t use a flash, you will likely require a tripod as the shutter speed will probably be too low for handheld shots. 

Wine Corks, f/8.0, Off Camera Flash
Wine Corks, f/8.0, Off Camera Flash

Off Camera Flash

Taking the flash off the camera will allow you light your subject from different angles providing more control over the lighting.  There are 2 ways to trigger an off camera flash: infrared and radio transmission.

An infrared trigger needs to have a line of sight between the transmitter (another flash) and the receiver while a radio transmission does not.  Not all flashes work with radio transmissions. You will need a transmitter that is compatible with your flash.

Whisk Handle, Focus Stacking f/6.3, 10 shots, 8 differential
Whisk Handle, Focus Stacking f/6.3, 10 shots, 8 differential, Taken in a Lightbox

Using a lightbox

A lightbox or light tent is a great way to control the lighting of your subject.  I created my own inexpensive lightbox out of a cardboard box that works pretty well.  Several of the photos in this blog were created using this DIY lightbox.  Visit my blog on a DIY lightbox for more information on building and using one.

Focus Stacking / Focus Bracketing

The depth of field for macro photography is small.  Focus stacking / focus bracketing is a method that combines exposures to have more of your image in focus.  Some cameras (like my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III) will stack the images in camera.  Other cameras may only take the images at different focus points but won’t stack them.

Use a close up magnification lens and / or extension tubes to get in close

A close up magnification lens (like the Raynox DCR-250) or extension tubes will let you get even closer to your subject.

The Raynox DCR-250 is relatively inexpensive and clips over your current lens.  Make sure the Raynox works with the diameter of your lens. The Raynox works on lenses with a filter size between 52mm and 67mm.  You may also be able use a step down ring for the Raynox to fit on your lens.  Visit my blog to learn more about the Raynox DCR-250 and how I adapted it to work with my Olympus 60mm macro.

How to Convert a Photograph to Black and White

There are numerous ways to convert your photographs to black and white.  Below are a few ways that I like to use.

Nik Silver Efex Pro 2
Nik Silver Efex Pro 2

Nik Silver Efex Pro 2

Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 by DxO is my favorite way to convert my photographs to black and white.  Silver Efex Pro has dozens of presets, color filters, global sliders, toning, borders, and more.

More often than not, I find a look that is close to what I like in the presets.  From there I can just tweak it a bit with the global sliders and / or color filters for a finished look.

Lightroom Black and White Profiles
Lightroom Black and White Profiles

Lightroom Black & White Profiles

In the Develop Module in Adobe Lightroom you will find a Profile Dropdown in the Basic Panel.  Lightroom comes with 17 Black and White profiles to jump start your black and white processing.

Click on the Profile dropdown and select Browse to bring up the black and white profiles as well as several other profile categories.

Photoshop Black & White Adjustment Layer
Photoshop Black & White Adjustment Layer

Photoshop Black and White Adjustment Layer

In Adobe Photoshop, you can convert a file to Black and White using a Black and White Adjustment Layer.  The Black and White Adjustment Layer has a dropdown with Black and White presets, the ability to apply a tint using a color selection window, and color sliders to tweak your image.  It’s pretty powerful and easy to use.

Black and white photography and macro photography are a great change of pace for your shooting.  Combining the two make it even more fun and interesting.  Why not start your own Black and White Macro Photography project.

Written by Martin Belan

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