Tag Archives: learning photography

tiny models – my first photography gig

A few months ago, I saw an article in Nikon magazine (April 2013 issue) about taking pin-sharp macro shots. The subject was a tiny car model. The idea was to take a very sharp photo of a tiny car model using macro lens. I remember how I glanced at it and quickly shrugged it off thinking what’s so special about it? Well, this blatant ignorance to this possible new knowledge was due to 1) my lack of lens; yes, I don’t own a macro lens, and 2) my lack of knowledge about how a macro lens works, which I thought can easily shoot anything small and tiny so it can look bigger and sharp in one single shoot. Moronic. I know.

Not long after I skim-read that article, a friend of mine, Kylie (howwemontessori.com), approached me with a project in mind. She was about to launch her new business, an on-line shop that sells some home materials for children’s early life development, and she needed help in taking photographs of small animal models. The photos would be printed on cards and be a part of a Montessori learning based product she’s developing. She wanted identical photographs of the models; a sharp close-up of the animal models, with no shadows, clean colours and no blur. As we sat in a cafe discussing this, my mind went straight to the article I mentioned earlier.

Cut the story short, I set myself ready to do the project. I hired a macro lens, and got all the props I needed. Not until I actually sat behind the camera and looked at my model through the lens, it finally clicked in my head what I did not get when I first reading that article! I finally understood what the lovely people at Nikon magazine actually tried to explain. Yes, I surprise myself sometimes of how slow my mind works in connecting facts and informations, but bear with me, now that everything clicked, it got so much better.

Anyhow, the article says;“It doesn’t matter how good your macro lens is or even how small your aperture is, when you’re working with extreme close-ups it’s challenging to create a deep enough depth of field to get your subject in focus from front to back”.

The shooting part of the models turned out to be more technical and more time consuming than what I first thought. This was where it got interested. Basically what I needed to do was to take several shots (10 to 15 shots for each animal, they were about 5-6 cm tall) with a different point of focus in each one, then combine them in Photoshop before the final edit. Provided all the lighting was fantastic, the camera and lens were ready to go (with the right set-up), and perfect surface for the (tiny animal) models.

First, here’s my set up: (look how teeny weeny the model was)
I created a small studio here, using an empty cardbox (bought in a $2 shop), some white cardboards, and two light boxes. Perfect lighting was easy to do for a studio this small!



I sat half crouched on my kids’ step, after I made sure the camera set-up was right (ISO-f/stop-shutter speed), I set the focus to manual, and I pointed the focus on the model’s nose. I used a remote to reduce shake, then ever so slowly and carefully, I turned the lens, so the focus turned to the space just one or two millimeter behind the nose, got my focus, click the remote, and continued on until the last pointy end of the tail was shot. That’s to make ONE image of that model from that angle (I took at least two different angles to make sure the position of the model emphasised the model’s unique features). A slight shake on the camera/tripod would jeopardise the image, one millimetre slide too far on the lens when I moved the focus point, could lose me one ear, or an eye in the final image. It was a meticulous process.

Next step was processing in Photoshop. First I opened all 10 or 15 images in PS Bridge, to open all 10 to 15 images in layers in Photoshop, then I did Auto-Align Layers (even with tripod it’s very hard to shoot each image in perfect alignment), continued by Auto-Blend Layers to make ONE image, where everything -from nose to tail- was sharp. Like I said before, a slight shake in one image would ruin the whole thing. When an image was ruined, there was no other way but to re-shoot.

I had a week, which was the duration of my lens rental, to finish the shooting of all animals, and additional tiny musical instruments, that came to about 28 pieces or so. This was a crucial week, because I had to make sure I got all the shots needed before I had to return the lens. Then followed a couple of weeks of post-editing.

Here are some of the final images:



I found the job very challenging, but I felt it was a good challenge. This type of photography is not going to be the type I would pursue in the future, but I really appreciate the opportunity to this. I learned a lot. I learned not only the technical side of doing macro shots, I also learned how to finally get my toes a bit wet to start my photography business. I got my business number registered, and knew how to invoice people now, learned how to negotiate/discuss/dealing with a client. It’s a precious baby step towards the right direction.

If you are interested to buy the product that use these images, please go to How We Montessori Shop straight away!

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  • Gary Lum18/10/2013 - 6:19 am

    Wow, these are beautifulReplyCancel

  • inthetaratory19/10/2013 - 5:45 pm

    This is brilliant! So impressive, and so professional. Congratulations!ReplyCancel

    • [ayu]29/10/2013 - 7:19 pm

      Thanks T1. I am too happy with the result (and the whole process, really), thanks for popping by. Your comment is very encouraging, I really appreciate it! xReplyCancel

      • inthetaratory29/10/2013 - 9:33 pm

        You’re very welcome – wouldn’t have said what I said if they didn’t look so professional. Can’t wait to see more of your pics – have missed them. ReplyCancel

  • Beth - Our Montessori Life29/10/2013 - 3:10 pm

    Thank you Ayu for documenting this. I am one of Kylie’s “shoppers” and the “behind the scenes” backstory is facinating. It gives someone like me a real appreciation for the final product, and to your level of attention to detail with the project. My husband is a photographer and the opportunity to shoot with a macro is his “unicorn”.ReplyCancel

    • [ayu]29/10/2013 - 7:34 pm

      Hey Beth, my pleasure. Thank you for reading it and sharing your thoughts with me. I”m glad that my take on ‘behind the scene’ process can add value to one of Kylie’s “shoppers” (while here I thought I was just being a photography nerd detailing the whole process blow by blow 🙂 ).
      She’s a dear friend, and it’s such a good experience to collaborate with her in the project. It’s very nice to hear from you, Kylie’s shopper… 😉 don’t be a stranger now. xReplyCancel

Day 256 #Project365

256-365 baby brother.jpg

Since my friend lent me his telelens last Saturday, I tried whenever I can to use it until the time I have to return it back in a couple of days. So far there are heaps to learn.

With the 70-300mm lens, I find that I have to readjust the exposure further, as the camera does not give me the right information that I ended up with many under exposed images. The lens widest aperture is f/4, I find I have to crank up the ISO a bit up to be able to get a sharp focus even though it’s daylight.

My subject today was little gorgeous O. O is the brother of Ms 4’s BFF from school, and we all were there having a picnic after school along with some other people as we do most Wednesdays. O was not having his lunch. He was out to play. He was enjoying the brilliant spring day by running around, moving between the trees, and giggling/smiling all the way. I could not ask for a better subject.

It’s a different feeling to take a picture using this lens, as I could stay so far back, sometimes O forgot that I was there pointing my camera at him. He was totally oblivious and relax he gave me endless beautiful moments (and expression) to capture. With my usual 50mm prime lens, I find I have to stay around the kids for a bit longer just to get them used to me (and my camera) and for them to feel relax and let me take their pictures, because I do have to stand quite close.

I love to take portraits using telelens and I love it using prime lens. And this is how my bucket list just getting longer and longer…

ps: Special thanks to Kylie who let me use her super cute son’s image for my post today.

Nikon D90 | AF Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4-5.6G | ISO 500 | f/4.2 | 1/640

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Day 223 #Project365

When one person in a family is learning photography, or is a photographer (already accomplished), the fate of the rest of the family is as good as written in stone. Sooner or later, more often than not, they will be asked/cajoled/forced and, or bribed into sitting in front of camera to be a model. This sacrifice is necessary for the good of the one person who learns photography. At this stage it is indeed very self-centered in nature because it seems that it only benefits the photographer in the family, and not the rest. But we do it because we are family (and they are legally bound or related by blood to me), and we all hope every effort will pay off in the years to come.

After dodging the bullets for so long the time has come for Hubby to be my next ‘victim’. As ‘no’ was not really an option here, he bravely sat as my model for a couple of hours last night to help me with my portrait assignment. As I was a total newbie in using all the lighting equipment it probably took longer than necessary just to get the shot I wanted. A glass of whiskey certainly helped him to endure the whole thing and I have to say, he did seem to get the hang of it pretty quickly.

Until the next session, love! (that’s tomorrow, btw, in case you forget)  😉

223-365 headshot.jpg

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playing with fire

Sitting by the fire and just watching the log burns was one of the highlight if not THE only highlight of camping at night time. Sitting with camera in my hand, staring at the fire got a bit more interesting. Rarely have we had a chance to seee open fire like this in the city, so I was really interested to learn how to take photos of fire. These two images were taken on a different day, and using a different speed because I was just want to experiment.

fire 1

ISO:1000 Aperture: f/8 Shutter speed: 1/8 Lens: AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G

fire 2

ISO: 1250 Aperture: f/5 Shutter speed: 1/400 Lens: AF-S DX VR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED

A typical newbie in photography I was very happy looking at the result. The orange hairthin lines dancing up looked so pretty and playful even, the effect resulted by my son poking at burning wood and me catching what’s happening to the fire with a really slow shutter speed.

I love the second image too. It took me back to the time when I was actually sitting down in front of that fire, thinking how pretty it was. This image was taken with a lot faster shutter speed than the one before.

I love them both because each depicts different feel and emotions to me.


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