My wife, Maggie, is a keen gardener, and as well as our own garden, we frequently visit gardens around the country. Because of this, and because I enjoy doing it, I take many photographs of plants and flowers.
I was therefore intrigued by an article in the March/April 2020 issue of Camercraft magazine that featured a portfolio of the work of Scottish photographer Niall Benvie, using his Field Studio setup, and decided to have a go at the technique myself.
Niall's 'Field Studio' technique was developed to provide pure white backgrounds to close up studies of plants and flowers, small objects, insects and animals. The technique achieves this by using a sheet of translucant perspex behind the subject, which is illuminated from behind with flash. The subject is lit separately with a second diffused flash. The power setting of the rear flash is adjusted so that the background is slightly over-exposed, and so becomes pure white. The front flash power is adjusted as required to light the subject. Niall has produced an e-book describing the technique in detail, which is well worth the modest price.
The technique is particularly successful with flowers and similar subjects, as the flash intensities can be adjusted so that the light from the rear flash trans-illuminates the subject, bringing out detail and structure in petals and leaves.
In early 2020, I had splashed out on two Godox flash guns to replace my old Sony unit, and so I set up a crude experiment to see how the technique worked.
Field Studio first set up.
The photo shows the first setup that I tried.
The background was a piece of translucent perspex taken from an old lightbox, and measured 530 x 330mm, around 3mm thick. It was supported by small machine vice, about 400mm in front of the Godox V1 flash unit.
The camera was my Sony A6500, fitted with my Tamron 90mm macro via an LEA3 adapter. The camera was positioned so that the screen filled the field of view.
The front flash was the Godox TT350 unit mounted on the camera hot shoe, and diffused by a piece of fine translucent packing material. The subject was positioned between the screen and the camera.
I used manual settings throughout. The camera was set to manual exposure, ISO 100, shutter 1/160s, aperture f11 - f16.
For these first experiments, I used simple optical synchronisation between the camera and the flashes.
The Godox V1 was set to Manual output, with the output level around 1/128th of full power, manual zoom at the widest setting of 28mm, and S1 Sync, so that it fires at the same time as the TT350 on the camera..
The TT350 was set to Manual output, with the output level adjusted between full output down to , I think, around 1/16th, and Auto zoom. The diffuser was simple a loose piece of translucent packing material, similar to fine bubble wrap, taped loosely over the front of the unit.