Your cart is currently empty.

Continue shopping

Get the Shot! Macro Blue Background

By: Todd Winner

The blue background macro shot is very similar to the black background shot. It’s a nice look and something different to add to your portfolio. It’s fairly easy to pull off and it produces a nice clean blue or green background depending on the water color. Like the black background shot you need to find a subject with open water behind it. Ideally this water needs to be fairly bright so stay shallow and angle your lens up. If you are shooting a black background subject with bright water behind it you can simply slow down your shutter but if you need to open the shutter more than 1/15sec you would be better off making other adjustments as well. I like to start around ISO 400, f/11-f/16 and a shutter speed of around 1/60. This gives you a small range to adjust the background darker or lighter with just shutter speed. I find it easier to make adjustments using manual strobe but you can also use TTL. If shooting manual strobes you need to be on low power settings. At slower shutter speeds you can get some ghosting from camera and/or subject movement so keep the camera steady. Look for subjects on sea whips, sea fans and kelp. These are easy locations to find open water behind.

Key settings

  • Macro lens 
  • Manual camera exposure. 
  • Starting aperture (f/11- f/16) (f/5.6-f/8 for compacts)
  • Starting shutter speed (1/60)
  • Starting ISO 400 (There is a wide range of aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings that can achieve blue water backgrounds. Start with these but adjust depending on the ambient light conditions)
  • Manual or TTL strobes (If shooting TTL your subject needs to fill a large portion of the frame)
  • Strobe placement (There is no one size fits all for strobe placement but since we are shooting macro, keep your strobes close to your macro port. Experiment with different angles and power ratios)
  • Subject or camera angle that allows for bright open water behind the subject.

Getting the Shot

  • After finding a subject with some bright water behind it, set your camera to manual and adjust aperture, shutter speed and ISO. 
  • If shooting manual strobes set to a low power setting. 
  • Take a shot.
  • Make adjustments to lighten or darken the background with your shutter speed.
  • Make adjustments to the foreground with strobe power or distance. Use flash compensation if using TTL.

Post production

If you properly exposed the image, these type of shots typically require minimum post production. These are my general settings in Lightroom for macro blue background images:

  • Fine tune the exposer in the basic tab.
  • Add a little clarity and maybe vibrance in the basic, presence tab. Not too much, +20 or less.
  • Remove any backscatter using the healing brush.
  • Add some sharpening with a mask in the detail tab.