Monthly Program – June 2012 – Lou Nettelhorst

Close-up and Personal: The Joys of Macro Nature Photography

Ninety-nine members came out to listen to Lou Nettelhorst give his presentation.  He began with the following quote, giving us a sense of where he comes fromas a Macro photographer:

“Each time I make a photo I celebrate the life I love and the beauty I know and the happiness I have experienced.  All my photos are made like that.”   –Ruth Bernhard

For Lou, Macro photography is a whole new world and one that he enjoys teaching in order to help students become better photographers.   Lou feels that to be successful with composing images, you have to know your equipment first.  It can be very difficult feeling your way through a composition when you’re thinking about the buttons and settings on your camera.   Once you know your equipment and are ready to photograph, it’s time to give up any preconceived notions.  “Letting go of self is an essential precondition to real seeing.”  –Freeman Patterson

Lou has four tips to use with every shot and they are listed below in order of importance.  Think of the word BELS (background, edges, lighting, subject).

Subject   Think about what your subject is and where do you place it in the picture space.  Considerations include placing it as an off-center subject, placing it moving into the frame, give it breathing room, and avoid crowding the image.  Lou’s philosophy is to try to capture the best image in the camera.  Work the subject, give it movement or come up close and personal.

Lighting  One of the joys with working with light is the ability to control it, e.g. exposure compensation (EV), white balance, post-processing adjustments using a  raw converter, using diffused, reflected, and artificial light.  Read the histogram but use your exposure compensation to make adjustments.  The histogram tells you about the scene.   The white balance can be set in camera and/or adjusted in camera raw.  Diffused light is macros friend.  A saturated subject can look gorgeous in diffused light.  Direct light is often harsh and flattens a subject.  Side light shows more texture and rear light outlines the subject and may also shine through a subject.  Lou loves rear light.

Backgrounds  It can mess up or make your photos.  A question to ask: does the background add to or take away from the image?  Avoid clutter and backgrounds that compete with the subject.   A good practice is to run the focus all the way to the background just to see what’s back there—you can then shade it or move it (but never pick it).

Edges  Run the edges.  Is anything too close to the edge or is something being cut off?  Always check your edges.

In Macro photography it is essential to control your depth of field and do so using your depth of field preview button.  Determine what you want in focus—you can use selective focus if you want to create a desired effect.  It’s important to be aware of your background’s impact.  Ask yourself what do I want in focus and what do I want the focus to do?  You can focus through the subject for an ethereal effect.

Creative Macro Concepts.  Important elements to creating macro images include line, simplicity, fill the frame, placement, pictures within pictures, and directionality.  “This is where the heart is in one’s photography, rather than the technical stuff. When teaching, I continually ask ‘what makes your heart sing?’  For me playing with these concepts gets my heart singing with GREAT joy.”

Equipment & Materials.  Some of the things that Lou carries on the field include a sun hat, vest, camera,  lenses, extension tubes, right angle viewfinder, diopter, tripod, knee pads, filter wallet, extra lens cap, polarizer, flowerpod, the plamp, clothes pins, poison ivy relief, sunscreen, windscreen, reflectors, diffuser, light disc holder, and studio/super clamp.  With all this equipment, he has a 20 yd. rule.  He only shoots 20 yds. from his car.

Lou closed his presentation with a beautiful slide show (accompanied to music) of his macro images.  Thank you Lou for an exciting and inspiring presentation!

Lou teaches a variety of workshops throughout the year.  His website is and Facebook page is  He conducts studio workshops at his home:  82 Jamestown Court; Grayslake, IL  60030-7920;; (847-231-6088).