Although photographing mushrooms isn’t usually considered macro photography, I would like to impart some tips on this subject. After all, it is no longer the season for insects, and mushrooms are all proudly posing for us.
It looks like an easy subject for our lens, and this is true, at least in part. We don’t have any problems with wind, they stand nice and still, and don’t try to run or fly away. You can just point and shoot, even without a tripod. But the result will simply be a record of a mushroom. Remember that a beautiful or rare mushroom, or group of mushrooms, does not automatically guarantee a beautiful photograph. That requires a bit more thought.
A picture of a mushroom gets a lot more interesting if you lower your camera’s viewpoint as much as possible. If your tripod doesn’t go that low, invent a way to keep your camera steady in the right spot. (see the photo, left)
Then choose your lens carefully. If you pick a wide angle lens, you’ll see the whole forest in the background, and that can add a lot of interest to the shot. Or choose a long lens, to create an image with smaller angle of view, and a more restful, less busy background. This way you can isolate your subject and free it from the surroundings.
With the “”Live-View” function of your camera, you can accurately select your focus point, and with the depth of field preview button, you’ll see exactly what elements are in focus. If your camera doesn’t have live-view, like my first Canon 1 Ds, or if the camera is situated so low to the ground that you can’t see the screen, then an angle viewer is the answer.
It is also useful to remove disruptive elements from the composition, like a twig or leaf that is in the way. Just don’t go overboard with your corrective gardening, because your photo will start to look unnatural. If your viewpoint is such that the underside of the mushroom cap comes into view, it is wise to give this area a little more light. This can be achieved with a small reflector or a white card. Place it on the ground in front of your subject, just out of frame, in such a way that the light is reflected on the underside of the cap. (see the example left).
The top of the mushroom may reflect the sky, often desaturating the true color. A polarizing filter can help here. Turn the filter until the reflection is gone and the colors become richer. The example shows the same mushroom, on the left photographed without a polarizer, and on the right with. Reflections are removed from the entire scene, not just the from the cap of the mushroom. I recommend always using a polarizing filter for mushroom photography.
After writing this month’s tip, I am looking forward to expanding my gallery of mushroom images again.