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These are pictures of a photographer that works for a popular breeder of poison dart frogs. In the 3 examples attached I will describe what, to me is remarkable about that. I would be elated to hear from the more experienced lot of you about how this mastery of lighting and post-processing is achieved?

Photo Credit: Dirk Ercken

Gorgeous and *uniform* liquid-like shine

Stunning detail and color of wood grain, glossy appearance of the frog skin

The detail on the leg, for such a large depth of field

1- Gorgeous and uniform liquid-like shine 2-Stunning detail and color of wood grain, glossy appearance of the frog skin 3-The detail on the leg, for such a large depth of field

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    Did you already look at the photographer's online tutorials? – junkyardsparkle Jun 23 '16 at 2:51
  • @junkyardsparkle-welp.I think that's my answer right there! Closing the topic! – Chai Jun 23 '16 at 5:30
  • Well, it never hurts to leave the question open for a day or two... I wasn't sure that anything at the photographer's site addressed your specific questions. – junkyardsparkle Jun 23 '16 at 7:17
  • @junkyardsparkle- true true, but people can still leave answers if they please :) I would be happy to read more :) – Chai Jun 23 '16 at 15:36
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Hmm. Looks like a large light source (probably artificial, possibly a flash in a portable softbox) (soft shadows, black background), decent lens at a "good" aperture (guessing at f11-f16, but I don't know how large the animals are, so I can't be sure, and I didn't peek at the exif for the photos, if there is any), fairly good focus (though the top frog's face is a bit soft), some significant sharpening in post (if you zoom in, you can see sharpening artifacts around the frogs), and probably significant saturation and contrast adjustments in post, as well.

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    Probably artificial? ;) Worth mentioning also that getting the big soft light source as close as possible will not only help it "wrap" the subjects, but will give faster falloff behind them, helping to get the black backgrounds. – junkyardsparkle Jun 22 '16 at 22:10
  • For a general sense of softness relative to size and distance, these similar sized frogs were lit by an 8.5x11 sheet of paper placed against the tank wall roughly 15cm to the left. The frogs aren't as shiny, but the softness, or "wrap", of the lighting is still evident, I think, particularly in the eyes. – junkyardsparkle Jun 22 '16 at 22:27
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Focus Stacking.

You put the camera on a tripod, use manual focussing, and then take a serious of shots, shifting the focus plane a bit after each shot. Once you have some training, that works very quick - turn the focus ring a bit, click, turn, click, ...

Then, in a post-processing software, you 'stack' all shots over each other, and select from each shot the piece that looks sharp, using a soft brush, working layer for layer, removing the parts you don't want, so the next layer comes through. Adobe Photoshop does this even semi-automatically (but not for the quality level in your examples).

For an experienced pro, such a picture is an hour or two of dedicated work. For a beginner, you can spend the whole day, and it will not be as good (well, that's my personal experience, maybe you are better).

Of course, you need good lighting and a good camera to begin with.

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    Could you explain what aspect of the pictures suggests to you that focus stacking was part of the process? – junkyardsparkle Jun 22 '16 at 23:48
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    @junkyardsparkle, for example, nearly all parts of the frog in the last picture are perfectly in crisp and sharp. There is no other way to get this Depth of Focus; even with f/45, the wood at the foot in the front left of the shot (the frog's back right foot) would not be crisp anymore. Also, you see at that foot that the frog moved it slightly between shots; as a result, the wood is crisp, but one toe is a bit fuzzy. – Aganju Jun 23 '16 at 1:37
  • In the first picture, the DOF of the leaf is not perfectly done, it becomes fuzzy at a distance where the top part of the frog is still sharp. That tells me that the (quite tedious) processing was cut a bit short there. – Aganju Jun 23 '16 at 1:38
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    Hmm... the fuzzy toe appears to have an out-of-focus splinter of wood in front of it to me, but that's just my impression. – junkyardsparkle Jun 23 '16 at 7:20

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