Create a Futuristic City Macro Photograph

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

As part of the Tiny Worlds series, I’ll show you how to create a futuristic looking city using staples. I remember seeing this somewhere a couple of years ago and thinking it was a great idea and creates a really nice effect.

what you need
What you'll need

  • Tin Foil
  • Staples
  • A table or steady surface
  • Blu/White Tac (optional)
  • Patience!
I’m using a small portable studio for my surface but you could use a bent piece of cardboard, just as long as it’s quite steady. Place your tinfoil over the back of your surface and down onto where you want to set your staples. 
Wherever you set up, make sure there’s a lot of ambient light. Ambient light is uncontrolled, but it creates great look on the foil in terms of reflections. My light is from a window to the left of the image. I was hoping it would look like the sun shining on the city. 
You can replicate this look with a large artificial light source like a softbox or umbrella. If you do use artificial light, try breaking it up with a cookie to simulate the look of clouds blocking the sun as it falls across the city.

place your staples
Place your staples on the foil, carefully

Start placing your staples. For this, you can use some blu tac or sticky pads to secure them to your tin foil but it means you won’t be able to shoot the bottom parts of your city – unless you’re willing to do some serious cloning out in post!
I balanced mine and I’ll be honest, it needs a steady hand and a lot of patience. This will probably happen a lot:

They all fall down...

You might cry, and that’s okay; maybe I should’ve added tissues to the ‘what you’ll need’ section. In all seriousness, you might find using tweezers useful if this keeps happening.
Be sure to break up some of your staple blocks so that you have a variety of heights going on. Also, don’t be afraid to place them haphazardly and facing different directions. We’re looking for visual interest, not actually planning a residential district.
When you’re finished setting up, and holding your breath so nothing else falls over, then you should have something that looks like this:

city set up
City set up

You’ll want a shallow depth of field so if you’re not shooting in Manual mode (which is fine) then I suggest Aperture Priority. My lens was a 90mm f/2.8 so I’ve gone forf/4 here with about 1/100 shutter speed and ISO 320. I suggest shooting from the bottom, up to get a sense of height.

split tone
I decided to spilt tone this image

I opened up my shot in Camera RAW and decided to slightly split tone it. You can see I went for a purple tinge to the highlights and a blue one for the shadows.

staple city
A finished 'city'

This is one of the finished images and I loved the light and reflections on the foil.  Here I’ve straightened the image, added a vignette and some contrast. You could do something a little more advanced and try stacking your images:

staple city 2
Another version of a 'city' made by stacking two images

This uses the same image twice, with one flipped horizontally and then changed toMultiply in Photoshop. I soft erased some of the edges to blend it then gave it some purple and yellow tones to add to the effect. It looks overly sharp here due to resizing.
I think this is a really cheap and fun way to make some macro images indoors. It takes a little time and patience to set up but the results are pretty nifty and if you experiment, you can get some great images. I think because of the nature of the staples, this effect would look great in monochrome or black and white too. You could even get really creative and throw in a few paper-clips as aerials on top of the ‘skyscrapers’. I’m far too clumsy to have attempted that but I’d love to see your version of Staple City, if you give this a go.


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