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Students Behind the Lens: Liliana Suciu

Inspired by product imagery she saw as a marketing professional, Liliana Suciu creates macro photos with her Tamron SP 85mm F/1.8 VC lens.




By Jenn Gidman
Images by Liliana Suciu



When Liliana Suciu was immersed in the world of marketing, setting up product shoots was a routine part of her job—and her first real exposure to photography. “I’d always liked the photography aspect of it all, but I never thought too much about doing it myself,” she says. “Then, about five years ago, I started taking nature pictures (mostly flowers) with my cellphone and posting them on Instagram. People kept asking me what camera and lenses I used, and I decided maybe I should get a real DSLR and start learning the craft more intensely.”

The San Diego resident already had a master’s degree in marketing, so she didn’t necessarily want to commit to another full-time scholastic program or degree, but she took as many classes as she could to learn about everything from lighting and composition to film and black-and-white photography. But while the courses were instructive, Liliana found they were taking time from her venturing out into the world and putting her new knowledge into practice via macro photography, which by then she’d realized was her passion.

Liliana loved that, with macro photography, she could shoot virtually anywhere, and how it forced her to slow down to take in the natural world around her. “It's seeing the little things that you wouldn't normally see as you pass by,” she says. “I wanted to share with others the wonder of the world surrounding us and the amazing details that regularly escape our notice. It’s a world that’s usually overlooked.”

One of the tools in her gear bag that Liliana uses to achieve a macro-style look is the Tamron SP 85mm F/1.8 Di VC USD lens. “I love how sharp the 85mm is,” she says. “The F/1.8 aperture allows me to achieve that soft bokeh that’s very important to me in my work, all while keeping my subject tack-sharp. The Vibration Compensation (VC) feature is also key, because I shoot handheld and need my subjects to stay in focus. The VC helps me keep camera shake to a minimum.”

To ensure that her photos stand out, Liliana looks for the lighting and backgrounds that will best complement her subjects. “I don’t like harsh lighting, so I usually shoot early in the morning, in the evening, or when it’s overcast,” she says. “Diffused lighting works best for my subjects. I’ll often carry a small reflector with me just for that purpose, or to bounce the light in the direction I want it to go.”

Finding just the right background to make the subject pop is also crucial to Liliana’s quest to create visually appealing images. “I take lots of photos from various angles of the same flower or plant,” she says. “I want to make sure there’s nothing obstructing the view of my subject, or otherwise distracting from it. I also don’t want to block the light. After I have all of these photos in hand, I’ll go through them later on during the editing process and pick the ones that make my subject stand out best. Sometimes I won’t know in the moment when I’m shooting them, but when I’m looking at the photos on the computer, it becomes more clear. Details emerge on the computer screen that maybe I didn’t notice when I was looking through the viewfinder.”

Liliana views post-processing as a tool for enhancement, not a complete overhaul. “When I photograph insects, I’ll always represent their actual colors without much alteration, but with flowers, I’ll bring out those colors and contrast a bit more, even change the colors a bit,” she says. “But I won’t add anything to the photo, like bokeh or lighting effects. That may seem odd in a world of heavily edited Instagram photos, but I prefer to stay true to the photos I take.”

For Liliana, the biggest challenges for her as an outdoor macro photographer: the physicality of her craft—"you’re bending and on the ground a lot so you can get down to the level of your subjects”—and having to be dependent on the weather. “If it’s a breezy day, you could be waiting five or 10 minutes for the wind to die down, and then when it does and you start shooting, it suddenly starts up again, and your subject is out of focus once more,” she says. “That can be very frustrating, so I try to scan the weather reports before I head outside to maximize my time.”

For those who’d like to try their hand at macro photography, or who are just starting to become immersed in it themselves, Liliana suggests getting out there, shooting as much as possible (and from as many different angles as possible), and training your eyes to look for the details buried within the bigger picture. “Frank Lloyd Wright has a famous quote: ‘Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you,’” Liliana says. “That’s the philosophy I take into my macro photography. Nature will always reveal something new to you, if you know to look for it.”

© Liliana Suciu
85mm, F/1.8, 1/500th sec., ISO 250
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© Liliana Suciu
85mm, F/1.8, 1/1600th sec., ISO 100
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© Liliana Suciu
85mm, F/1.8, 1/640th sec., ISO 64
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© Liliana Suciu
85mm, F/1.8, 1/500th sec., ISO 64
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© Liliana Suciu
85mm, F/1.8, 1/500th sec., ISO 250
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© Liliana Suciu
85mm, F/3, 1/200th sec., ISO 80
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