Macro photography reveals a world unseen, and often disregarded, by humans and photographers. The intricate parts of a flower’s interior, the patterns and textures of natural and man-made objects, and amazing features of insects and other small creatures are just a few of the subject matter for macro photography. The miniature world is a great escape and an excellent eye-opening experience whenever your photography becomes boring or predictable. People are always interested in good macro photos because it presents life from a different perspective. Advance your skills and output in this type of photography and you’re apt to see an increase in clicks on and “likes” of your online galleries.
Equipment is key to good macro photography. The debate continues about whether a compact, or point-and-shoot, camera can do an adequate job at macro photography, or a DSLR camera and macro lens is required. Many compact cameras do include a macro mode, which makes for a good learning tool before your passion in macro photography causes you to upgrade to a DSLR and lens. The first challenge for many compact camera owners, however, is that they are unaware their cameras have a macro mode because they fail to read the manual.
An important concept to understand is the magnification, or reproduction, ratio of the camera or lens. It isn’t particularly difficult. An insect that is two inches in length, but rendered as a one-inch object on your camera has a reproduction ratio of 1:2, or half of its actual size. The magnification would be expressed as 0.5. It’s not uncommon for a zoom lens to have a 1:4 reproduction ratio, which will allow you to fill the frame with even a smaller insect or tiny object. Check your camera or lens’ technical specifications, typically found in the manual, for its reproduction, or magnification, ratio.
Whether you’re shooting macro photography with a compact or DSLR camera, a tripod is an essential tool. Its primary benefit is to hold the camera steady at the slow shutter speeds you may often use and the extremely shallow focus depth of macro photography.
Return to your camera’s manual to learn how to use its delayed shutter release. Once you’ve framed your macro photo as you wish, you push the shutter release, but it doesn’t snap the picture for a few seconds. Any shake you imparted to the camera as you pushed the shutter has disappeared before the image is captured. You can also purchase a remote shutter release accessory that allows you to trip the shutter wirelessly.
Lighting at the macro level is often quite different than illuminating a person for a portrait or other “full-size” objects. The standard issue flash unit built into a compact camera or a separate flash unit could be awkward to use in close quarters or deliver too much light. Check your flash’s manual to determine exactly how close you can be to a subject and still control the output of the flash.
If you’re new to macro photography, then probably your biggest challenge is making sure your tiny subject is accurately focused. In most cases, don’t rely on your camera’s auto-focus system, as it doesn’t know exactly what you want in focus. Set your camera to manual focus and adjust the focus carefully.
Another shooting challenge is depth of field. With your lens so close to your subject matter, the depth of the image that will appear in focus is extremely narrow. You can control depth of field to some degree with the aperture setting you select. Generally, you want the smallest aperture available, such as f/16 or f/22, to give you as much focus depth as possible. This, in turn, will quite likely require you to use a slow shutter speed, which is another reason you need a tripod and remote shutter release.
- David Busch's Close-Up and Macro Photography Compact Field Guide
- Understanding Close-Up Photography: Creative Close Encounters with Or Without a Macro Lens
- Creative Close-Ups: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques
- Close-Up & Macro Photography (Expanded Guide: Techniques)
- Macro Photography for Gardeners and Nature Lovers
- Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis
PhotographyTalk.com recommends two tripods that have been specifically designed for macro photographers.
The Manfrotto 190XPROB is built with a center column, which, when disengaged, with the simple push of a button, is free to swing 90 degrees to a horizontal position. It will also swing an entire 180 degrees, so your camera can be positioned upside down to shoot low-to-ground nature photography, without having to lie prone.
The central column of the Vanguard 263-AGH tripod is similarly adjustable in many vertical and horizontal positions from zero to 180-degree angles to make macro photography much easier.
A better solution is a ring flash. It is a small device with a circular light panel that attaches to the front of your lens. From that position, a ring flash casts no shadows on a close-up object, creating a smooth, attractive image.
Photo copyright PhotographyTalk member Kksram Ganesh
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