Getting Started with Macro-Photography

Tricyrtis_Hirta_9263_small Tricyrtis Hirta. Image © Dmitriy Aseev

Many amateur and seasoned photographers eventually find their way into macro photography. Because of its presentation, it often looks too difficult to master. But with a little trial and error, any artist can be a brilliant macro photographer. Just like shooting sports, wildlife, weddings, and other areas, it requires a bit of experimentation to get comfortable.

What is Macro-Photography?
Macro-photography refers to a picture taken on 1:1 ratio or larger, which simply means the image of the subject on the digital sensor or the film is the same size or larger than the real subject. For instance, when a crusader bug covers the whole frame of your shot, or it is a grasshopper’s portrait – that’s macro photography.

Nature shows and stills are the best example of macro-photography. The streak of morning dew running down a flower’s pedestal. The “look” into the eyes of an insect. The still of a rain drop hitting a pond. Anyone with the right equipment can shoot macro-photography. It is an art form in itself. It requires a steady hand, a lot of patient and a bit of intuition.

What Equipment is Needed for Macro-Photography?
Since you are learning how to do best macro photography, it is best to learn on proper equipment. A dedicated 1:1 macro lens is certainly recommended. This lens doesn’t require any additional attachment for obtaining real macro magnification. Macro lenses allow you to get closer to the subject than regular lenses and produce images that are life size or larger.

Simple Macro Equipment

In case your budget doesn’t allow, the best option would be to purchase extension tubes, which would cost a lot less than a macro-lens. Extension tubes increase the distance from lens to sensor, hence increasing the magnification to approximately 20 to 50 percent, depending on the lens’ focal length.

Diopters or close-up lenses (sometimes also mistakenly called macro-filters) are another and probably the least expensive way to get into macro photography. Diopters mount directly on regular lenses, just like filters, and serve as eyeglasses for your camera.

For obtaining even greater magnification, your best shot would be to use both extension tubes and a macro lens at the same time. However, keep in mind that increased magnification significantly decrease the depth of field (DOF), which means that only a little area of the photograph will be in focus.

Make sure you use the smallest aperture setting and the slower shutter speed. This combination will give you a deeper DOF and the photograph’s subject will be in focus. However, in any case, you need a lot of light, for which you can use a store-bought or homemade solution. One option is to get a special macro double flash mounted on opposite sides of the lens. Another option is to get a ring flash attached right onto the lens. However, those ones are pretty expensive.

While you’re at it, you may want to check out inexpensive ring-flashes which use LED. They are known to cost less. Although, cheap light products do not provide enough light, however, they can suffice for a beginner.

If you already have a regular flash, you can assemble a custom solution by attaching your flash with a homemade light diffuser to a flash bracket, which will bring it closer to the photograph’s subject. Without a light diffuser, your flash will create glares and cast harsh shadows behind your subject.

As it was mentioned above, macro has a shallow DOF, which is why it’s pretty hard to get the focus right, at least at the first try. If you are photographing a still object, it’s a good idea to use a tripod or a monopod. However, if the subject is moving, you better to shoot freehand, since you constantly need to move your camera to focus on the subject. This will require several takes and a lot of patience.

The best part about learning macro photography is that you don’t need to go too far off places or choose any particular situation or timing. You can just play around in your backyard, take a few shots, upload them to your computer and see the results. You can then keep experimenting on the same objects and see different results.

Above all, don’t stick to the clichéd subjects; instead, unleash your creativity and explore abstract subjects as well as natural. Lastly, enjoy yourself as much as you can! Macro photography can open a miraculous world, which cannot be seen by naked eye. Once you get good at it, you will enjoy it a great deal.

Author: Jeremy Hooks

Categories Photography, Shooting