Macro Photography

Macro photography is just another term for close-up photography. There are various schools of thought on when a photo becomes a “macro”. My view is that a photo becomes a macro when the image in the photo is larger than the subject you photographed. If you would define it as different I would love it if you would share it with everyone below in the comments field.

Macro Gear

Flash
While it's easier to shoot macro on a bright sunny day, often you'll find that you still need to use a flash to fill in the light and help stop any minor motion. With a point and shoot camera you have less options. You should experiment with using the different flashes that are available on your camera. I might also recommend defusing your flash. You can do this by taping a piece of white tissue paper over it. This will soften your flash. DSLR users who don't have an off camera flash will need to defuse their flash with tissue paper or a diffuser. If you have an off camera flash you should bounce the beam of light. If you're working outdoors you'll need to have a white reflector to bounce your flash off of.

Tripod
Even when you're trying your best to stay perfectly still, you move the tiniest bit. This movement can make your macro photography look a little blurry. Using a tripod will help you get a sharper image. So you don't have to touch the camera when it's taking the picture try using the timer or if you have a DSLR use a remote shutter release. For me that is preferential.

If you're shooting pictures of insects using a tripod could be quite difficult. Most bugs move way too fast to give you time to set up. In these cases you'll have to take a hand held photo. Brace your elbows against your body and hold yourself as steady as possible. You may even want to lean up against a tree or something to steady yourself even more.

Cameras and Lenses
When working with a DSLR camera, you should consider buying a lens for macro photography. Lenses can be quite expensive, but the right lens will allow you to take great pictures. When purchasing a lens you want to take into consideration what you'll be photographing. A 55mm macro lens will give you beautiful clear images. You'll have to be pretty close to the subject though. If you're planning to take pictures something that will be easily scared, this isn't the best option. Then you should try using a 100mm or a 200mm lens. This will allow you to have some distance between you and your subject. Some people opt for a zoom lens. These are also good options.

If you can't afford to go out and buy a new lens, you can use close-up lenses also called diopters. These are like magnifying glasses you can screw onto the front of your lens. They come in a variety of strengths or magnification powers.

Another option is getting an extension tube. An extension tube is a tube you can put between your camera and your lens to increase the lens' magnification.

Using a combination of extension tubes and close-up lenses will give you the best results for macro photography. Remember to make sure you buy close-up lenses and extension tubes that are compatible with your camera.

On your lens you'll see a series of f-stop numbers. These f-stops determine the aperture setting for your shot. A small f-stop number will make the aperture wider. This means you'll have a shallow depth of field and walk away with a smaller area in focus on your image. .

You also need to adjust your shutter speed--the length of time the shutter stays open. If your shutter is set to stay open for a long time, you'll be unable to get a sharp image of a subject that's in motion. For that you need to set a fast shutter speed.

The most common lens in macro photography is in the 100mm focal range. However, you can get a decent one at 60mm as well. You can even get a super-telephoto close-up lens at about 180mm. What makes them special is their ability to get close to the subject, thus filling the frame with a subject like a bug or a flower bud.

Some will ask if there are zoom lenses that are good for shooting these kinds of shots. The answer most photographers who deal with this type of shooting is that you need to stick with a single focal length, such as 100mm. This will give you a much better quality photo.

The good news is that even though you will need to spend quite a bit for a good quality lens for macro photography, it will be good for capturing great portraits and it will give you fantastic street journalism photos as well.

When choosing your new lens, pay attention to the aperture rating. Try to get an aperture of f/2.8 or greater. Personally, I own a 50mm, F/1.8 which produces fantastic images. This simply means that the opening will be wide enough to accomplish two things. First, you will get excellent blurred backgrounds when shooting at the wide aperture. You tiny subjects will stand out nicely because of this. The second thing is the ability to shoot in low light situations. The wider the aperture, the faster the shutter speed can be.

When you finally make the decision to add this piece of equipment to your camera bag, you will be delighted with the results and wonder why you put it off for so long. Even if you are shooting with the cheapest DSLR camera, the lens is what will make the largest impact on image quality.

Things to Consider

Composition
When following these macro photography tips don't forget the rules of composition. Try to use the rule of thirds in your pictures and remember that they eye is immediately drawn to the light.

One other thought when it comes to composition; compose the shot in the camera. I tend to do my best to fill the frame with the image I want and not rely on editing software to crop down the image later.

Focus
Automatic focus is very convenient, but when working with macro photography you'll usually find that manual focus gives you a better result. It will allow you to have more control over the selective focus on a specific point in your image.

Happy Shooting,

Kev

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Kevin A Pepper

Kevin is a photographer and educator based in Waterloo, Ontario. His first love is photographing nature, regardless of the season or weather condition; the Ontario landscape and its wildlife are his inspiration. But you will also see other styles of photography in his portfolio. From street photography to urban exploration of abandoned buildings and architecture, he loves to capture it all with his camera for his corporate clients and his growing personal portfolio. Kevin’s images have been featured in Canadian Nature Photographer, PHOTONews Canada, Photo Technique Magazine, The London Free Press, The Weather Network, and National Geographic Online. His diverse client list includes the City of Cambridge, Olympus, GORE Mutual, TVO, and African Lion Safari. Kevin also operates “Northof49 Photography”, a company launched in 2012 dedicated to teaching amateur photographers through International and Canadian-based workshops. In the coming year, Kevin will be leading workshops in Iceland, Mongolia, Tanzania, Venezuela, Provence, and numerous destinations across Canada. Website: www.northof49photography.com Blog: http://northof49photography.com/blog/