Archive | June, 2013

What Is Macro Photography?

7 Jun

Macro photography is all about getting close to your subject. If you want to take a close-up of a flower for example, it will be necessary to have to get very close. For this you will be best off using a macro lens.

You may have a zoom lens that features macro capabilities. There may be a part of the lens that is an orange colour {(usually) with an ‘M’. Now it is worth remembering that this isn’t a dedicated macro lens, it just means that the lens will be able to focus pretty close.

If you want to really get into macro photography, you will need something a bit more suited to the job than this. A macro lens will focus down to a tiny distance between the end of the lens and the object you’re capturing. It is often possible to get as close as 5 inches to the subject. That is something you couldn’t easily do with a normal lens.

When you get closer to something, your depth of field is reduced and becomes shallower. This is a universal characteristic of all lenses. We human beings tend to move around a lot even if we try not to. Our small movements back and forth will cause the point of focus to move backwards and forwards so it can be quite a challenge to focus on something with macro photography.

One way to overcome this is to use your elbows as a small tripod to try and keep the camera steady. You’ll still find that as you get closer and closer to the subject matter, it becomes more and more challenging for you to keep still because you are breathing and moving without intending to do so. Every time you focus and then move, your picture becomes blurred.

That is where tripods become extremely useful. The tripod is a brilliantly simple tool because it enables you to take pictures that you normally wouldn’t be able to take as it eliminates your own human movements.

Another noteworthy enemy of the macro photographer is wind. Small breezes can pick up just when you least expect them to and often at the worst possible times for you to get that perfect shot. We have to pick the ideal conditions whenever we have the opportunity. If you plan to do some nature photography on a windy day you might not have the best conditions to get the best possible pictures. But there is an alternative which we will come to in just a minute.

Another thing to watch out for with macro photography is the type of light you are getting. If you are outdoors with a cloudy sky and you want to photograph something delicate like a flower, a slightly cloudy sky will often be the best type of light for this type of photography. The light is still directional but it is very soft and subtle.

Goutte d'eau.

Goutte d’eau. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another great tool when it comes to macro is the reflector. The great thing about using reflectors for macro is that the reflectors themselves don’t have to be huge. One example of a reflector which you most likely already have is a notepad made of white paper inside. All you have to do is open it up and position it alongside the object you’re about to shoot. You will notice that the light on the subject subtly changes when you use the notepad.

Now I wrote earlier in this article that I would be sharing a useful tip on how to overcome breezes when doing macro and that tip is to move indoors. If you are shooting a flower, you can take that flower indoors (assuming it’s not someone else’s flower!). Indoors is an excellent location for doing macro work and one of the biggest reasons is that there are far fewer disturbances like sudden breezes and other factors. Don’t get me wrong – outdoors is excellent for macro in many ways but if it is raining cats and dogs outside then practicing macro indoors can provide perfect conditions.

It is also very important that you spend time to choose the right flower. As you move in close any tiny blemishes will become obvious, such as pollen stains on the petals.

So far I’ve written a lot about flowers in this article but there are plenty of other objects including objects commonly found around the house which make fantastic shots for macro. Have a look around your house. Objects made of glass like jam jars, vases, bottles and so on can work very well because of the interesting ways they reflect light. The background isn’t as important in macro, because when you have that short depth of field, particularly when you have a wide aperture, it doesn’t really matter what’s in the background because it will be blurred into a mix of tones. All you have to do is decide what those tones should be.

I found this resource very useful when I was first learning about macro photography:

You will typically use single point auto focus. That means you will be telling the camera which dots in the viewfinder to use to focus. Depending on the make and model of your camera, how to use the single point auto focus feature will vary, so it is recommended to review your camera’s manual to find out. You will be able to decide which part of the view finder you’re focusing on. If you’re on auto the camera might not understand exactly where to focus and it could choose the wrong part of the picture, which will make you feel quite frustrated because you won’t be able to get the image you want.

When working inside, you will usually be working with a slower shutter speed (around 1/8th of a second). That is because there isn’t a great deal of light indoors normally, but what light there is, is often very nice, high quality light. To get the full scope of information on this topic, check out this page. 

Macro photography study

Macro photography study (Photo credit: davidyuweb)