Tag Archives: macro photography

What Is Macro Photography? Some Useful Tips And Tricks

18 Apr

What is macro photography? Often referred to as ‘micro photography’, it is all about getting close to your subject. If you want to shoot a macro photo of a leaf for instance, it will be necessary to have to get very close. For this you will be using (ideally) a macro lens.

Perhaps you have a zoom lens which has a macro facility. You might find a section on the lens that is an orange colour {(usually) with an ‘M’. Now it is worth remembering that this isn’t a macro lens, it just means that your lens can focus fairly close.

If you want to really get into macro photography, you will want something a bit more geared towards the task at hand than this. A macro lens will focus down to an insanely small distance between the end of the lens and the subject you’re shooting. It is often possible to get as close as 5 inches to your subject. That is something you couldn’t do with a regular lens.

When you get closer to something, your depth of field begins to shrink and appears shallower. This is a universal law that governs all lenses. We human beings tend to move around a lot even if we try not to. Our small movements backwards and forwards will cause the focal point to move backwards and forwards so it can be very challenging to focus on something in macro photography. One way to overcome this is to use your elbows as a miniature tripod to try and keep the camera steady. But as you get closer and closer to the subject, it gets more and more difficult for you to remain still because you are breathing and moving without intention. Every time you adjust the focus and then adjust your position, your shot becomes blurry.

That is where tripods become useful. The tripod is a brilliantly simple tool because it enables you to capture shots that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to take as it eliminates your own unintentional movements.

Another foe of the macro photographer is breeze. Small breezes can interfere just when you least expect them to and typically at the worst possible times for you to get that perfect shot. We have to pick the ideal conditions whenever we have the best chance. If you plan to do some nature photography on a breezy day you probably won’t have the best conditions to get the best possible shots. But there is an alternative solution which we will come to very soon.

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 flowers, a slightly overcast sky can often be the best conditions for this type of photography. The light is still directional but it is very soft and subtle.

Another great weapon at your disposal when it comes to macro is the reflector. The beauty of using reflectors for macro is that the reflectors themselves can be fairly small. One example of a reflector that you most likely already have is a notepad made of white paper inside. All you need to do is open it up and move it alongside the object you’re about to shoot. You will notice that the light on the object subtly changes when you use the notepad.

Now I wrote earlier that I would be giving you a useful tip on how to defy breezes when doing macro and that tip is to take your macro work indoors. If you are taking shots of a flower, you can take that flower indoors (assuming it’s not someone else’s flower!). Indoors is a great location for doing macro photography and one of the biggest reasons is that there are far fewer disturbances such as sudden winds and other things. Don’t get me wrong – outdoors is brilliant for macro in many ways but if it is pouring with rain outside then practicing macro indoors can provide great conditions.

Another very important thing is that you spend time to pick the right flower. As you move in close any tiny blemishes will start to show up, such as pollen stains on the petals.

Until now I’ve written a lot about flowers in this article but there are lots of other objects including objects usually found at home that make wonderful shots for macro. Just look around your house. Glass objects like jam jars, vases, bottles and so on can work very well because of the interesting ways they reflect light. The background doesn’t matter too much with macro, because when you have that short depth of field, particularly when you have a wide aperture, it doesn’t matter so much what’s in the background because it will be blurred into a mix of tones. The only thing you need to consider is what those tones should be.

You will typically use single point auto focus. What this means is you will be telling the camera which dots in the viewfinder to focus on. 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 select which part of the view finder you’re focusing on. If you’re in auto mode the camera might not understand where to focus and it could decide on the wrong part of the picture, which will make you feel extremely frustrated because you won’t be able to get the picture you want.

When shooting indoors, you will often be working with a relatively slow shutter speed (around 1/8th of a second). That is because there isn’t much light indoors normally, but what light there is, is often very good, high quality light.

One more thing to think about is the aperture. Imagine you’re taking a macro shot of two different subjects with one towards the foreground of the photo and the other towards the background. Suppose you want to make the object in the background appear to be more blurry, while the object in the foreground is sharply defined and in focus. You may be typically using an F8 which is a middle of the road type of aperture, but by utilizing a wider aperture you will be able to place the emphasis much more strongly onto the subject in the foreground and cause the background object to become much more out of focus. The best approximate aperture you could use is around F3.3, which will make the shutter speed faster and decrease the depth of field.

Abstracts also make for wonderful photographs. Consider shooting objects made of metal around your home such as your toaster, tool box, and other things. They will often have lots of reflective surfaces with interesting shapes and lines. Try using a shallow depth of field, so that it will give you a place to look within the frame, instead of just viewing the entire picture. Highly reflective objects made of stainless steel for example may confuse the auto focus, in which case you may need to switch to manual.

You can get great results by taking photos of objects close to a window that doesn’t have any direct sunlight shining in through it. The side of the object near the window will be brighter than the other darker side. Try playing around with a reflector to get some different effects lighting up this darker side to wrap it around the object. This works well with shiny surfaced fruit, such as limes, lemons, oranges and so on.

So how would you describe macro photography?

Macro photography comes down to getting close up with objects and it opens up a whole new dimension of photography using the blandest of subject matter and bringing it into a new way of seeing it. You just have to look around your home and try to find things that could get you some nice results. If you are shooting macro outdoors, you will have to contend with sudden winds, which may cause lots of blurred images. So try it out and enjoy it! Remember, you don’t necessarily need to have the dedicated macro lens.