Going Macro: Tools and Techniques
by Cody Johnson | Feb 11, 2013 | How Tos
is the art of capturing the essence of an object in a close-up shot. Close-up photography reveals such remarkable details that are unnoticeable by the naked human eye. Those of you who might have experimented with digital macro photography at some point would have been awestruck by the intricacy in pattern, detail and texture. Magnified photography unveils the finer details of life as you hurriedly shuffle through your day.
Going macro involves increasing the size of an object in your snapshot from half the life-size, as usually depicted on the image sensor, to up to even five times the life-size. Remember how Alice shrunk in Alice in Wonderland and everything appeared huge from toadstools to the grinning Cheshire cat, that’s what a macro shot is.
Macro photography is quite different from other types of digital photography in terms of nifty equipment, lighting and other techniques involved. Some might consider it difficult and thus it requires more effort based on the level of precision you aim for and the pictures you want to capture. I know that you would have been told that macro photography requires high priced equipment that may fall outside your budget. But reality is you need not go overboard with a suitcase full of lenses.
Great Gear For Getting Close-Ups
Extension Tubes – With extension tubes, you can bring the lens closer to the subject while maintaining focus. The longer the extension tube, the greater the magnification and the closer the lens will be able to focus. These hollow tubes (no optical elements) come in packs of three and are cheaper than a macro lens.
Close-Up Filters – Simply called magnifying lenses that can be screwed onto the threaded front of your lens, close-up filters can get you the macro shot but loses some quality due to obstruction of the light path. Available in multi-packs and in simple lenses as well as doublet lenses, good close-up filters can be opted by those of you who just want to experiment with macro at lower cost for some time.
Reversing A Lens – Perhaps the easiest way of shooting macro is to flip your lens backwards and screw it on using a reversing ring. Small subjects can now be focused on a relatively big sensor. Reversing a lens yields high magnification and is a cheap way to zone in on macro shots.
Stacking Lenses – Stack double lenses on your camera to achieve the macro effect with one lens mounted normally on the camera and the second lens reversed and acting as a front element to the former. Lens coupling rings can be used to connect both lenses to achieve good magnification ratios.
Macro Lens – If you are keenly interested in shooting macro and have a few extra bucks to spare, you can very well purchase good macro lenses. Macro lenses are specifically designed to focus closely on your subject and capture extra sharp images. For professional, high quality macro shoots, a macro lens is the way to go. Be sure to buy a true macro lens and don't fall into the trap of manufactures labeling the closest focus point as a macro.
Techniques For Getting Real Close
As a general rule, you should use the smallest lens aperture to gain optimum image sharpness and depth of field. In this way, the entire frame would be in focus. For artistic effects, you can try wider lens apertures to throw the subject out of focus. An f-stop no wider than f/16 will get most of the main subject in focus and give you a shallow depth of filed. Maintain focus on the part of the subject that is the main point of interest.
Compose the shot using a neutral background and keeping in mind the basic rules of composition including the Rule of Thirds. It is best to use a tripod to prevent shake when pressing down the shutter release button while taking a shot. With macro photography, it is ideal to use soft, shadow-less light using micro ring flash or an off camera light source rather than using pop-up flash.
Don’t let macro photography scare you. Explore the macro space and seize brilliant moments.