Welcome to the big wide world of macro photography. It’s an extremely rewarding field, and like any new skill, it requires patience, and will take time to develop a level of expertise. But the best part, you don’t need to go further than your own backyard. Learning how to photograph flowers and insects using macro photography is fun, and you may even get addicted.
What Is Macro Photography?
With macro, you can capture life-sized images of small subjects using magnification. Typically, the subject fills the frame, and is approximately the same size as the camera’s sensor, resulting in a 1:1 life-size magnification. A 1:2 magnification is referred to as half-size.
This type of photography allows you to view the world from an entirely fresh perspective. How often do you stop to notice the morning dew on newly cut grass, a lady bug on a velvet leaf, or drops of snow falling gently on a tree branch? This is the intrigue of macro photography. To view the world in a way we normally would not.
Most DSLRs have a macro mode, simplifying the process of capturing small-sized objects you wouldn’t otherwise see unless you’re looking. The equipment below will make your life easier when it comes to photographing flowers, insects, and other aspects of nature.
Macro Lens: You’ll want to stay a comfortable distance away from your subjects so you don’t disturb them. This will also prevent you from blocking the light or casting annoying shadows. A telephoto lens, with a fairly wide aperature will enable this distance, as well as letting in enough available light.
Magnification will increase the further you distance yourself from the focal plane, but will also reduce the amount of light available. Ideally, you’ll want a lens that will capture a 1:1 life-size. You can also use an existing prime lens, and invest in a reverse lens that will turn it into a macro lens.
Some zoom lenses come with a pseudo macro function, but the life-size won’t be larger than 1:4. Keep in mind, anything over 1:10 is not considered macro photography.
Telephone lenses, with longer focal lengths in the 180-200mm range, are amazing but expensive. Alternatively, lenses in the 90mm to 150mm range, are less costly, but still allow for a comfortable working distance.
Eyepiece: – This is optional, but using an eyepiece on your camera will help you better view the subject, assuring your focus is spot on. You can also adjust your distance to get your focus correct. Experiment shooting your subjects from a variety of angles to take advantage of new perspectives.
Remote Control: – A remote control will prevent the camera from moving even slightly when you snap the picture. This can make a significant difference when shooting magnified objects.
A Flash: In very bright light, a flash may not be necessary. In certain lighting conditions, however a flash will allow for a smaller aperature and greater depth of field, along with a 1:1 magnification. Using a flash will also enable slower shutter speeds because it freezes motion.
An On-Camera Diffuser: When using a flash, you’ll want to use a diffuser on your lens to improve the quality of light falling on your subject, and to improve focus. I like shooting on overcast days because the lighting is even. A diffuser may not be necessary in these situations.
Tripod: – It’s hard to hand-hold a camera and keep it steady, especially for more than a second or two. A tripod eliminates camera shake, providing a sturdy foundation for your camera, and will be a lifesaver in certain situations.
Some photographers find tripods cumbersome and would rather take their chances holding the camera without one. It’s a personal decision, and will depend on the lighting situation. Choose a lens with image stabilization if you don’t use a tripod.
- When photographing magnified images, always use a small aperature in order to capture the most detail and as much depth of field as possible.
- Use a fast shutter speed to freeze motion. Aim for a shutter speed of at least 1/125, and preferably 1/250.
- Shooting in manual mode will allow for more precision while focusing. Any discrepancies in focus are easily noticed in macro photography, and will reduce the amount of detail in the image.
- Use an ISO of 800 or below to reduce the possibility of grain. Again, this will depend on your lighting conditions.
- Another tip is to use the live view function on your DSLR. Focusing will be more precise, but you will have to use a tripod. Once the subject is framed exactly how you want it, trigger the shutter with your remote.
Don’t be alarmed if many of your photos are blurry. This is the nature of macro photography, due to the narrow focal plane. Remember, one or two perfect shots equals success.
Explore new dimensions of this beautiful world we live in by delving into the fulfilling and exciting genre of macro photography. Capture the beauty of a bush in bloom, the velvety texture of a rose, or an insect in flight. The right equipment and camera settings will make nailing the shot that much easier.
Grab your gear and start having fun with macro photography. One more tip: Shoot on days when the temperature is 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Bugs and insects are more active on these days.
Have you dabbled in macro photography? Let me know below:)