Getting Started with Macro Photography

Macro Photography is a great way to make impressive photographs and a way to look at the world from a new perspective. It’s also pretty easy to do with just about any camera.

What is Macro Photography

Macro Photography is a form of extreme close-up photography. Using this style makes objects in the photo appear larger-than-life-sized.  There are a couple of key elements to effective Macro Photography:

  • Focal Length
  • Being ‘Tack Sharp’
  • F-Stop

Experimenting based on these three variables can make for some really amazing photos.

Getting The Pictures You Want

Focal length is basically the determines how ‘zoomed in’ or close to your subject your photo is.  The larger the number the more ‘zoomed’ in your photo is.  The smaller the number the more ‘wide’ your photo is. Rule of thumb:  The more of your subject you want to show the smaller the number you’ll probably want to use. But the bigger you want to make a small subject look the larger the number you’ll want to use.

Tack Sharpness is simply making sure your camera doesn’t move and your subject isn’t moving when you take your photo.  If either are moving your photo can end up being blurred or slightly out of focus. This end up being most obvious in any closeup photography but in particular for macro photography.  There are two things you need to ensure your photo is tack sharp:

  • Get a tripod
  • Do not even think of touching your shutter button

When it comes to tripods. I won’t recommend any specific equipment – even the least expensive tripod is better than nothing at all. Just make sure whatever you buy is sturdy and can support the weight of your camera and lens.

So why not use the shutter button?  If you touch the camera, you’re moving the camera. And if you’re moving the camera, you aren’t going to get tack sharp photos.  To avoid using the shutter button all you need is a remote shutter control for your camera.  All makes of camera have some type of remote shutter – either one you plug into your camera or one that is wireless.  For my Sony cameras I still use the RM-L1AM.  It’s cheap and works with all of the Sony cameras I’ve bought to date.

Sony RM L1AM

 

Now if you have a point-and-shoot model all is not lost.  Even the iPhone Camera has a delay timer. In a pinch you could set a delay of 5 seconds so that once you press the shutter button you can get your hand away from the camera, allowing the camera to remain stable for the photo.

Finally I left the last tip until last because it’s the one that can cause the most frustration when learning to do Macro Photography, leveraging your aperture or f-stop.  Basically the f-stop is the setting for how much light you are letting get to the sensor on your camera. A low number means the aperture is wider or more ‘open’ and allows more light into your camera.  A high number means the aperture will be smaller letting less light in.  A high number *also* means that the light is more focused on the sensor and items both your subject and everything behind it will be in focus.  If you are really trying to get a tight focus on an object and there is little-to-nothing in behind it, use f/22 for your aperture: That’s the magic number.  If you have items in the background that will get into your photo, then consider a lower aperture to make those fade away.

In this set of photos you can see some of the effect a low f-stop can have. The background almost completely washes away when mixed with the longer focal length of the lens.

Rhododendron

Rhododendron
Picture 2 of 3

Meta data

Camera / Type SLT-A77V
Aperture F 5.6
Focal Length 300 mm
Shutter speed 1/200 sec
Date / Time 1336753798

But a long focal length (aka a really long lens) isn’t always a requirement.  In these photos I couldn’t use a larger lens.  But the lower focal length and lower f-stop both have a profound and dramatic impact on the results.

 

Pink Rose Broad Shot

Pink Rose Broad Shot
Picture 1 of 3

Meta data

Camera / Type ILCA-77M2
Aperture F 6.3
Focal Length 50 mm
Shutter speed 1/60 sec
Date / Time 1403898531

 

The most important thing here is to get out, experiment, and have fun.  You will always discover something new and surprise yourself the more you experiment.

 

This entry was posted in Advice, Macro Photography and tagged .

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