Are you looking for a few tips to improve your macro photography skills? Look no further! Here are 10 tips written by professional photographer (and regular Telephoto.com contributor) David Taylor.
Many DLSRs and mirrorless cameras have a Macro scene mode. This mode configures the camera settings, such as shutter speed, that help you get sharper macro shots. However, it doesn’t change the magnification factor of the lens fitted to the camera. You’ll still need a macro lens to shoot macro!
Back to Front
Any lens can be turned into a macro lens by reversing the way it mounts to the camera. Of course, this makes it difficult to keep the lens attached to the camera. This problem is solved by using a reversing ring. These are bought to match the lens mount of your camera and the filter thread size of the lens.
Ring lights attach to the filter thread of a lens. They can be used for any lighting purpose, but are particularly suited to macro. They’re especially useful when shooting subjects that are difficult to illuminate with conventional flash or studio lights. The most distinctive quality of ring lights are the circular highlights they produce.
Clamps designed to hold macro subjects still are useful accessories but can be expensive. Clothes pegs are a cheaper alternative. The important thing is to keep the clamp or peg out of the shot!
The focal length of a macro lens determines its working distance, which is the distance from the front of the lens to the point of focus. The longer the focal length of the lens, the great the working distance. This makes longer lenses better suited to subjects that are easily disturbed, such as insects.
Shooting macro means dealing with very little depth of field. It’s often necessary to shoot close to the minimum aperture of the lens, and even then depth of field can be vanishingly small. This makes accurate focusing far more important than when shooting ‘standard’ subjects. Use pinpoint AF focus or, if focusing manually, zoom in to the live view image to check focus.
Insects are great – if often frustrating! – macro subjects. Insects are at their most sluggish when cold. This makes early mornings the best time to shoot insects, before the warmth of the sun fully wakes them up.
Take the Tube
Extension tubes fit between a camera and the lens, allowing for closer focusing than would normally be possible. (At the cost of the loss of infinity focus.) Typically primes lenses work best with extension tubes. Counter- intuitively The shorter the focal length of the lens, the greater the magnification possible.
Softly Does It
Flowers benefit from being shot in soft light rather than direct sunlight. Shoot on days when there is light cloud cover or when the flower is in shade. Alternatively, use a large reflector to cast a shadow over your subject.
Macro lenses not only magnify an image, they also magnify any movement you make during an exposure, so causing camera shake. Either use a tripod when shooting macro, or be prepared to increase ISO in order to maintain a fast shutter speed – particularly if you stop down the aperture to maximise depth of field.
This article was first published on Telephoto.com.
David Taylor is a British award-winning landscape and travel photographer, who was born and raised in Newcastle upon Tyne and now lives in the ancient market town of Hexham, Northumberland. He took his first photograph at the age of 14, when his parents gave him a Kodak Instamatic for Christmas, and he has been taking photographs ever since.
His landscape photos have been used in publicity materials by local businesses, councils and tourism organisations, such as the Northumberland National Park Authority. He has also supplied images and articles to both regional and national magazines including Living North, Countryfile, Black & White Photography and Outdoor Photography.