Macro photography, also called macrography or photomicrography, is an art of taking extremely close-up photos. It is usually used to photograph small objects making them larger in photograph than in real life, like flowers or insects.
Since it is a specific type of photography, it requires specific equipment and techniques in order to master it. This article will give you 7 useful tips if you intend to explore the world of macro photography.
1. Get Macro Lenses
One of the first things you need to acquire, if you plan to get serious, is macro lenses. There are macro lenses that can be used both for general and macro photography in case you are not sure you want to invest money solely in macro equipment. This type of lenses are made for taking photographs at close, making them more flexible when it comes to moving the nodal point further from the sensor.
Macro lenses usually have focal length ranging 50-200mm. Less expensive lenses are within the range 50-60mm. However, if you want to put more distance between your camera and the object you’re photographing, you should consider 100mm lens, which will cost you more money. This distance is especially important if you plan to photograph insects. If you are willing to truly invest in macro photography, then you should get 150-200mm lenses, which will give you greater focal length you need.
2. Try Extension Tubes
If you are still beginner in exploring macro photography, you may want to try less expensive equipment. Extension tubes are elements that are fixed between your digital cameras and lenses in order to make larger images of small objects by placing lens focus closer. Tubes do not have optical elements, so they will not downgrade the quality of your photographs. However, by moving away the lens from the sensor, less light enters the sensor.
3. Consider Using Macro Filters
Macro or close-up filters are the cheapest way to equip your cameras for macro photography. They will also produce photographs of less quality when compared to other equipment mentioned above.
Filters are basically magnifying glasses. They are fixed in front of the lens and provide different diopter magnification. You can stack the filters in order to increase magnification, but you are doing this on the expense of quality.
Most professional photographers do not use macro filters, but if you are just starting to experiment with micro photography they can be a good solution before you decide to acquire more serious equipment.
4. Don’t Forget your Tripod and a ‘Third Hand’
Micro photography limits your depth of field, usually narrowing it down to couple of millimeters. In these conditions, if you change distance between camera and object you are photographing even a little, you can move object in the blurred zone. It is crucial that both the camera and the object are still, so tripod is an essential tool you need to pack.
Another useful tool you should consider is a ‘third hand’. Some photographers considered it one of the most important devices for micro photography. It allows you to fix position of the subject, or even change it. It is also useful when you want to change the background.
5. Fine Tune your Point of Focus
When taking photos of close-up objects, it is important to choose your point of focus carefully. We have already said that depth of field is limited and that every millimeter counts. Therefore, by changing your point of focus slightly, you can drastically change the effect it has on your photograph. Be prepared to experiment before you find the right point of focus for a specific object.
6. Fix Your Camera, but Move the Object
Keeping in mind conditions for macro photography, where even the slightest change of position can ruin the photography, you should keep your camera fixed. It is much easier to move the subject you are photographing in most cases. You can always use your ‘third hand’ to reposition the subject.
Most of the times, we are talking about millimeters, so even if you are photographing insects, they should remain in place. If you are photographing plants, especially those in pots, it is much less complicated to move the subject and refocus, than to reframe the whole shot.
7. Changing Background Can Make the Subject Look Different
Different backgrounds can significantly change the way your subject looks. This is especially true when you play with different colors. Some photographs print their own backgrounds in order to have more control. Just be sure to print them on matt paper to reduce the risk of reflection.
Micro photography, as it is the case with any type of photography, needs good equipment. Whether you’ll choose lenses, extension tubes or filters is up to you and the budget you’re willing to invest in this endeavor. Just bear in mind that lenses will always produce more quality photographs than tubes or filters.
Another important thing is to learn how to adjust your focus, be patient in finding your subjects and play with backgrounds. The best macro photographs are usually the result of careful planning, patience and multiple tries. Therefore, don’t be discouraged if your first macro photo is not perfect – you’ll get there through practice.