LESSON FIVE: MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY

Photo by David Muñiz

To capture close-up shots of tiny details, bits of nature, or small subject matter, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the basics of macro photography!

When starting out, it’s difficult to determine what kind of equipment you’ll need. While you can successfully snap beautiful macro shots with any smartphone, you’ll find that purchasing a lens to fit over the camera can be a useful accessory. This extra lens will enable the smartphone to take images with a sharper, shallower depth of field and focus.

The effect can, of course, also be achieved with a DSLR camera. While professional photographers often spend hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars on macro lenses, it’s possible to recreate the style without purchasing fancy equipment. It all comes down to the opening of the aperture, the focus, and the focal length of the lens you choose to use.

Photo by David Muniz

When shooting with a DSLR, you’ll want to maximize magnification, so purchasing a macro tube may be a good idea. This cylindrical tool fits in between the camera and the lens and aids in expanding the image, improving the focus, and helping the photographer zero in on a subject. The only downside to using a macro tube is that it significantly limits the amount of light present in any given situation. If you decide to use this tool, you’ll have to open the aperture to let in as much light as possible.

Macro filters are an alternative to macro lenses. They can magnify an image — but be careful because using them may negatively affect the quality of the image.

Photographers with a zoom or telephoto lens may also see impressive results if they utilize natural light and achieve a crisp focus.

Because macro photography relies heavily on a sharp focus, you’ll want to use a tripod or keep your camera steady using some other object. Using a timer is a good idea, as pushing the shutter can blur your carefully composed image.

Photo by David Muniz

When photographing images close up, try your best to shoot in manual mode, which will enable you to observe how changing different settings impacts the final image.

The key to good close-up (macro) photography is to ensure that the lighting is bright and clear. Keep your ISO low (at about 100 or 200) to reduce the grain in your image caused by excess noise.

Experiment with the aperture setting — keeping the f/stops large (f/1.4, f/2) will ensure a shallow depth of field with only a few details in focus (as seen on the left), while using smaller f/stops (f/8 through f/22) will give a deep depth of field with more of the subject in focus (as seen on the right). Experiment depending on your desired result.

Focus is also extremely important in macro photography — decide where you want the focal point of your photo to be and switch to “live mode” so you can view it on the back of your camera screen. Zoom in on the part of the image you want to be crystal clear and manually focus. Zoom back out and snap away — the focus will be locked!

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Use gear that will help your macro photography — a macro tube, a macro filter, or a designated macro lens, though these may be pricey.
  • Use a tripod for sharp focus and a timer so you don’t blur your image.
  • Always shoot in manual mode, and use live view to achieve crystal clear focus.
  • Experiment with aperture.
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Camille Danielich
Camille is a writer, traveler, and visual storyteller from New Jersey. She has lived in the Czech Republic, Thailand and in New York. She's always looking forward to her next adventure and probably won't stop instagramming her food anytime soon. Follow along on instagram
  • Diana Maria

    These are all great tips- and beautiful photographs as well! I’ve become very interested in Macro photography, and I think that upgrading my lens and Canon body have helped so much. The 50mm f/1.4 has honestly changed my life! I’m hoping to get some great shots this weekend. Happy photographing xx

    Sending light & love your way,

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