This is the art of taking photos of small objects or small parts of objects and giving them a larger than life size appearance. In the June 4th competition we enter the miniature and maybe microscopic world where small objects are photographed. These images will show fine details not usually noticed with a cursory look. To help us with this competition I have asked a series of questions and found some answers.
Do I need a specialized camera or macro/micro lens?
- Many point and shoot cameras have a macro/micro mode.
- Macro (sometimes called micro) lenses are great to use because they enable you to place the camera close enough to the subject to fill the frame and still be in focus.
- A telephoto lens can sometimes be used.
What if my lens does not allow close up focus?
- You can add extension tubes that fit between the camera and your lens.
What about focus?
This is your artistic choice! There is a very narrow depth of field when taking macro shots.
Is your shot going to be abstract?
- You might want only one point, a curve or a texture to be in focus and the rest out of focus.
Is it going to be realistic?
Do you want your subject in focus and background out of focus?
- Try different apertures to see which ones work for your camera. The apertures that allow a lot of light in (low f numbers) have narrower depths of field.
- Start at f/8. Use your depth of field button to check what is in focus or take a shot and review. Adjust your aperture to put more or less in focus.
- Placing your subject some distance in front of the background will blur the background.
- Move around and change your angle so that the background is not distracting.
- Remember you can control your background by placing material, card or objects of different colour in the background.
How much of your subject should be in focus?
- If you have a flat object you can place it parallel to the camera and it will all be in focus.
- With a curved object it is more difficult to get lots in focus.
- If you want most of the object in focus place as much of the subject in the plane of focus as possible.
- If you cannot get all of an animal in focus put the eyes of an animal at the focal point.
- Use focus stacking to get as much as possible in focus. This involves taking a series of photos at different focal points and using software like Photoshop, Helicon or Zerene to merge them together. Or you may have a camera like those from Olympus that photo stacks in camera. Just remember to have extra space around the subject, as stacking reduces that space.
- Remember this is your artistic work – you decide how much of the subject you want in focus.
How can I keep focus?
- If your subject is still put your camera on a tripod and choose your focus. Use remote control or shutter release to take the photo
- Choose your focus point. I like to autofocus first then turn to manual focus. Very slight movements may take the image out of focus so use what ever help is available in camera to keep checking focus. I use live view and can set my Olympus to show red for the sections in focus. Gently move your body to get the focus back. Other people squish the camera onto their face to hold it steady.
What if the subject is moving?
- Practice, practice, practice!
- Use a high shutter speed and shoot on burst to maximize the chance of an in-focus shot. Even great photographers like Don Komarechka may only get one great shot out of 100!
- Learn the behavior of the animal. Many make circuits and come back to previous resting spots. Behave ethically so you don’t harm the animals.
- Use plamps (flexible plant clamps), Helping Hands or Lock-line modular hose to keep flowers and plants still. Shoot from a path or use a tripod set low to minimize damage to other plants. Try not to lay in a field of flowers to get the shot.
What can I do if I cannot get enough light in using daylight?
- Try a higher ISO. Check beforehand what ISO/noise level is suitable for your camera. Today’s cameras are designed to produce good images at quite high ISOs.
- Use a reflector to increase the daylight available.
- Shine a torch on the subject.
- Use an off-camera flash on a tripod if you have an idea of where the animal’s movement path might be.
- Ring flashes and twin lite flashes can be attached to your camera to avoid using a tripod.
Hope these hints help and enjoy your shooting.
Check out some of the photos and information from two of my favourite macro photographers.
Don being interviewed by Tony and Chelsea Northrup and critiquing viewers’ photos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=105&v=XGgJThUfQwM Although this is an hour long it is well worth watching. You can see some of the simple set ups he has used to get fantastic shots. They also critique viewers’ macro photos and the comments are really useful.
Moats, Mike; May 1, 2017, Macro Vison When, where and how to explore the wonders of close-up photography. Outdoor Photographer, https://www.outdoorphotographer.com/tips-techniques/nature-landscapes/macro-vision/
Brady, Barry J; Getting Started with Abstract Macro Photography. Digital Photography School. https://digital-photography-school.com/getting-started-abstract-macro-photography/
Clark, Meredith; 3 Ways to Try Macro Photography on a Budget. https://digital-photography-school.com/3-ways-to-try-macro-photography-on-a-budget/
Dawson Sam, 7 Macro Photography Tips to Master Magnification, Canvas Printers Online https://www.canvasprintersonline.com.au/blog/macro-photography-tips/
Burden, Russ; April 10, 2017, Depth of Field in Macro Photography Outdoor Photographer https://www.outdoorphotographer.com/tips-techniques/photo-tip-of-week/depth-field-macro-photography/
Hildebrandt, Darlene, April20, 2015, How to Use Extension Tubes for Macro Photography Digital Photo Mentor https://www.digitalphotomentor.com/hot-to-use-macro-extension-tubes/