Macro photography is something of an art form and for truly impressive results it takes more than just using the macro setting on digital cameras. An understanding of how to compensate for lighting and depth of field issues that result from getting close up is important, along with using some gear that does not come with your regular camera kit. If it is water drops on colourful flowers or beautiful butterflies that take your fancy, these handy tips will help you achieve some impressive images that will make your friends go “wow”.
Use a macro lense
While point-and-shoot cameras are going to produce good results, a digital SLR with a dedicated macro lense is going to produce outstanding results. Macro photography really means that you need to focus on the subject at a 1:1 ratio, and standard lenses simply can’t achieve this. So consider buying a macro lense – Canon cameras produce good products in this regard, and there are many others on the market as well – just make sure they are suitable for your brand of camera. Consider a 100mm lense, which will give you great scope while getting up real close, or a 150mm to 200mm lense if you want to work from a bit further away. Macro lenses do cost a bit, so consider your budget before committing to a lense.
Use a tripod and timer
Shooting close-up images demands a steady hand as even the slightest movement can have a serious affect on image stability. A tripod is a must to eliminate blur. Make sure it can be adjusted to a variety of configurations, such as shooting down on a subject or changing the perspective from a landscape to a portrait. Ensure the tripod sits level on the ground as well. Most have individually adjustable legs to help achieve this, but a tripod with a built-in level will be an invaluable tool. It’s also important to take photos using the camera’s self timer. Pushing the shutter button can cause camera shake and result in blurred images, so setting the timer will eliminate this.
Think of the flash
A flash is generally going to be required in all forms of macro photography, but because you are so close, quite often built-in flashes will “blow away” the subject and ruin the image. If you are truly serious about macro photography, consider buying an external flash that you can hold to the side of the subject or from other angles where you will achieve the best results. Using the camera’s timer will give you the freedom to do this but it may take some experimentation to get the lighting just right.
Photo: Paulo Brandão
Depth of field and composition
A good depth of field is a key to quality photography, but macro means this is often hard to achieve because you are so close to the subject. You will need to compensate for this by using manual settings. A good way to start is to use the automatic macro setting and write down F stop, shutter speed etc. Play around with them a bit, especially the F stop, to get the right balance. The composition of your image is also vital, even though you are focussing closely on one subject. Consider the background, the foreground and the colours they contain to ensure the hero of the shot is not lost.