Macro Photography 101: Equipment and Techniques

 

Macro photography can be a powerful tool for creating spectacular photos. It can be quite challenging to find the right equipment or the appropriate techniques for the kind of subject you want to shoot. That is why we have compiled a complete guide which will give you the basic tips to get you started on it.

Macro Photography 101

What is Macro Photography?

The definition of macro photography might seem counterintuitive since it refers to taking photos of really small things – be they small objects or creatures, or detailed parts of bigger things. It can be both challenging and gratifying to try this style of photography.

Ratios are important in order to understand the basics of macro photography, even though for digital cameras they do not matter as much as they used to. The closer you get to the object, the smaller the ratio gets.

Equipment: Macro Lenses

The first thing you should have is any type of DSLR camera; your iPhone won’t help you. With that in mind, the next thing on your list should be a macro lens. You can find great macro lenses from Canon and Nikon, which are specially made for focusing at a short distance.

Filters

Macro Photography 101: Equipment and Techniques

A filter works similarly to a magnifying glass. This is one of the reasons for which getting a filter might not help out much in terms of quality. You can find filters that come in packs, with a different magnifying power for each of them. You can also stack filters together to increase the power of your camera, but this will decrease the quality of the photo.

Extension Tubes

The great thing about extension tubes is that you can start a DIY project to obtain them. Any tube you have around the house could serve as the basis for a macro tube, and you can find many online tutorials for beginners, which will get you started.

If you are not the DIY type, then you can also buy macro extension tubes for a reasonable amount of money. These tubes also come in packs and can be stacked to shoot from a closer range. Unlike filters, extension tubes do not lead to a poorer quality of your photos.

Tripod

Tripods can help improve macro photography because they keep your camera really still. No matter how good you are with your hands, nothing beats a tripod. Even the tiniest move can majorly impact your end result, so a tripod will make sure you get a super shot with the minimum of effort.

Macro Rails

Macro rails are a good product to have around if you also need to move your camera around when taking macro shots. A rail will help you move your camera back and forth, left and right, with the use of a simple knob.

General Advice for Macro Techniques

Macro Photography 101: Equipment

The best advice you can get is that you should always try to move the object closer to your camera and not the camera closer to the subject. Moving the camera will change your frame considerably, even if you don’t have a wide one.

Choosing your subject

Choosing a subject for your shot is the first thing you will consider. Obviously, a landscape shot is out of the questions, but interesting subjects include food, flowers, eyes, or pages of books. The more still your subject is, the better. An eye might seem still, but don’t forget it is attached to a person who will find it quite painful not to blink.

Lighting

Lighting can be very important when trying out macro photography. You don’t have to go to any extreme length to get the appropriate lighting, just make sure you are not shooting on a super sunny day. Flash is also not recommended unless you use a ring in order to take your photo. A ring flash can also be useful when taking indoor photos in a studio.

Focus Stacking

A general technique you can use when you have a shallow field depth is focus stacking. How can you do this? By combining several images taken in a sequence. If you can only focus on certain areas at a time, then the best thing to do is to combine multiple shots of the same subject to obtain a beautiful image. For this you will need the appropriate software which will combine all the shots, but you can easily find several free options online. You can also use this technique if you want to do without all the fancy equipment or accessories needed to obtain macro images.

Techniques Depending on Your Subject

Macro shooting techniques can vary greatly depending on the subject you are shooting. You can get as creative as you want in order to get a cool shot from an original angle, but you should bear in mind that different subjects require different approaches. We have compiled a list containing a few examples of techniques you can use for your macros. Who knows? Maybe you can also get some new ideas for perfect nature shots.

Insects

An insect can be a challenging thing to shoot since they can move quite a lot and, depending on the type of insect you are trying to photograph, they can also move rather quickly. Just think of how a spider moves! Avoid a fast mode of approaching the subject and take care you don’t cover them up with your shadow.

Plants and Flowers

A flower offers a beautiful spectacle inside a gallery, but make sure that when you are shooting it outside there is very little wind. Petals can be very gentle and even the slightest breeze will change their appearance. If the wind is a bit more rough than it should, try shooting sturdier plants that are unshakable.

In case you are up for a challenge, you can even try underwater macro photography. Just make sure you have the appropriate settings and setup. An online forum or a tutorial can get you a long way. Black and white macro shots can also be used for more abstract themes.

There’s nothing left to define, we have covered everything you need to know about macro photography. You can now start your amazing journey into the world of Lilliputians!

Image sources: 1, 2, 3

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About Greta Jacobs

With a background in media and design, Greta has an eye for innovative and mind-blowing photographic techniques. She studied photography for over five years and started practicing from college. Her inclination to arts is another asset you will notice in her in depth posts.