Quick Guide for Macro Photography

Quick Guide for Macro Photography

If you are a beginner and have just bought a camera, what do you need to consider to get into macro photography? The following is a quick guide to what is important and what is required to address the “challenges” of macro photography.

Click on a Gallery Image for full size image

  1. What are you planning to photograph?
    • “micro” objects – smaller insects, ants or small defects and details & “macro” objects – insects, close-ups of flowers, small parts, stamps – Typically upto 1:1 magnification
    • “Super Micro” – high magnification of objects like snowflakes, insect antennas, electronics. From 1:1 to about 15:1, although 10:1 is more “normal”.
    • Microscopic – use a microscope adapter for your camera (not covered, just mentioned for completeness).
  2. What magnification do you need? (see Guide to Macro Photography)
    • A reversed lens may perform better than a dedicated macro lens at magnifications greater than 1x, so even if you have a proper macro lens, there will be times when reversal is the best option. There’s not much point in reversing a lens until you get beyond 1x, except for retrofocus lenses that give you a greater working distance than their focal length would otherwise suggest.
    • Most labelled macro lenses will goto 1:1 ratio or full size, very few lenses will go bigger than life size (Canon MP-E 65 being an example of an exception as it goes to 5:1 or 5 times life size). If you want greater than life size then you need to reverse a lens, stack lenses or buy a special lens. See Macro Photography
    • Working distance and closest focusing distance. Longer lenses have more working space.
    • How close your subject is before you lens will not focus anymore is important, and this is normally specified by the manufacturer. Similarly, the working distance is important, depending upon the subject if it is alive and moving or dangerous.
    • When you reverse and/or add extension tubes you cannot focus to infinity without changing lenses. With a Macro lens you can.
  3. Do you want to use the lens for other photography?
    • Automatic focus required or not?
    • Lens can be used for other things, normally a macro lens is a very sharp lens, so considered very technical for portraiture (however sharpness is a desirable factor as well). Some people like to use these and get good results. They are slower focusing, because the focus travel is longer, newer lenses have limiters.
    • There are several reference articles about this here (for portrait use) or here (for general use).
  4. Depth of Field (DOF is the amount of the image in focus).
    • It is necessary to understand what happens to depth of field as you increase magnification, closeness to lens (focusing distance), aperture size as this will require you to adjust for this to get your desired image. With macro photography the DOF is very short, often only a small part of the subject can be in focus at any time. Here is a Wiki discussion about DOF
    • DOF increases with higher f stops, and decreases with smaller f stops (aperture).
    • DOF reduces as you get closer to the lens/camera
    • DOF, at the same f stop (aperture) changing the magnification, by either moving closer to the subject or using longer lens (focal length) will decrease the DOF.
    • Cropping an image, then enlarging to the same size print, reduces the DOF
    • DOF with sensor size is basically the same as cropping an image.
    • DOF on a Macro shot is often half the insect head!!!
  5. Solutions for shallow depth of field
    • Move the camera or subject so it is “squarer” to the camera
    • Use a flash, it removes the struggle with dark images, and f-stops. It also enhances the images, as it freezes the action from movement, yours, the subject and the wind! DOF seems greater too!
    • Focus stacking (taking lots of images with adjustments at each image)
      • Photoshop
      • Specialised programs
    • Smaller apertures (needs more light, increases risk of motion blur)
    • Lighting: –
      • Maximising natural light
      • Better lighting continuous
      • Better lighting – flash
      • Better lighting ring lights and flashes
  6. How you take macro photographs (see Accessories for taking Macros)
    • Manual focus (in macro photography, focusing often changes the lens and magnification, as well)
    • Slide rails (move camera, don’t adjust focus)
    • Automatic camera/sample movers (expensive)
    • Long lens, with close focusing and subject lighting (flash or continuous light). Similar to unit below.
    • Zoom lens can be zoomed to focus, if close to focus point.
    • Tripods are liked by some people and not by others – depends on what you are doing!
Yongnuo YN24EX - E - TTL
Yongnuo YN24EX – E – TTL


Physics Soup 2015 How Do Object Distance and Focal Length Affect Depth of Field?

Physics Soup 2015 Why Does a Small Aperture Increase Depth of Field?

Shooting High-Resolution Macro Photos of Snowflakes – Don Komarechka

YouTube Video About doing Super Macro Photography

Great Introduction Video

Here is the Swedish Article About Building and doing Super Macro here

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