Macro photography is all about those close up details. Showing parts of things that don’t always appear obvious to the eye. Bringing out these details allows us to see everyday objects in a new and surprising way.
Macro Photography Lenses
Manufacturers produce specific lenses that are geared towards macro photography. In order to get close to the subject and the right magnification you are going to want to acquire one of these lenses.
Don’t worry though! If you do not have one you can make do with your current lenses. You just won’t be able to get as close to your subject so will capture less detail. It will be more of a close up shot than a macro shot.
So what should I look for in a macro lens?
The focus distance is the space between your lens and the object you’re shooting. The name refers to the point in which your lens is to close to the subject and can no longer focus. Each lens will have varying minimum focus distances. Most of the time this number is written somewhere on the lens in metres and/or feet.
The macro lens is an optic that is designed to have a very short minimum focus distance. This means you can get incredibly close to your subject and preserve details.
On the market there are a lot of lenses. You will often find some longer zooms that promote their “macro” capabilities. To really find a quality macro photography lens keep an eye on the magnification ratio of these lenses. You want to be looking for a 1:1 (life size) or larger magnification.
A macro lens that can reproduce objects at life-size is said to be a 1:1 macro lens. A 1:2 macro lens can reproduce objects at half-size. A lens that can reproduce objects at double life-size will be a 2:1 macro lens.
Many true macro lenses are designed with a flat focus field instead of a curved field common in other lenses. The flat focus field will mean the whole frame is in focus compared to the focus being on the central point on a curved focus field lens.
Curved focus = Great for landscapes and portraits
Flat focus = Great for macro and preserving sharp details all over the frame.
With macro lenses, small vibrations cause big blurs. That’s why it’s important to use a quick shutter speed. Something like 1/250 or faster. As photographers we know that is not always easy to do though. If you need to let more light in you will need to have that shutter open longer so will want a tripod. Using a tripod is nearly always better than bumping up that ISO.
You will also find manual focus much easier when you are mounted on a tripod. Manual focus is likely going to be needed in macro photography as the camera can get confused with such small details. Finding that perfect focus point and being able to shoot a few images from the tripod will mean you can test a few settings.
Macro photography looks brilliant with narrow depth of fields, bokeh in backgrounds and high contrasts. To bring out these details you want to se your aperture as wide as possible. Something like F/1 to F/4. This will really blur out your backgrounds and create some brilliant Bokeh.
In macro photography you will find the background as important as your subject. The best macro shots show sharp contrasts and colours. To make sure you can capture great backgrounds you need to be shooting at different angles and think what is behind your subject.
Is my subject in front of a ‘busy’ background?
Can I shoot from a different height to change the background?
Can I somehow incorporate the sun and get some lens flare and bokeh?
All great questions to ask yourself and why it is always a good idea to shoot the same subject from many angles.