Macro photography is a very interesting genre of photography. It allows you to capture and show the hidden beauty of tiny objects that cannot be seen with your naked eyes. When you start doing macro photography, you’ll be amazed to discover how ordinary things you see daily look astonishing when you take macro photos of that.
And the beauty of macro photography is that you can do it anywhere like inside your home, or in your backyard or on the streets, or in the jungle. We have plenty of subjects for macro photography virtually everywhere.
If you want to do it at home, you can capture macro shots of vegetables or fruits, or even spices. Common household objects like your TV remote or your favorite dress or table cloth texture can be a good subject. Even a macro shot of your toothbrush or a matchstick will look so amazing that you can’t imagine.
You can capture flowers or insects in your backyard. If you are fond of street photography, you can find lots of subjects like the texture of an old wall or a rusty metal object there. If you are lucky and have access to a forest, possibilities are unlimited. You can capture hundreds of macro shots in a single day.
Many photographers believe that macro photography is very difficult and requires special skills but that’s not true. Infact it’s quite fun and you’ll know it when you start doing it. In this article, we’ll talk about the basic equipment for macro photography. Let’s get started.
When it comes to photography, the first thing you required is surely a camera body. No matter if you have a full-frame body or a crop-sensor body, both bodies are good for macro photography.
A Crop-sensor body will increase the focal length of your lens, so you can capture the subject from more distance and it also gives you the advantage of the deeper depth of field. On the other hand, a full-frame body captures more details and gives better results in low light conditions.
And if you don’t have an SLR camera, don’t lose your heart, now day’s mobile phones have amazing macro capabilities and hundreds of apps are available for macro photography. Even you can buy clip-on macro lenses for smartphones for better results.
Unlike the body, lens choice is essential for macro photography. Not every lens is capable of macro shots. A good macro lens requires the following features.
1. Longer focal length: It should have at least 60-100mm focal length so you have enough distance from your subject. Imagine you are trying to take a shot of an insect with a 10-22mm ultra-wide lens. You need to get so close to the insect that the chances are that it’ll fly away before you capture it. The ideal focal length for macro photography is 100mm.
2. Shorter minimum focusing distance: This is also an important factor, your lens should have a shorter minimum focusing distance. Let’s say you have a 200mm lens that has a 48-inch minimum focusing distance.
If you use this lens for macro photography, you need to click from very far to focus on the subject and your subject will end up very small within the frame and that’s not what you want. A lens with less than a 12-inch minimum focusing distance is good for this.
3. Stabilization: Lens with image stabilization or vibration reduction feature is very helpful as it gives sharper pictures when you have low light and you need to take pictures with lower shutter speed.
4. Magnification Ratio: In layman’s terms, the magnification ratio is the relationship between the size of your subject and your camera's sensor. Let’s assume that you have a full-frame camera and it has a sensor size of 36 x 24 mm.
If you are taking a picture of an object that is 180 mm in length and you are filling the entire frame with that object. In this case, the magnification ratio will be .20x (36mm / 180mm) or we can say that the object is 5 times larger in reality compared to the image projected on the sensor.
A lens with a higher magnification ratio is better for macro photography. The dedicated macro lens has a 1:1 magnification ratio. It means you can fill the entire frame with a subject that is just 36 mm in length. Just imagine how it’ll look on your 4K computer monitor. You can see every tiny detail of it and that’s the beauty of macro photography.
And that’s not all, some special lenses are capable of capturing at a whopping 5:1 ratio. That means you can capture or make a big print of something which is merely 7.2 mm in size.
So these are the features that are required for a good macro lens. Almost all companies make lenses with the above features and you can select according to your camera body.
If you don’t have a dedicated macro lens or you can’t invest to buy a new one, don’t worry. We have other options like close-up macro filters or reverse rings that allow you to take macro shots with your existing lens. We’ll talk about that in future articles. Let’s talk about some other equipment.
A flash is a very useful tool for macro photography. We capture pictures from a very close distance, so we get a shallow depth of field and we don’t get the entire subject in focus.
To get a deeper depth of field, so that the entire subject comes in focus, we need to shoot with a narrow aperture like f/16 or f/18. For shooting with such a small aperture, we need to decrease the shutter speed or increase the ISO, which results in either a blurry picture or a very high grain that reduces the clarity. In such a condition, flash can be a rescue for us as it can give the extra light we need.
However, we need to remember that built-in on-camera flash is not useful as the subject is very near to the camera and you can get a shadow of the lens on the subject. Off-camera flash is the best option here but it requires a stand or someone else to hold it.
Therefore the only option we have left is on-camera flash which I always use and it works perfectly. The only thing you need to remember is that you always soften the light using a flash diffuser, otherwise you’ll get harsh shadows and hot spots in the picture.
Ring flashes and LED lights are also available that attach in front of the lens. You can go for that too.
A tripod or monopod is also a handy tool for macro photography. When we shoot a small subject, a tiny movement in our hands can make the subject out of focus. The tripod could rescue you from such a problem. It can also be useful in a situation where we need to shoot with a slower shutter speed due to low light conditions.
When we are shooting insects or flowers, using a tripod is not recommended as insects keep moving, and sometimes we need to click with an unusual camera angle for better composition. In such a case, it’s better to practice getting your hands sturdy or use a flash.
In the next articles, we’ll talk about the challenges you may face during macro photography and how to overcome that. We’ll also talk about some equipment you need for advanced macro photography. Thus, stay tuned and keep clicking.
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Related Article 1: The Ultimate Guide to Insect Macro Photography
Related Article 2: The Beginners Guide to Macro Food Photography
Blog Credit: Ramakant Sharda
Ramakant is an Award-Winning Photographer, Author, Mobile Apps Publisher based in the beautiful “Pink City” of India, known as Jaipur. Many of his works have been published in magazines, newspapers, and international blogs. He writes about photography and also teaches photography in his workshops. He has published three (so far) coffee table books. Get his latest book Mastering High-Speed Photography.
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