Tools Required for Macro Photography
You have decided to explore the world of photographing tiny objects to unravel the wondrous details and features which aren’t visible to the naked eye. Nature has so much to give within it’s tiny flowers, insects and plants that bringing out these characteristics is what many choose to do with their photography. This is the realm of macro photography and in this article you will learn about everything you will need to begin your journey with this art form.
Macro photography equipment ranges from DIY projects you can make yourself to high end tools and lenses which will cost more than a pretty penny. The amount of money you are willing to spend will reflect on the quality of the images captured proportionally.
The best choice made for macro photography is definitely in the use of macro lens. Quality in the case of macro lens in seen from the ratio with which the image is recreated. The best lens will have a 1:1 ratio where the actual size of the object accurately appears on the sensor. In the case of a lens with 1:2 ratio, a 50.8 mm grasshopper will appear to have a length of 25.4 mm. A macro lens can also be qualified using the magnification point where a 1:1 lens has a point of x1. Canon and Nikon make high quality close-up lenses which minimizes the amount of image degradation. There are mainly two types of macro lens, ‘short’ and ‘tele’, which are classified according to their focal lengths. Short macro lenses whose focal lengths range between 40 mm and 90 mm are ideal for photographing stationary objects as the camera has to be very close to the object. Tele-macro lenses have focal lengths from 90m and above therefore allowing the ease of capturing skittish insects without the risk of scaring them away by bringing the camera too close to them.
The main advantage of using macro lens is the fact of it being a part of the camera’s automation which means it will facilitate features like autofocus and aperture control unlike the cheaper alternatives which are listed below.
If you’re looking for an option which is lighter on the pocket then extension tubes are the way to go. They simply create distance between the lens and the sensor hence changing the Minimum Focus Distance (MFD) which allows the camera to zoom in. Extension Tubes have no optical elements therefore there is virtually no image distortion. The design behind them is so simple that you have even ‘DIY’ an extension tube using an empty Pringles can. They can be stacked on one another so when paired with a lens of a shorter focal length, different degrees of magnification can be achieved. However the non-electrical extension tubes cause you to lose control of the aperture. Moreover, when you take the lens further away from the sensor, less light enters so this is something you must account for when using extension tubes.
For an even tighter budget, a reversing ring is a nifty tool which starts from $10. It simply mounts the lens backwards so that small things are projected onto a relatively large sensor. 50 mm lens are ideal for this method which is consequently what you usually get when you purchase a DSLR. This cheap alternative comes with the cost of losing control for aperture and autofocus.
They are very much like extension tubes in the sense that they are low investments and they come in packs of four which can be stacked. Filters are to be screwed on top of normal lens to achieve the ideal level of close-up to the subject. It does this by decreasing the MFD and the magnification can be changed depending on the number of filters used. A typical UV filter with a fast shutter speed will do instead of having to pour in a lot of money after an ND filter. Not only are they light and portable but they also provide protection for your lens from dirt, moisture and UV rays.
The downside to these filters is that they degrade the image quality, especially around the edges. You have to make sure your object is right in the centre so it isn’t exactly ideal for moving subjects. Image distortion increases with each filter added so the serious and extreme macro photographer tends to avoid this method.
When you’re working with macro photography you have to deal with a very narrow depth of field which can even be as tight as 0.5 mm. Aperture control can do so much as diffraction will cause the sharpness of the image will deteriorate as the smallest aperture is approached. The following accessories will show how these particular problems can be addressed
Tripods make it easier to work with the narrow depth of field as it stabilizes the camera. For macro photography you will generally require a shorter tripod whose legs will give you a versatile shooting angle. The paradigm for this type of photography is in the object and camera in being in an absolute stationary state but as the former is often times hard to achieve so a well anchored camera will have to do.
A tripod can also be paired with a ‘plamp’ which is a segmented arm that can attach itself to objects from both sides. One arm can be fixed to a leg of the tripod while the other one can hold a reflector or a right-angle viewer to aid in the photography of low lying objects.
In macro photography, ‘focus stacking’ is a method where you take multiple photos of your subject from varying focal points and ‘stack’ them together in order to achieve a greater depth of focus. To do this a ‘focus rail’ or ‘macro slider’ is very important. When taking photos from multiple proximities from the subject, it is all too easy to miscalculate the positioning and miss a valuable component of the ‘stack’. It is mounted on top of a tripod and helps to make infinitesimal ‘back and forth’ changes to the camera using a mechanization of cogs. As macro photography is all about close-up of the subject, it is very important to have proper control of the focus and hence magnification.
Another important aspect of macro photography that beginners need to pay attention to is the lighting. While there is an issue of losing light over extension tubes, stacked filters and small apertures; an excess of undistributed light when outdoors is also an issue. At the macro level it is paramount that the light doesn’t glare or blur the zoomed in image.
When working with tiny moving creatures and small apertures, the lightning fast exposure and proper illumination make flashes an indispensable tool in the macro photographer’s kit. Using strobes or flashguns is a smart way of introducing more light to your shots while while a flash chord is an inexpensive way to detach the flash from the camera body.
The LED ring flash is among the most popular choices for macro photographers as it accounts for a good distribution of light without shadows. A micro ring flash or a round softbox can be used for small objects and if you want a certain degree of shadows in your picture then you can opt for an O-Ring flash which doesn’t have 360 degree circle lighting. Flashes can comprise of single or multi headed units where the former makes more sense if you’re chasing small insects.
Harsh, direct sunlight isn’t ideal for macro photography so a portable diffuser is the perfect solution for $10. It helps to get rid of glares and shadows while giving an even directionality of light. While shooting outdoors, light diffusers make the image more realistic and appealing while the portable ones can be held on to the device by the aforementioned ‘plamp’. When working with natural light, it is very important that it is evenly distributed and for that light diffusers are simply a must have.
Macro Shooting Table
If you want to work with an inanimate object indoors or have an especially co-operative critter, it makes sense to set up a small studio. For under $90 you can acquire a macro shooting table which provides an excellent backdrop for capturing small flowers, jewelleries and any other small object you would like to subject to your photography. It also makes for a controlled shooting environment where you can work on developing your macro photography.
Now that you have done over the basics of macro photography here are some other accessories that can push your photography to the next level without needing expensive tools and unreal conditions.
Macro Photography With Mobile Phone:
If you still have not got the time or money or both to buy the high-end camera lenses, then nothing to worry about. You can still do the job, or at least begin your work, by using your smartphone as an equipment for you macro photography. Yes, it is obvious that the more the merrier, however, it is also true that something is better than nothing. It is always wise to begin with what you have and then upgrade to what you specifically need.
Below are some pro tips to assist you in your mobile macro photography journey:
- Know Your Phone Camera’s Limit
To begin with, you must know your phone camera’s limit and other details like its aperture and how much it can focus. This will help you out in preparing your plan and making your photography experience even more joyous and peaceful.
- Wipe the Camera Lens
It is advised to wipe the phone lens each time before shooting. This is because the lens of the mobile phone camera may get scratched out owing to daily use. Thus if you always clean and wipe your lens everytime, before you begin to work, then it will turn out to be a great experience during the photography session.
- Additional details to bear in mind
Other points are also there on which an eye should be kept. Examples include points like finding the right subject, then setting the right background and making sure that the focus is sharp.
After that, you can use the cropping tool to make a second composition and the repair tool to do the clean up. Finally, I would suggest to use macro lens so that you have a great macro photography experience.
To achieve the ‘morning dew’ effect without having to wake up at ungodly hours in the morning, a misting bottle can help you cover your subject with tiny droplets of water which will look spectacular under magnification.
When the devil is in the details, dust and other particles will look particularly unpleasant when the image is blown up in macro photography. Tiny fibres are everywhere no matter where you shoot so having a small brush and a pair of tweezers handy will let you clean up your subject and surroundings before taking a picture.
Now that you have everything you need to start your journey in macro photography, all that is left to add is an artistic eye and capable pair of hands. If you aren’t ready to be the extreme macro photographer and would like to dabble in the art form, there is a fun way to do it using only your smartphone and an old DVD player. All you need to do is take off the lens reader in the DVD player and attach it to the camera of your phone and voila! You’re set to take some really interesting photos for your aesthetic instagram.
What is Focus stacking/Focus blending
Focus stacking is a process where one simply takes multiple photos of the same subject, but on every different image a unique point is focused. The focus points are entirely different points on each image.
How to get benefit from focus stacking:
- Equal interval Focusing (without moving camera)
- Equal interval placing (moving camera using macro rail)
Both of them have their constituent benefits and envelope your photography experience with utmost joy and peace.
The latter processes are then carried out by the different photo-editing software out there.
On this particular segment, also known as the post production segment, the person using the different softwares should have a handsome experience over all of them. This is because the different post-production softwares which are out there, are renowned for the unique features and certain ease and smooth workflow features they offer. Thus, it is quite advantageous for someone to have expertise in multiple software programs. This makes the person better qualified and also makes the post processing part buttery smooth.
There are many free, premium and freemium software which are available. Yes, it is quite obvious that free software may not be able to offer the premium quality features like the paid ones. However, they do offer a handful of features whose contribution is undeniable, especially for the naive photographers who have just begun their career. The free software gets the job done and makes the post production process, a whole lot easier for those who has not got that penny to spend in the very beginning. This is because they may have the desire to use the best quality software, but their wallet may not match their appetite for extravagant pleasures. Hence, the free software versions are also very helpful for them.
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