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With plenty of practice, and a lot of trial and error, you'll soon figure out what works best for creating the images you want. The depth of field — the portion of the image that is in focus — is razor thin with macro photography. This is because of the magnification of the lens and the very short working distances from the lens to the subject. With the focal length and distance to subject set, the only other thing to control depth of field is the aperture. In macro photography, stopping down the aperture works the same way, but the depth of field is so miniscule that you may not see much change.

The decision of what you want in focus is very important. Focus stacking is a more advanced technique to expand the depth of field in an image, but it won't be covered in this article. Depth of field illustration. The focus point stayed on the SanDisk in each image. Note how the rest of the label becomes readable at the smaller apertures, but never really gets sharp.

Since macro photography is all about taking pictures of tiny things, the idea is to use the focal length of the lens and get as close as possible to the subject to make it appear large in the frame. The problem with most lenses is that they are not capable of focusing close enough. Something about physics and optical engineering, but those are topics best left to a different article.

To put it simply, the shortest distance at which a lens will focus is the minimum focus distance. In order to get close-up or macro shots of small objects and show intricate detail, you need to be able to focus on the object at a close distance. Dedicated macro lenses are made to focus up close. For other lenses, there are things you can do to decrease their minimum focus distance, such as using the reverse lens technique or adding extension tubes.

We'll discuss gear in more detail below. This is sometimes confused with minimum focus distance, but the two are quite different. Minimum focus distance — or MFD — is the closest a lens can focus and is measured from the focal plane to the subject. By the way, the focal plane is probably marked on the top part of your camera body. The location of the mark varies with different cameras, but it will look like a small circle with a line through it.

The MFD of a lens is measured from that mark to the subject. Working distance is a little different, but still very important for macro photography. The working distance is the distance from the front of the lens to the subject. Sometimes the MFD can be so short that the lens is nearly touching the subject. Depending on what you are shooting, this may not be a problem.

However, if your subject happens to be a skittish insect, you will need a little more space. Another thing to consider that as the lens gets closer to the subject, you may be blocking much-needed light from falling on the subject. The MFD is commonly listed in the specifications for lenses. Working distance is not typically listed, but can be calculated using the MFD, length of the lens, and distance from the lens mount to the focal plane typically 1.

Simply add the length of the lens and the distance from the lens mount to the focal plane mark, then subtract that number from the MFD. Note that this is without the lens hood, so you'll need to account for that if you will have it attached. Keeping your distance can sometimes be a wise thing. Photo by Rusty Parkhurst. Without getting overly technical, the magnification ratio is the relationship between the size of a subject as projected on the image sensor and its size in real life.

For instance, let's say that a butterfly has a wingspan of two inches in real life, but the wingspan is measured as one inch on the image sensor. That would mean the magnification ratio is one inch to two inches, or A macro lens capable of capturing subjects at life size would be said to have a magnification ratio. The lens has a MFD of about 1.

Look Closely

That doesn't seem like much of a difference, but the is capable of only about a magnification ratio, whereas the mm macro lens is capable of In other words, just because a lens has a macro label doesn't mean it is able to produce true macro images. However, some of my favorite close-up images have been created with my trusty mm lens. What's a photography article without talking about gear? Gear is important in some respects, and there are a few things you'll need to shoot macro photos. For the purposes of this article, I'll assume that most readers are using some type of interchangeable lens camera — whether a DSLR or mirrorless.

One of the great things about macro photography is that you don't need a ton of gear, and it doesn't have to be expensive. It doesn't matter if you are using an entry level Canon Rebel or the high-end Nikon D Great macro images can be made regardless. If you have a camera and lens, then you already have most of what is needed to get started. The lens you have may even have a macro setting. It may not be a macro lens, but you can sure do some close-up photography.

Let's take a look at some things you could add to your kit to start getting some great macro images. Using extension tubes is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to get started in macro photography. I have a set of these , which mount easily and seem to work just fine. Auto-focus is sometimes a little finicky with these, but I'm usually focusing manually anyway for macro shots.

Tips for Better Close-Up and Macro Photography

Just make sure to get the right mount for your camera. Extension tubes are simply mounted between the camera body and lens, moving the lens further from the sensor, which in turn will decrease the MFD of the lens. They usually come in a set of three, each providing different extension lengths. They can be used individually or in any combination to provide the MFD that you need. As a general rule of thumb, the increase in magnification is the length of the extension divided by the focal length of the lens.

1. The Third Hand

For example, adding 30mm of extension to a 50mm lens would increase magnification by 0. The same Nikon lens has a native magnification of 0. As you can see, even a common lens could be transformed into a macro lens with magnification or greater. Extension tubes are great in that they are relatively inexpensive, but there are some disadvantages.

The image quality won't be quite as good as with a dedicated macro lens.


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Plus, they are a little more cumbersome to work with, and only allow the lens to focus on objects up close. Finally, it is best to use extension tubes with mid-range focal length lenses, somewhere in the range of 35mm to mm. The magnification gain for telephoto lenses would be minimal and the MFD for shorter focal length lenses may actually be too close. These relatively inexpensive extension tubes is what I most often use for macro photography. They can be used individually or stacked in any combination. These rings mount to the camera, and have threads on the other side to screw onto your lens's front filter mount, which mounts the lens in the reverse direction on the camera.

How To Use Macro (Close Up) Filters

You just need to make sure to get a ring compatible to your camera mount and with the correct thread diameter to screw onto the lens you are using. Generally speaking, shorter focal length lenses allow for closer focusing distances and higher magnification. Using this technique can be difficult in that the range of available focus distances can be extremely small.

Additionally, all auto-focusing features are lost, which isn't a big deal. However, you may also lose the ability to control the aperture, which can be a problem. However, due to the minimal cost, it may be worth a try.

What is the Difference Between Macro, Micro and Close-Up Photography

Close up filters are another option that could work with an existing lens. These vary wildly in cost, but this is one of those situations where you get what you pay for. A close up filter is like a magnifying glass that screws to the front of your lens, just like any other filter. The quality of the glass is obviously important here to prevent degradation in image quality.

Some of the best close up filters are made by Canon , but quality comes at a price. Close up filters come in different diopter strengths, which work with the focal length of the lens to increase magnification. Photographers who pursue macro photography can find endless inspiration in the details and patterns that surround us. In exchange, their photos reveal a tiny world that normally falls below our perception. When it comes to exploring macro and close-up photography, the good news is that anyone can participate.

While a DSLR camera is preferred for close-up work, using a compact camera can be just as rewarding. Without getting too technical, here are basic definitions of the three terms:. Purists will just need to bear with us for now. Macro photography is so popular that most cameras have an exposure mode built-in to support it. The most common DSLR lenses used by hobby photographers for macro photography is a tele-zoom: a lens in the mm or mm range.

These tele-zooms tend to have a macro ratio of or There are true macro lenses available for every DSLR lens mount. These are the lenses that offer a or image ratio.

follow url For now we have three assignments designed to get us thinking in terms of small, tiny, and details. For these assignments use your camera in the Macro mode setting. Set your lens length for maximum magnification and do not change the setting. Learn to move yourself and the camera toward or away from the subject in order to create your composition or achieve focus. Assignment number one is an old favorite.


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Take your ring to a garden spot and give it a toss. Wherever the ring lands is where you take your macro pictures. You may only photograph objects within the ring. Our goal with this exercise is to learn to see small subjects and isolate them into images. Assignment two is fairly basic. Find a toy or model no larger than an inch or two and place it in the middle of a white sheet of paper. Have the paper and your object set up close enough to a window for illumination. Moving your subject as little as possible, take your shots as described above.

Our goal is to get a feeling for how the subject changes as we move our camera and change our viewpoint. The third assignment is about discovery.