Macro Photography

22 May

Since we’ve been on the topic of flowers, I might as well give you my take on macro photography now. This article is targeted to amateur and junior level photographers. I’m mostly referring to flowers here. But macro photography can be about anything small. Insects, for instance, are also popular subjects. (Feel free to click on each picture to see a larger version.)

If you want to be very, and I mean very, serious about macro photography, or even make a living out of it, some gears are must have, such as macro lens, close-up filters, one or two flashes in front of the subject, maybe one behind too. But if you are like me, shooting flowers here or there on my backyard, or on a vacation trip, how to make the best of your camera for macro photography?

It’s actually very simple for point and shoot camera users, albeit may not produce the best images, by just changing the mode dial on the camera to Macro. (See my note at the end.) On most camera models, it would be the one looks like a flower.

For people that are a bit more serious, use a prosumer point and shoot camera that has Aperture priority mode, or even better, a DSLR camera. Using a tripod is also recommended. Then what do you do? First, change it to Aperture priority mode and use the largest possible aperture opening (smallest aperture value). Secondly, zoom all the way in, using the tele end of the lens, to as least 55mm. 85mm or 105mm is better, if your lens is capable. Thirdly, move the camera as close as possible to your subject, for example, the flower. All of these steps gives you the smallest Depth of Field, therefore only the subject will be sharp and stand out.

Now, there is a limitation and something to consider. The limitation is on the lens. Different lens has different minimum focus distance. If you press the shutter release button half way but couldn’t hear the beep (focus indication), you are too close and the camera cannot focus. Back away a little bit and try again. The thing to consider is whether you should fill up the whole screen with just the flower petals, or maybe include a part of stem, a leaf, etc. Most macro photographies are about to single out one or two — three is already too many — subjects from the background. You don’t want to make everything in the image look sharp. Otherwise, the viewers will have a hard time to understand what your main subject is and hence what you are trying to tell.

Outdoor light condition? Preferably not on dark cloudy days or the image will look plain. Not at noon on a sunny day either if the subject is directly under the sun. Because it will be too contrasty. You would prefer a soft background. If it’s kind of dim, using a flash can help. But not with the bare pop-up flash on the camera. If that’s all you have, then find a piece a white paper, position it one inch in front of the pop-up flash.

You can also be creative by spaying a few water drops on the petals and leaves. People generally like seeing water drops on any plants. It sort of presents a clean, fresh environment like in the morning.

All pictures in this post were actually taken a year and a half ago in my backyard, right after I got my first DSLR, but before I understood macro photography, using just the Macro mode on the camera. To be honest, there is slightly focusing and lighting issue in some images. But I still like them a lot. None of them have been post processed other than adding captions. So you see, it’s not difficult to take some beautiful pictures yourself. For those who have the experience, let me know in your comments if I missed anything.

Copyright © 2011. Jenson Yu. All rights reserved.
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Posted by on May 22, 2011 in Flower, Photography Techniques


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