Macro photography is defined as the type of photography that focuses on capturing small objects. It could be an insect or some small creature, a fine detail of an object, anything small that may catch your fancy.
It is also a challenging type of photography as well as there are specific settings to learn and equipment needed to accomplish it. Today, we shall be talking more about macro photography in depth as to how you can accomplish this type of photography.
The most important piece of equipment you would need for macro is the optics. In particular, you would need a lens that can move far away from the sensor since the subject is very close to the lens.
As such, most lenses cannot focus because the elements inside the lens are optimized for “regular” shooting and cannot deliver high quality when the nodal point is too far from the lens. Also, as the nodal point gains distance from the sensor, less light is hitting the sensor. If the lens was rated at, say. f/1.8 for “regular” photographs, it may not be able to deliver f/1.8 when the nodal point is that far away from the sensor.
To optimize your camera’s performance in macro photography, your camera should be equipped with macro lenses which are optimized for shooting at close focusing distances, less limited in getting the nodal point away from the sensor.
Another piece of equipment that can is useful to provide macro functionality is the macro extension tube. It is a circular elements that connect between the camera and the lens.
If you have limited budget to buy such equipment, there are less expensive alternatives. One of them would be the macro filters. There is also the method of reversing the lens which makes it gain macro abilities to an extent.
Another method is using two lenses to create a macro effect somewhat similar to the setup that microscopes use. The first lens creates the image and the second one makes it bigger. You connect the lenses using a coupling ring and step-up rings if needed.
When you shoot macro you have a very limited depth of field. With that shallow depth of field every change in the camera to object distance is crucial and can throw the subject into the blurred zone so you want to make sure that both the subject and the camera stays still, which is what a tripod is for.
LIGHTING FOR MACRO
With the settings in place for macro photography, one drawback with these settings is that light becomes too minimal to capture your subject well. But fortunately, there is a way to overcome the lack of light: strobes.
Strobes put out lots of light, sometimes too much light that you may need to dial the settings down. Another challenge is the light from the strobes can sometimes create unnecessary shadows. That is why it is important to place a diffused strobe pretty close to the subject, and another is using a ring flash.
TAKING THE SHOT
First things first, as it is often reminded, you should set your camera to manual focus. With a limited depth of field, as a photographer like Russell Neal, you should be the one calling the creative calls (i.e. what’s in focus) and not depend on the location of the focus sensor in your camera. Proper composition is important.
Tip: If there is a subject you wish to capture from a different or position, it would be very difficult doing so by moving the camera. Instead, reframe by moving subject instead. Just remember to re-focus.
How about the shallow depth of field problem? The good news is that it is completely doable. The bad news is this solution requires some work.
This work is called focus stacking is a method that combines the focused areas from a sequence of images, like different parts of an image then combining them into a single image through software.