Macro photography is a technique which allows photographers to take close-up shots of subjects. Though it once referred exclusively to photography which rendered the subject in life-size on the negative, it has come to encompass almost all magnified photographic techniques. Macro photography differs in many ways from other types of photography: it often requires specialized equipment and it requires that the photographer make a number of special considerations when planning their shots. This brief guide will give you an overview of macro photography techniques.
Macro photography requires some specialized equipment. Most often, this includes macro lenses and extension tubes. The focal length of a macro lens determines the smallest size of the objects it can capture. Focal lengths in the range of 50-60 mm are most often used for product photography or small objects. 90-105 mm lenses are appropriate for insects and flowers. 150-200 mm lenses are most often used for small insect photography. Most of these lenses are 1:1, or ‘standard’ magnification.
Some macro lenses, however, can achieve up to 5:1 magnification. These are necessary for capturing detail in extremely small objects such as snowflakes and insect eyes. If you don’t want to spend the money on a new macro lens, you can use a reversing ring. These rings allow lenses to be attached backwards by attaching to the filter threads on the front of a lens. This allows the lens to be used for macro photography. Oftentimes photos can be taken in up to 4:1 magnification with a reversing ring while still maintaining excellent image quality.
Extension tubes, or bellows, extend the distance between the camera lens and the film or the digital light sensor within the camera. This makes the focusing distance of the camera much shorter, allowing for higher degrees of magnification. This also has the effect of making the image darker for the same aperture settings, a fact which should not be overlooked by the photographer when they are planning their shot.
Another special consideration macro photographers must keep in mind is that the depth of field of macro photographs is very limited. This makes focusing a critical step, as the photographer must determine which element of the subject should be in central focus. Lighting is also a hurdle for new macro photographers to overcome. This is because macro photography setups often leave very little space between the lens and the subject. Telephoto macro lenses are a popular solution for this problem, as they leave considerably more space between the lens and subject. Ring flashes are another solution to this problem. As they attach to the outer edge of the lens, they require very little distance to the subject to properly light them.