Basics of Macro Photography
Have you ever seen a macro photograph? Odds on you have, even if you didn’t realise it at the time. Macro photography features heavily in nature documentaries, product advertising and abstract art photography. Very often we see macro pictures of bright flowers, colourful frogs and alien-looking insects, which serve as a reminder that the most mundane parts of daily life can yield beautiful pieces of artwork. So what is Macro photography, really? Macro shooting is the art of capturing extreme close-up images, capturing detail which would usually be missed or overlooked by the naked eye. Macro can give us a view of our world which usually goes unseen, but is both beautiful and fascinating.
So, how do you shoot macro? Firstly, you need to assess your camera. If you own a compact camera, chances are it has some kind of Macro setting. Look for a symbol with a flower – this is the universal ‘macro’ symbol. If you use the camera with this setting you will be able to shoot quite close and get good detail, however Digital SLR cameras tend to produce better macro images.
Digital SLR cameras, as usual, yield the best results in this field for two reasons: Firstly, they have a larger sensor which is better for capturing tiny detail at high resolution than the tiny compact sensors. Secondly, you can buy dedicated Macro Lenses for your DSLR, which are designed specifically for this purpose. If you own a DSLR and would like to try your hand at macro, look into purchasing a macro lens, or borrowing one from an understanding friend!
Once you have the gear, you need to set yourself up. A tripod is usually easiest when shooting macro, because the depth of field is so shallow that the slightest movement can require that you re-focus. If shooting with a DSLR, it’s a good idea to use manual focus. This allows you to take your time and find the ‘sweet spot’ – the precise point where everything you want is in focus. You should also shoot in Manual or Aperture Priority exposure – this lets you control your depth of field. Remember that a small f number means a large aperture, and therefore a shallow depth of field. If you wish to have everything in focus you can close down the aperture (use a larger f number), however this means using a slower shutter speed. If you are not using a tripod (or if you have a live subject) a slow shutter speed can prove to be an issue, so you may need to instead add more light. Try to shoot in a well-lit area, or on a sunny day. Overcast is best as the light is bright but not harsh.
While shooting, try not to cast a shadow over your subject. Be prepared to take a lot of pictures and to delete all but the best- move around your subject, vary the angles that you shoot on and the aspects that you focus on.
Finally, never underestimate your background! If you are using a shallow depth of field the background will be blurred, but it can still ruin a good shot. Bright colours work well, as do white backgrounds. Play around with your background to achieve different effects. If you find the colour distracting, try changing the colours to black and white to draw more attention to detail. Well, there are the basics! Give it a go and feel free to post the results on the Ted’s Facebook page and Twitter feed to let us know how you went!
View our range of macro lenses here