Photographing the ‘tiny things’ in the natural world can be both enjoyable and rewarding. Below are some tips and techniques that will help you achieve better macro photos.
1. Dedicated Macro Lens
If you love your macro photography, using a macro lens is always preferable. Whether your lens has focal length of 50mm, 200ml or anything in between, a dedicated macro lens allows for closer focusing and incredibly sharp images. Yes, some zoom lenses have a ‘macro’ setting but they aren’t true macro lenses.
There isn’t a perfect focal length for a macro lens. The most popular focal lengths seem to be between 60 mmto 100mm. Lenses with a focal length of 180 or 200mm macro lens are a tad heavier to use and don’t have as close a minimum focal length as the smaller sizes. One advantage , however, is that you are able to focus further away, which can have its advantages when photographing insects such as dragonflies or butterflies which can be a bit kittish when approaching them too close.
2. Extension Tubes
Using extension tubes with SLR or Mirrorless cameras allow for much closer focusing to your macro subjects (they fit in between the camera and lens). The downside is that depth of field becomes a real issue and even at an aperture of f22, only a fraction of your close-up image will be in focus. Generally, extension tubes are best when using a tripod, as this allows for greater stability. Hand holding a lens with an extension tube can be quite tricky since adding them reduces your aperture size and therefore decreases your shutter speed.
3. Macro Flash
By using a macro or ring flash attached to your lens negates the use of a tripod, especially in low light scenarios. You are, quite simply, carrying around your own light source. Using a flash has the advantage of you being able to capture insects such as bees buzzing over a flower, which a slower shutter speed will struggle to capture in poor light. Also, for insects that fly or move, the fact that you aren’t connected to a tripod means you have much more flexibility focusing on the moving subject.
Apart from using a macro flash, there are also numerous macro lights available on the market. Rather than a flash being fired when you take a shot, a macro light uses a continuous light source that usually can be adjusted according to the amount of light you require on your subject.
4. Using a Diffuser
Sometimes when you head on out with your camera with the aim of photographing plants, insects, fungi or frogs, lighting may be harsh. There are ways of reducing your exposure in-camera but harsh lighting can create unsightly images, especially if the subject is shiny and reflective, or white and yellow. By setting up on a tripod and using a portable hand-held diffuser between your intended subject and the lens, this creates much smoother lighting. Sure, photographing during overcast weather is ideal, but we can’t choose what mother nature will do! I have often gone out to shoot macro subjects on an overcast day when the lighting is sublime, only to have the clouds replaced by harsh sunlight!
5. Watch Your Background
I regularly see beautiful macro shots posted, including insects, plants or wildlife such as geckoes or frogs. Unfortunately, some of these images are ruined by unsightly twigs, grasses or overblown leaves in the background. Photographers are often so into getting the perfect exposure or composition of their intended subject(s) that they are oblivious to the distracting background which only show up once the images are downloaded and viewed on a computer.
Overall, I encourage you to get on out there and experiment with different subjects, lighting conditions and compositions. The more you practise, the easier macro photography becomes and the process can be loads of fun : -))
If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.