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Getting started with macro photography

Since I recently wrote about capturing the details of the holidays with macro images, I thought I’d expand on the topic a bit more.

How to get better macro shots

One of the things I struggle the most with when shooting macro is getting my images tack sharp. I used to assume that since the DOF was so shallow that something has to be in focus, right? Not really a given, not very scientific and certainly not a guarantee for a tack sharp image. Here are a few things that will help you get your macro images sharp.

Use your tripod

This seems like common sense but so many of us have an aversion to hauling our tripods around with us. Live and learn though and you’ll start noticing how much sharper all your images are once you start using your tripod more often and not just for macros. Note that if you have Image Stabilization on your camera, turn it off when using a tripod. Here is a link explaining that: Image Stabilization: When to Use it and When to Turn it Off.

Use the live view function on your camera

Using the live view helps you see exactly where you want to focus so much better and many cameras have the capability to zoom 1x, 5x and 10x magnification when shooting with live view. Zooming in allows us to really see what is in focus and if it’s in focus. I’ve actually even taken that a step further and used an eye loupe on top of the live view screen to get even closer (maybe I should just put my reading glasses on).

Use a remote shutter release

You can use cable, wireless or a phone app — the less interaction you have with your camera the less opportunity to move or shake it.

Hold your breath

Don’t move. Leave the room. Step away from your tripod. Again, the less movement in or around your camera the less movement and possibility of vibration you’ll have.

Photographing macro on a budget

I always hear photographers say they wish they could shoot macro but can’t afford or don’t want to buy a macro specific lens. There are other options in shooting macro that are quite inexpensive and in my opinion push you to learn a bit more than slapping on a macro lens and just shooting.

Reverse Ring Adapters

Reverse Ring Adapters are a very inexpensive way to give macro a try.  They generally run around $12 to $20 for the standard screw on type adapters.

There are higher end adapters available that will allow you to transmit the lens information to the camera and also offer magnification rations that prime macro lenses are not capable of.

Macro Extension Tubes

Extension tubes are another way to create macro images without an actual dedicated macro lens and can run anywhere from $20 to $200 depending on quality and whether they are manual or automatic/electronic.

Telephoto zoom as macro

If you already own a telephoto/zoom lens you can use it for macro type work as well by just zooming in on the detail you want to capture. Is this actually considered macro? Are the people looking at your images asking? Does it matter if you are getting the shot you want?

Crop

If you can’t figure out any other way to get the detail shot you want, take the image anyway. Most cameras have enough megapixels to allow you to crop in to create the image you wanted.

Think outside the flower box

We tend to associate macro photography with flowers. While flowers are beautiful macro subjects, there is a whole world out there waiting to be discovered close up.

As always, experiment, play, ask what if, try things and most of all have fun. No matter how you capture your macro shots or with what equipment you use, capturing the details around you is all part of telling the overall story.

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