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Macro Photography Basics: Get Amazing Closeup Photos

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It is hard not to look at a macro photograph and not be in awe. To be able to see the smallest of details in strong sharp contrast is amazing.

This post is going to concentrate on the basics of macro photography. It is important if you are going to do true macro photography to have a macro lens. A true macro lens will have at least a 1:1 magnification ratio. This means that you will get a life size representation. A 1:2 ratio means you will only get half the true life size representation. Just because a lens is labeled macro, doesn’t mean it is a true macro. So it is important to check the magnification ratio.

Equipment:

For Canon, you can go with the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro, the Canon EF 100mm f2.8 macro USM or the newest the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM 1-to-1 Macro. (there are earlier versions that can save you some money as well)

For Nikon (Nikon brands their macro lenses as micro), you can go with the Nikon 60mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Micro-Nikkor Lens or the Nikon 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor Lens. (there are earlier versions that can save you some money as well)

Now that you have the lens, something else that will really help you with macro photography is a tripod. If you don’t have a tripod, find something sturdy to set your camera on. You will be dealing with either very narrow apertures, or very slow shutter speeds. A tripod will help your images come out nice and sharp!

Now, a couple tricks about macro’s that tend to be a lot different than when photographing people.

 

Depth of Field {very different than in portrait work}:

First, the shallow depth of field. When you are able to get SO close to a subject, your depth of field appears much more shallow. Here is an example I shot of some bricks. The first is a very modest f/4 and the second a very closed f/13. You will see what a sliver of brick is in focus with the f/4, and even the f/13 has some fantastic shallow depth of field.

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So don’t think you need to open up like you would for portraits. You will get great depth of field with a more closed aperture, plus the added bonus of having a better chance of your subject in focus!

Second, the fixed aperture. It isn’t as fixed as you think. When you open wide at f/2.8, and then get right up close to your subject, your aperture will actually change close down some to the effective aperture. At this magnification, your lens can’t open that wide. So keep in mind, when you get really close, your aperture will change.

Now, I mentioned the tripod. This is important because you will either open wide (to get that sliver into focus) which means even the pressure you put on pressing the shutter will cause some movement and could put your small sliver out of focus. Or you will shoot more closed down to get more into focus, which means you will be using a slower shutter speed. If you don’t have a tripod, find a way to brace your camera on something. Using a remote or the timer on your camera can also help with any camera shake.

Your Subjects:

Now that you have the basics, time to find some subjects! With this post, I will focus on flowers. They don’t get scared of me when I get up really close, they don’t move much (on a non-windy day), and they are bright and colorful. They make perfect subjects!

There are many ways you can frame your flower.

One is to make it the center of attention. Shoot straight down the center.
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Another way is to come from the side, just skimming the top of the flower.

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Or capture a portion of a flower and show depth with an out of focus element in the background.

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So go out, enjoy nature and see what you create!

Britt Anderson is a portrait photographer in the Chicagoland area. While she is usually photographing kids and families, she will often channel her inner nature lover and capture living things with her macro lens. Check out more of Britt’s macro photography!

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No Comments

  1. Diana Ornes on November 24, 2009 at 9:31 am

    That is really cool! Although I got some extension tubes for about 20 bucks on ebay 🙂

  2. O. Joy St.Claire on November 24, 2009 at 9:52 am

    I've seen this before! great stuff!

  3. Kim Moran Vivirito on November 24, 2009 at 11:17 am

    what a great idea!!!! thanks!!!!

  4. Danielle on November 24, 2009 at 8:34 am

    Looks fun..I know what I’ll be trying today!

  5. Lori Lee on November 24, 2009 at 9:29 am

    HOW COOL IS THAT?! I love that idea and I will be trying this out TODAY! Thank you for posting this!

  6. Jennifer O. on November 24, 2009 at 9:47 am

    So awesome! Can’t wait to try it!

  7. Deirdre M. on November 24, 2009 at 10:03 am

    You can buy reversal rings to attach your lens to your camera backwards, which avoids dust and gives you an extra hand. I bought one off e-bay for under $8 including shipping.

  8. Christa Holland on November 24, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Thanks! I think I’ve heard of this somewhere before, but I’ve been trying to play with macros recently & got frustrated. Why didn’t I think, “just turn the lens around?” lol.

  9. Kathleen on November 24, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Awesome! I can’t wait to try this.

  10. Puna on November 24, 2009 at 11:51 am

    This is way cool. Now I just need a 50 mm lens.

  11. Sarah on November 24, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Very cool…I didn’t know it was that easy. Great pics too by the way! I actually do own a 1:1 macro lens (the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro) and it doubles as a GREAT portrait lens…macro lenses aren’t necessarily just for macro. 🙂

  12. Trude Ellingsen on November 24, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    I’ll definitely be playing around with this over the holiday! A macro lens is definitely on my wish list, but until then (10 years from now, LOL) I’ll be trying this out! 🙂 TFS!

  13. Alexa on November 24, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    This is really neat!! Never knew you could do this… Thanks for sharing!!!!

  14. elena w on November 24, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    such a fun post!

  15. Teresa Sweet on November 24, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Great post, Melissa! I loooove my macro and they truly are worth every penny. But with that aside, I am still gonna try this with my 50mm! LOL Sounds like fun and def something new to try! Loved the humor in UR words as well 😉 Hope everyone gets out and tries this as well!

  16. Alexandra on November 24, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    The funniest part is what it’s called – poor man’s macro hahaha 🙂 Awesome!

  17. Staci on November 24, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    That is SO awesome! I am in the same place! I love to use macro for certain shots, but it doesn’t have a place in my business to justify the cost, either! I am so trying this! yay!

  18. kristen ~ k. holly on November 24, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Really?! Dang, I must must must go try this asap!

  19. Kristal on November 25, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Thankyou so much for sharing, way to much fun!Thanks again.

  20. Heather on November 25, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Holy Smokes!!! Thanks for telling me that … I had no idea! I’m off to play with my 50mm now 🙂

  21. Life with Kaishon on November 26, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    What a brilliant tip! LOVE this!

  22. Kerry on November 27, 2009 at 3:36 am

    You can buy a reverse mount ring for about $10 so you don’t have to hand hold the lens. Great for getting close up newborn features (eyelashes, cowlick, etc.), too.

  23. Laurie Y on November 27, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Cool trick!!

  24. Marsha on November 27, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    What a great idea! I would never have thought to do that– not in a gazillion years.

  25. Christine on November 30, 2009 at 5:14 am

    that’s quite amazing, thank you for the tip!! i tried it just now, but with a 30mm lens. it’s really fun to play around with, unfortunately my pictures come up so dark, even at f/1.4!! i’m not too sure what i’m doing wrong, but i’ll definitely play more!

  26. Kristen on November 30, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    GET OUT! I just tried this and it’s amazing!!! And just to think I was going to drop $1000 on the new Canon L macro. WOW!

  27. Janet Mc on December 4, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    I LOVE this! changed my world! thank you so much!

  28. Elle Ticula on December 7, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    Hey neat trick. I will be using that now. 🙂

  29. Amy B on July 27, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    you just rocked my world! I can’t wait to see what I just took! And I got lucky (kind of) when a bee landed on a flower I was looking at. Usually I scream like a little girl whenever a bee gets within 3 yards of me, but I sucked it up and did my best to take a pic before it flew away…and I ran away screaming 🙂 Thanks!

  30. Trina on July 28, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    This is a great fix for macro. I am in a bit of a slump with my photos and this might be the change I need. Thanks for posting 🙂

  31. Mike Eckman on January 15, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Did you just screw your lens into the camera backwards???? Love the results.

  32. Jaoski Manila on May 5, 2011 at 11:13 am

    you can buy a reverse ring Nikon BR-2a for only $40 or if you want to take a risk with nameless brand for $8. With reverse ring you can use a zoom camera (dont use the one that is too heavy it might damage your camera thread) if your lens doesnt have an aperture control on it, you can stuck a piece of paper to its “ring” to keep it open. And if you want to put your uv filter on your reversed lens you can buy nikon BR-3 to help attached it.

  33. agnes on January 25, 2012 at 5:01 am

    awesome trick, thank you for this!has anyone had any luck doing this with a film SLR?

  34. Angie on June 6, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    For a few bucks you can buy a reversing ring. It screw onto the front of a lens, and then you can remove the lens and mount it onto the camera backwards. Saves you from having to hold the lens in one hand while trying to balance a heavy camera with the other hand. Also keeps the dust from settling into your sensor. I like to use a tripod and live view on my nikon to get a nicely focused shot.Definitely Macro on the cheap…

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