Macro Shots Tutorial

(Posted: 2010-05-14)

You might be wondering how to take macro shots. On point and shoot cameras, this is usually dead simple by enabling the macro mode - but is this true macro photography? I don't think so. All this does is that it reduces the focal distance of the camera to let you get a little bit closer to your subject - not close enough though to really call it macro photography.

So just how do you get real close-up photos such as this one?

They key is in using the right lens - assuming that you've got a DSLR camera body. There are specialised macro lenses - these let you get extremely close to your subject. However they come with the disadvantage of being ridiculously expensive. So if you just want to give macro photography a shot, I recommend you use reverse-mount lens rings instead. These can be had on your favourite auction site for a couple of quid and will do the job fantastically.

The reverse ring does exactly what it says on the tin - it reverses the lens. So you'll be mounting your lens the wrong way around. As a rule of thumb, the wider the lens - the bigger the magnification that you're likely to get. On the downside, the wider the lens, the narrower the depth of field. So on a 24mm lens, we're talking maybe 1mm of usable depth of field. Not a whole lot.

Since you'll be reverse mounting your lens, the lens needs to be operated manually. There will not be an autofocus function, and the aperture will be wide open as well (reducing your depth of field further).

There is a trick to get a bigger depth of field, that is by narrowing down the aperture before reverse mounting the lens using the aperture preview button. I haven't been able to test this on Nikons or other brands yet, but it definitely works on Canon DSLRs.

I recommend a 50mm F/1.8 fixed focal length lens for macro shots - it gives stunning pictures and only costs about £80.

Because the aperture will be closed down quite significantly, it is extremely important to have enough light available. Being a follower of the strobist approach to lighting, I like using off-camera flash in combination with some cheap remote triggers.

Macro photography never gets boring - there is always something small around that is going to look interesting when magnified. So this really gives you a lot of options. Check out my latest Macro Portfolio Album for some ideas!


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