It is time to pay attention to the smaller details and secrets that nature contains. How? The answer is simple: macro photography. This month, get as close as possible to nature as you learn more about the very extensive and interesting subject of macro photography.
Dedicated macro lenses are the best for depicting the minute’s details of your tiny subject
The macro world is the fascinating, unexplored world of small wonders. And macro photography is the art and science of depicting minute details of the beautiful, small objects around us.
Technically speaking, if the image projected on the sensor of the camera is of the same size as that of the subject, i.e., a 1:1 image projection, then the output is called a macro photograph. Under such circumstances, if the subject is a very small one, you get to see all of its tiniest details and that is what amazes us in macro photography. A macro photographer can find his/her subjects everywhere – from the garden in the backyard to the living room; the subject could be as simple as the seeds of a fruit or the pollen in a flower or maybe, even a crystal of sugar.
Portal to the smaller world
A macro lens serves as the medium through which you will be able to see the objects around you on a larger scale of reality. Most of the macro lens makes available in the market are of very good quality, typically within the focal lengths range of 50 to 200 mm. The choice of the focal length depends on your usage. If you cannot go close to your subject, choose a longer focal length or opt for a shorter one if the object can be easily accessed. There are many third-party manufacturers for macro lenses, too.
Macro photography can make usual subjects look unusually charming
The working distance indicates how far the subject has to be from your lens in order to get the shot you want. The focal length of the macro lens that you choose can help determine the number of aspects that go into making the final image. For example, a longer focal length gives you a considerably good working distance, while with a shorter focal length, you will need to go very close to the subject.
Tricks of the trade
There are ways to take macro photographs even without using a macro lens.
Close-up filter: A close-up filter is the cheapest of all options. They are basically magnifying glasses that can be attached by a screw mount to the front of your camera lens. The advantage is that they reduce the minimum focusing distance of your lens and hence allow you to go much closer to your subject, resulting in a better close-up shot. These are very handy, lightweight, and don’t allow any loss of light. Since these filters are quite cheap, it is advisable to buy the most expensive one that you can afford, because the quality of the glass used in these filters is always lesser than the ones used in your lens and thus, can affect the quality of your final image.
Closeup filters extension tubes and reversal rings can help you in macro photography without a macro lens
Extension tube: An extension tube can extend the lens from the body of your SLR. These tubes also decrease the minimum focusing distance of your lens, thus allowing you to go closer to your subject. The longer the extension tube, the closer you can get. The best part is, they are not made of glass, are easy to use and are dirt-cheap. However, the major disadvantage experienced is the loss of some amount of light. These are available in different sizes like 12 mm, 20 mm, etc.
Reversal ring: A reversal ring helps to fit a lens with the camera body in the reversed manner. The ring can be fitted on one side with the screw mount of the filter present in front of the lens and on the other side with the body of the camera.
(All the options mentioned can be used in isolation or in combinations in order to obtain a super macro image i.e. may be 1:1, 2:1, 4:1 or even 6:1).
Any discussion on macro photography isn’t complete without discussing the challenges associated with it. The greatest challenge faced universally when it comes to macro photography is the depth of field. The closer you get, the deeper you are in trouble as the depth is very limited in macro. Focusing on the most prominent part and leaving the rest out of focus, does not look good most of the time. Many advise taking multiple pictures with different points of focus maintaining the same frame and then later combine all of them through different kinds of software during post-processing.
In order to have better depth, one can also use a narrower f stop, if the lighting conditions are adequate. Ironically, lighting conditions are the second biggest challenge faced in macro photography and you may have to use a tripod if you have to use a narrow aperture. Experts advise artificial lighting, particularly the use of a ring flash and narrow aperture like f 22 with a shutter speed of 1/200 in flashlight photography to produce excellent results.
So, get your tools in place and delve deeper into the world of macro photography!
This article was initially published in the April 2015 edition of Saevus magazine.