Macro Photography For Beginners

Macro Photography Is Addicting

If there is one thing that I can identify as the motivating factor for becoming a photo-nut, it is close-up or macro photography.

Do you remember the times in school or just playing around outside as a kid when you used a magnifying glass to examine bugs and small objects? It is very fascinating to zoom in on things that you don't normally see.

Then, getting older, we kind of get distracted with the cares of life and forget about the magnifying glass and exploring. That is pretty much what happened to me.

But something magical happened one day when I switched my little 3-megapixel Olympus camera to macro mode. It was like I was traveling back in time to my childhood. The flowers I photographed revealed detail and secrets I had not noticed before taking the picture. It brought back memories of the crazy movie "Honey, I shrunk the kids."

I started photographing everything in macro mode. And I was not disappointed with any of the shots. I took pictures of nuts and bolts, flowers, bugs (when they stayed put long enough), spider webs, belt buckles, finger nails, eyeballs... you name it, and I took a pictures of it. My wife and kids got really annoyed with the camera that was always snapping shots of some body part or piece of clothing.

Close-up (macro) photo of an Amaryllis flower
Close-up (macro) photo of an Amaryllis flower | Source

Macro Photography - Which Camera

I have since moved up a couple of notches to a digital SLR, and I have a special lens for macro. However, it is not mandatory that you have a macro lens. In fact, a digital SLR is not necessary either.

As I mentioned earlier, every compact digital camera has a close-up function. On you mode dial it looks like a little tulip flower. With your camera set to that setting, you can focus as close as an inch or two and get amazing results. You can fill the frame with a flower or bug, then be astounded at the intricacy of creation as you study the details on your big screen computer.

There is one caution you must be aware of when using a compact digital camera with macro images. It is not as common as in the past because of the advance in camera technology, but here it is. If your compact is equipped with an optical viewfinder and a live view LCD screen, be sure to use the LCD to compose your macro photo. The reason for this is that the optical viewfinder on compact cameras does not see the exact image that will be recorded when you press the shutter button. Compact cameras do not "see" the image through the lens like a digital SLR camera does, so what you see is not what you get, especially when viewing extremely close images.

Using the LCD screen solves this problem. The thing is, most newer compact cameras don't even offer an optical viewfinder anymore, so this issue will be obsolete soon. And if you have purchased a camera recently, you are probably saying, "What is he talking about?" The bottom line is this, if you have an LCD that shows the picture you are about to take, you are covered.. no problem-o.

Digital SLRs, even the cheap DSLR cameras, already have this problem covered simply because of the way the image is seen and focused using the "through the lens" technology. However, many newer digital SLRs are also now offering the live view feature in which you see the image on the LCD screen.

Macro Photographs

Black Swallowtail Butterfly - with Sigma 105 macro lens
Black Swallowtail Butterfly - with Sigma 105 macro lens
Coneflower - Taken with large aperture for shallow depth of field
Coneflower - Taken with large aperture for shallow depth of field
Photographing small objects or parts of objects is a favorite of many photographers. This close-up image of a colorful slinky is a good example.
Photographing small objects or parts of objects is a favorite of many photographers. This close-up image of a colorful slinky is a good example.
This image of ice crystals is a great example of the detail you can capture with a digital SLR camera and a macro lens.
This image of ice crystals is a great example of the detail you can capture with a digital SLR camera and a macro lens.
Yellow Rose with a Green Spider. Bugs are another favorite subject of macro photographers.
Yellow Rose with a Green Spider. Bugs are another favorite subject of macro photographers.

Advantages of Digital SLR Cameras For Macro Photography

If you are at all familiar with photography, you will know that the digital SLR cameras are plain and simply better photography tools than compact, point and shoot cameras.

If you are new to photography, a digital SLR is a camera that is different than a point and shoot camera in that it comes with the ability to change lenses. For most people, this feature alone qualifies it as a "professional" camera. However, more and more amateurs are carrying digital SLR cameras these days. One reason is price, which has come down significantly over the last few years, making them much more affordable as a hobby camera.

The second reason digital SLR cameras are becoming so popular is because they are digital cameras. This may sound funny, but the truth is, the digital camera age has created so much more interest in photography due to the instant feedback that comes with digital. You get to see the photo the instant you shoot it. This is called "instant gratification." And we modern people are creatures who expect and thrive on "instant" anything. Photo feedback is no exception.

So, when a picture is taken, we immediately get to see it. This gives us the encouragement and motivation to shoot again. We don't have to wait days and weeks for the film to come back from the lab.

OK, why does this matter with regard to macro photography?

It doesn't matter any more than any other type of photography. It is simply the reason so many of us are using these advanced cameras. They are cheaper than they used to be, and we get to see the results immediately. This keeps us coming back for more.

Now, one of the things that is better about digital SLR cameras is the image quality. The sensor size is larger, so the camera can record much more detail in the image. (The sensor size refers to the physical size of the piece of equipment in the camera that actually records the images. It is NOT the number of pixels.) Macro images require more detail and sharpness to look good. And while you can get good close-ups with a compact camera, the DSLR cameras are much more capable because of image quality.

The second reason digital SLRs are better for close-up photography is that you can attach a special lens for macro photography. They are actually called "macro lenses" (go figure!). These lenses are made specifically to magnify small objects at very close focal distances and retain the greatest amount of detail.

Yes, you can take macro shots with lenses other than dedicated macro lenses, but a macro lens will give the best results without a doubt. Since yours truly has a Canon digital SLR camera, Canon macro lenses are best suited to take these specialized shots.

This Rusty Chain turned out to be much more interesting as a Macro Photo than it was as part of a larger area still life photo.
This Rusty Chain turned out to be much more interesting as a Macro Photo than it was as part of a larger area still life photo.
Notice the detail in this magnolia macro photo. This is very hard to achieve with a normal non-macro lens.
Notice the detail in this magnolia macro photo. This is very hard to achieve with a normal non-macro lens.

Macro Photography Equipment

You can take close-up photos with any digital camera. And you can take those photos by simply pointing your camera at the subject and pressing the shutter button, whether your camera is a digital SLR or a point and shoot model.

However, there is some other equipment that may help you to get the best and crispest images. After all, when you get up close and personal with a subject at a distance of a few inches, there are lots of ways to mess up the shot. For instance, a little camera movement when you press the button does not upset a landscape shot too badly, but it is a huge problem when it comes to macro photography.

The first recommended piece of equipment is a tripod. One of these three legged creatures will help you to get a very high percentage of keepers. You can try bracing yourself against a stationary object or building, but that is not always possible. A tripod does not have to cost very much, but if you are toting a heavy, expensive camera, it is really hard to hold it steady enough for the sharpest shots.

Another item that is good for macro photography is a separate flash unit. The on-camera flash may work for you, but it is possible that if you are really close to your subject, your on-camera flash will cause shadows from the lens and lens hood. If you use an off-camera flash, the have lots more control. You may also want to get a difusing cover for you flash so that you won't have the harsh light of the direct flash. Of course, another way to diffuse the light is to use a tissue in front to soften the effect of the flash.

If you are a really avid macro photographer, a ring flash will be something you will love. It works for macro photography, but it is also good for portrait work.

One more suggestion would be a set of lighting reflector discs. These come as singles or in a package. With lighting discs you can redirect light with a white or silver disc, but you can also soften harsh sunlight with a translucent disc.

As a last hint, get some clips to hold things. You can get some alligator clips from the hardware store (or the dollar store). These come in handy when you want to hold a flower steady on a breezy day. They also help with a shade or reflector disc when you don't have your faithful assistant with you.

Comments 14 comments

Maria Cecilia profile image

Maria Cecilia 5 years ago from Philippines

This is really interesting, IK love photography but never indulge with other thing yet. My digicam is 7mp polaroid, I will try the Macro... thanks for this...


thewayeyeseeit profile image

thewayeyeseeit 5 years ago from Woodstock, GA Author

Maria, you are welcome. Macro is my favorite kind of photography. I think you will like it.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 5 years ago from UK

Wow! Love the photos. Great useful tips for macro photography, I gotta try some. I have got a 15 MP panasonic lumix digital SLR, should be fun. Thanks! voted up.


thewayeyeseeit profile image

thewayeyeseeit 5 years ago from Woodstock, GA Author

Docmo,

Thanks for the compliment on the photos. As you can see, I love this stuff. Your camera is perfect for macro photography. The main lens I use is a Sigma 105mm f/2.8, and you can get that same lens for your Panasonic.


Pixel-Alchemist profile image

Pixel-Alchemist 5 years ago from Waitakere Auckland : New Zealand

A really well written informative and helpful hub. Like you I love Macro Photography. I really enjoyed looking at your pictures they are stunning examples of Macro Photography.


thewayeyeseeit profile image

thewayeyeseeit 5 years ago from Woodstock, GA Author

Thank you so much Pixel-Alchemist, you are very kind.


photographybyar profile image

photographybyar 5 years ago from Bakersfield, California

I am also a photographer... you have a great eye for macro photography! Your images are stunning! Great hub and thanks for sharing.


thewayeyeseeit profile image

thewayeyeseeit 5 years ago from Woodstock, GA Author

Thanks Photographybyar. What a nice comment. It is my pleasure to share.


jewelsofawe profile image

jewelsofawe 5 years ago from Oregon

Great photography!


thewayeyeseeit profile image

thewayeyeseeit 5 years ago from Woodstock, GA Author

Thanks jewelsofawe, I appreciate your visit and your comment.


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 5 years ago from Northern, California

Really nice images! I enjoyed simply looking at your hub!


thewayeyeseeit profile image

thewayeyeseeit 5 years ago from Woodstock, GA Author

Thank you K9keystrokes. I not only enjoy taking the photos, I enjoy sharing them with those who care to look. In fact, many of these and more are posted at www.thewayeyeseeit.net.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 4 years ago from Sunny Spain

I love digital photography especially macro, I don't have an SLR though I do borrow one of my son's sometimes but I am not the sharpest knife in the box when it comes to all the manual settings lol...

I have a point and shoot but I do get some good results on the automatic mode.

Your photographs have been a delight to look at, you have a real eye and your macro shots are outstanding.

I have rated this hub up and hit the useful and interesting buttons. Thanks for sharing :)


jennabee25 profile image

jennabee25 23 months ago from PA

Beautiful images and well-written!

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