Welcome to the world of Macro Photography
What is it all about?
Macro photography is the art of taking extremely close up photographs, usually of small objects, flowers, insects and anything that the photographer finds interesting. Extreme close up photography can turn what are dull and boring subjects into phenomenal images. Macro photography captures the fine detail that cannot be seen by the naked human eye so you never know what you may see when you upload your images to a computer.
Interested in learning more?... I knew you would be, read on to find out how easy it is to get started!
The type of camera you need...
There are many point and shoot cameras available today that have macro capabilities. The results will vary based on the price of the camera, with photography equipment you do get what you pay for. Despite this many fantastic macro images have been produced using point and shoot cameras (also known as bridge cameras) and they are a great way to get into the wonderful world of Macro Photography. Should you wish to take your close up photography to the next level you would do well to invest in a Digital SLR (Single Lens reflex) camera or 'DSLR'. These cameras are much more expensive but dedicated lenses can be purchased which will give staggering results.
I would also like to mention that with regards to photography I truly believe that the quality of the equipment used plays a relatively small part in the quality of the final image produced. The knowledge and experience of the person behind the camera, the photographer is far more important!
How To Set Up Your Camera
As this is a beginners guide I will assume from now on that you have a point and shoot compact camera.
Before taking your first Macro Photograph there are a few things to be taken into consideration. Firstly you need to make sure that your cameras macro mode is enabled. The macro mode is usually referenced by a small flower symbol if you cannot find this then please refer to the manual that came with the camera.
Once you have selected the macro mode the minimum focusing distance will now be smaller, therefore allowing you to get in closer to your chosen subject. The minimum distance varies between different camera models, the exact measurement will be listed within your cameras handbook.
Use A Tripod
In Macro Photography, camera shake is much more of an issue than it usually is, it is important that your image is as pin sharp as possible. Camera shake is a term given to any movement of the camera in-between the shutter opening and closing. Taking close up photographs requires the camera to be as still as possible to avoid blurry images. Using a tripod however impractical it may seem at the time will make sure that your equipment produces fantastic results every time, many different sizes and variations of tripods are available and can range in price from $20-$400.
Macro Lens Attachments
Credit: Credit: Credit: Credit: Â© Luc Viatour (CC BY-SA 3.0)If your budget will not allow you to upgrade to a digital SLR camera many compact cameras have attachments available to enhance and improve your Macro photography. They include attachments that will magnify your subject making it bigger and attachments that will decrease your minimum focal length allowing you to get in closer to your subject. These are not essential attachments but you would definitely see an improvement on the photographs you take.
Lighting & Flash
Artificial light can be used to your advantage when it comes to Macro Photography. However finding a compact camera that has a high performance flash can be challenging. The alternative is natural daylight, this is one of the best resources for photography and it's completely free!
Follow these simple steps to make the best use of natural light.
If the light is too intense - Use tissue paper to diffuse the light.
If there is uneven light - Use white card to reflect the light, just hold it near your subject and the light should bounce off it. There are professional reflectors available but I prefer to use card.
If there's not enough light - Setup a small table near a window and use the table to place your subject on.
Rule of thirds
In Macro Photography the same compositional rules apply as they do in normal photography. Always try to use the rule of thirds. For those of you that are new to photography I will explain briefly what is meant by the rule of thirds.
The rule suggests that the photographer should imagine a theoretical grid made up of nine equally sized squares is placed over the image. All compositional elements (such as the horizon in a landscape image) should be placed along the lines or intersections.
The bottom half of the photograph below has been taken using the rule of thirds. The top half of the photograph has ignored the rule.
If your camera allows I would strongly recommend using your camera in manual focusing mode. Not all compact cameras allow this so you will have to check your own model. With Macro Photography you will find that you have a very shallow depth of field, this means that only part of your shot will be in focus. Switching into manual focusing mode will give you better control over this.