What is Macro Photography?
Macro Photography is all about making little things appear larger than life. In this, you really get close to the subject and capture the smallest of details. For example, you must have seen a close-up photo of an ant, in the photo, we can clearly see its mouth and antennas. These photos are known as macro shots.
Basically, macro photography allows you to see the world with a whole new perspective. But most people find macro photography to be overcomplicated and daunting as there a lot of technical terms associated with it like magnification, working distance etc.
But we here at Spyne are here with this blog to tell you each and everything that you need to know about macro photography. We will also talk about some of the technical aspects of macro photography, which are not as intimidating as they seem. So let us start with the basics.
What is Magnification?
In Photography, Magnification is the ratio of the size of the subject on the camera lens to the size of the subject in real life. Any photo with the magnification of 1:1 or above is considered to be a macro photo.
The magnification 1:1 means that the subject is of the same size as depicted in the image. Any image with the magnification less than 1:1, where the actual size of the subject is bigger than its image on the sensor of the camera, is not regarded as macro photography.
And the closer you are to the subject, the higher the magnification. This is why macro photography is done by getting close to the subject. And as you have got the basic gist of magnification, let's move on to the other technical aspects of Macro Photography.
What Is Working Distance or Minimum Focusing Distance?
As you might have already guessed, it is the minimum distance that is required for the camera to focus properly. And most people believe this to be the distance between the subject and the end of the lens, but that is not the case. Minimum focusing distance is actually the distance of the subject from the focal plane of the camera. The Minimum Focusing Distance, also known as Working Distance, varies with every lens.
Macro Photography is only possible with a lens of very short Minimum Focusing Distance, hence there are lenses that are specially designed for macro photography.
What is a Macro Lens?
As we have discussed, macro photography is not like the other genres of photography since, for this, your magnification ratio has to be 1:1 (Lifelike) or more. And to get such magnified shots, you need to be close to the subject, but that would again require a lens with a short minimum focusing distance. And this is where Macro Lenses come in, these lenses are specially designed to have such short Working Distances so that you can easily take some close up shots of your subject to meet the lifelike magnification criteria without ever losing focus.
With the combination of its short minimum working distance and a high magnification ratio, a macro lens proves to be a very powerful tool for the job.
What is Depth Of Field?
Depth Of Field also plays a major role in macro photography. For those of you who do not know what depth of field is, It is how much of the image a camera can keep in focus at a particular time. A wide depth of field means that the background, middle ground and the foreground can all be in focus at the same time. But on the other hand, a shallow depth of field means that only of the three can be in focus. Depth of field is directly influenced by the aperture number that you use. The wider the aperture, the shallower the depth of field.
Depth of field also depends upon what focal length you are using. If you are using a higher focal length, then the depth of field automatically becomes shallow. Which basically means the more you zoom on something, the background becomes more likely to be blurred.
How To Nail The Focus For Your Macro Photos?
Finding the right focus is one of the main hardships that a photographer goes through in macro photography. But there are certain tips and techniques that can help you get the focus that you desire. The reason it is a little difficult to get the perfect focus is because of the shallow depth of fields. So to nail your focus, you can try the following.
Use Manual Focus: With such complex shooting situations, your camera's autofocus is not going to be much help. So it is better if you use the camera with manual focus.
Set the focus distance to a minimum and move the camera instead: This is another great tip to get the right focus in your photos.
Use Real-Time Screen Magnification: With this, you can make sure that the photos you have clicked so far, have the perfect focus.
What Do You Need For Macro Photography?
Just like another genre of photography, you must have some specific pieces of equipment for macro photography as well. We can start with the equipment that is necessary and then move to stuff that is good to have.
There is no photoshoot without a camera. Though you have to carry at least two cameras for your shoot as photographers might know, cameras break all the time. And you should always have a backup camera with you.
A Macro Lens
Since macro photography is so distinct from other genres of photography, you also need a distinct lens for this shoot. Macro Lenses are definitely a must for such photography.
External Camera Flash
To get a wider depth of field, photographers are bound to use smaller apertures. Hence they have to use external flashes to compensate for the lighting. These lights don't really come under the "Must Have" category, but it is good to have them.
Again, a tripod is another good to have the equipment, if you are planning to go for Macro Photography. This can help you take photos with longer shutter speeds.
What Is The Difference Between Macro, Micro and Close Up Photography?
In simple words, Close Up Photography basically means that you are shooting with a short distance between you and the subject. For this, you do not require a special lens, you can achieve close up photography with any lens.
As we have already talked, Macro Photography is all about the magnification. If you have a magnification ratio of 1:1, (meaning that the size of the object in real life is the same as its image on the sensor of the camera) then it is considered to be macro photography.
Micro Photography helps us see things that we are otherwise unable to with our naked eyes. Micro Photography takes magnification to a microscopic level.
Do You Need A Macro Lens For Macro Photography?
If you are someone who is looking forward to professional quality macro photos, then the answer is yes.
You can only achieve actual 1:1 magnification with a macro lens. Hence if you want stunning picture quality and an actual lifelike magnification then you do need a macro lens for macro photography.
Is A Macro Lens Worth It?
With macro lenses, you are not just bound to macro photography. You can take some other amazing detail-oriented shots with these lenses. Macro Lense can also prove to be useful for other genres of photography, hence buying a macro lens is absolutely worth it.
How Do I Take A Macro Picture Without A Macro Lens?
If you do not have a macro lens, then you can try using a zoom lens. But you have to keep in mind that the results you are going to get are remotely not going to be the same as a macro lens.
Here are some tips through which you can come close to macro photography with a zoom lens:
1. Zoom your lens all the way in Using the maximum focal length can give you the most magnification, possible with a zoom lens.
2. Always Use Manual Focus: Your camera's autofocus might fail while dealing with such complex shooting conditions. Hence you have to manually adjust the focus of the camera.
3. Use An External Flash: To get a wider depth of field (More of the subject in focus) you have to work with a smaller aperture, which can reduce the amount of light reaching the cames. Hence you have to use an external flash to make up for the lighting. Just make sure that the flash that you use is not too harsh. In such conditions, you can always use a diffuser to make the light, from the flash, appear softer.
Best Camera Settings For Macro Photography
The Camera settings that we'll be talking about here are ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed and Focus. The main 3 exposure settings of the camera are dependent on each other and they vary with each different shooting situation. So let's take a look at which camera settings are the best for which conditions.
This function of ISO is pretty straightforward. It is the sensitivity of the sensor towards the light. So the more you increase the ISO, the brighter your photo gets. But after a certain ISO Level, the camera starts to shoot grains. Hence, it is always advised to use a lower ISO.
The depth of field depends upon the f/ stop. So photographers prefer to use higher f stop numbers like f/11 and even f/16 to get a wider depth of field so that most of the subject is in focus. And this is what you should try too.
The ideal shutter speed can vary from situation to situation. For Example, if you are shooting in low lighting conditions and your subject is not moving much then it is better to shoot with slower shutter speeds rather than using a flash.
Some people like their whole subject in focus and others want only a little portion for a dramatic bokeh effect. Hence you can manually set the focus of your photos as you like.
6 Tips For Great Macro Photography
We at Spyne have brought together some of the most useful tips that will help you get the best macro photos
1. Use An External Flash
As we have already talked a lot about the lenses, you might already be familiar with the reason why it is advised to use an external lens for macro photography. Just do not forget to use diffusers or else you will be able to see your flash on the reflective surfaces in the frame.
2. Try Out Different Angles
We know that it is advised to keep the camera parallel to the subject so that you can have the whole subject in focus. But you should also try new and different perspectives. As you never know which angle might result in the best photo.
3. Clean Your Lens Regularly
Macro Lenses are so detail-oriented that they can even capture dust that is not visible to us from far. Hence to prevent that, you need to regularly clean your lens so that it doesn't catch any dirt. And to clean your lenses, always use a soft cloth so that you don't scratch the glass.
4. Understand Composition
You should never rely on post-production to make your photos look great. Try and take images with perfect compositions with the camera itself.
5. Try Out Different Backdrops
If you are doing an indoor macro shoot with your own setup, you should try out backgrounds of different colour and pattern.
6. Take a Lot Of Images
Last but not the least, you need to take a lot of images, especially when you cannot decide on the main centre of focus or the right depth of field.
Here are some Macro Photography Ideas and Inspirations for you to try in 2020!
Glass Ball Photos
Macro Photography is clearly a great genre of photography that deserves more of our attention. And you certainly do not need a rocket science degree to understand the technical terms associated with macro photography like Magnification and Working Distance. Here was everything that you needed to get started with Macro Photography.