How to make macro photography

How to make macro photography

Stunning with the macro photographs overwhelming online? Absorbed in the miracle of displaying the tiny thing around in a totally alien way? Even eager to take one macro photo by yourself but so not know how to start? Follow the easy-to-use guides in this article to make your first macro photo.


  1. What is macro photography?

Macro Photography simply refers to the photography which enables tiny or small subjects in the real world look big in photos. It is a type of close-up photography. The subject could be of pretty much anything, which are mostly small plants, tiny subjects and insects. You do not even need to go out to find the proper subject, a backyard is totally enough for the whole early stage in macro photography.   


  1. Key terminology

There are two key terminologies one should know in advance when doing macro photography: one is magnification, the other is working distance.

  • Magnification

Magnification is the ratio number comparing the subject on the camera sensor with its size in the real world. If the subject is life size on the camera sensor, it means the magnification is 1:1, and the magnification for half life size is 1:2. There can be different magnifications, but the frequently used and most effective magnification in macro photography is 1:1. The reason why macro photography turns to be so amazing lies in the magnification. It shows small things existing around us with more details, providing a definitely different viewing angle.

  • Working distance

Working distance is simply the distance between the lens of the camera and the nearest part of the subject you shoot. When taking macro photography, the working distance can not be too small, otherwise the subject may be scared away or the light would be blocked during the shooting. The ideal working distance is ten to fifteen centimeters. It may be a little bigger when doing some special compositions. Working distance may vary with magnification and lenses. For the same lens, the smallest working distance is at 1:1 magnification, as you should move close enough to capture the life-size extreme photos. A longer focal length can also offer a wider working distance without getting too close.


  1. Camera and lens

You may wonder which one is better for macro photography, DSLR or mirrorless one? Generally, DSLRs and mirrorless cameras work equally well in macro photograph, and each sort has its advantages in macro photograph. The key point is that the camera should match with interchangeable lenses, as the lens is the essential equipment for macro photography. When choosing which one is proper, the most significant consideration should be given to the sensor of the camera. A full-frame camera can provide a higher magnification, which is great for macro photographs. However, the determinant factor of the sensor in macro photography is pixel density,  the number of physical pixels per inch of the sensor. The higher the pixel density is, the more details you can get in the picture. A full-frame camera may have more total pixels but fewer per millimeter than a crop-sensor. Keep it in mind when deciding which camera is proper to use, not whether it is a full-frame one or a crop one.

When it comes to the lens, the focal length of the lens should be added more attention. A telephoto lens enables shooting from a relatively far distance without getting too close to the subject. The longer the focal length is, the larger the working distance you could have. Technically, a large focal length of 180mm or even larger is better for a macro photograph, but it is also much more expensive. To make a balance, a range from 100mm to 135mm is favorable for macro photographs. Choose the one with which you can achieve the desired effect.


  1. Lighting

As macro photography is mostly about shooting tiny subject. It would be a little easier than other types. Technically, natural light is adequate for most macro photography. The setting of lighting is all about capturing the high-key subject and avoiding shadows in the image. When using a lower focal length, you should pay attention to the on-camera flash, it may cause shadows of the camera  in the shot as being much closer to the subject. As for the telephoto lens, the light maybe a little too harsh. You can use a diffuser or an off-camera flash to solve the problem.


  1. Camera setting

It is well known that a wide aperture may cause a shallow depth of field with blurry image. Therefore, compensation should be made to achieve enough depth of field without a too narrow aperture. The recommended aperture for macro photography is around f/8 to f/22, which varies with different cameras. For full-frame cameras, the proper aperture is f/16 to f/22; APS-C camera is f/10 to f/14; the micro four-third camera is f/8 to f/11. There is no fixed setting for each camera, you should have a try and get your own perfect setting for your camera.  

When setting the shutter speed, you should firstly set it at the sync speed. Then adjust the flash power to 1/4 manually to allow enough light to fall on the sensor, therefore you should not wait too long for the flash recharge. Then, focus on a real-world subject and slightly regulate your IOS when taking photos. Consistently too dark or too bright photos may occur during the process, then an adjustment to the flash compensation is needed. There would be one setting where you can have the optimum exposure, and that is your IOS setting for a 1:1 macro photograph.

One more thing, as a slower shutter speed is set to capture more light, a tripod is necessary to keep the camera stable without handshaking.


  1. Focusing technique

In macro photography, focusing seems much more difficult than other types of photography. Here is an effective and workable method. When all the camera settings are done, settle the magnification as far as your lens can, usually 1:1 or 1:2. Get close to the subject and check the frame of the photo through the viewfinder of the camera. Then move back and forth slowly to find the place where the right part of the subject is in focus, that is the focusing location for your photography.


Macro photography is not that complicated as you thought. Practice can really make perfect. Take your camera and go out to test all these techniques, you can capture your amazing macro photos.



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