Truth: Let me be honest here, macro photography is not for everyone…
Macro is not something everyone will love, but it is also a niche in its way, if you feel macro is not for you, then this post may not be for you.
Having said that, let’s dive in…
Simple Definition of Macro Photography…
Macro Photography is the art of showing the world around us from a different perspective, it gives a unique view of the world around you, it is as if you are looking at the world through the eyes of a tiny creature.
A little more precise way of explaining…
Macro Photography is a type of close-up photography, where the size of the subject captured on the Image is the same size or bigger than the in the real world, this gives you a very detailed look of these small subjects when you look at it on a bigger screen that may not be visible with a glance of the eyes.
The most common photos of Macro could be Insects, arachnids, flowers, and fruits, however, some of the macro lenses are also used as regular lenses with exception of ultra-macro lenses which cannot be used for anything else other than a macro, more details on the Macro lenses are explained in this Blog Post.
Introduction to Macro Photography.
Before I go into details of Macro photography, initially when I wanted to learn about macro, I was right in the same place as you are now.
Can you relate to any of these?
- I do not know why my autofocus is not working when I am trying macro?
- Why is my subject out of focus?
- Why is there so much background blur?
- What is the Magnification ratio?
- What is Focus Stacking?
And so on…
Well, you are in the right place.
When I first heard about macro photography, I did the same thing you did, I went online and started looking for definitions about macro photography, and each content I looked at on the internet, I got even more confused with every terminology that was used like Magnification ratio, Focus Stacking and after very long research and doing lots of trials and experiments with various camera lenses and tripods from a local camera rental near my place I have gained enough knowledge and experience.
Now, I share them with you.
Before going into example, we need to understand Magnification Ratios which is a common term in Macro Photography.
What is Magnification Ratio?
In simple words, the magnification ratio tells you how small or large the image of your subject is captured on the sensor when compared to the actual size of the subject in the real life.
These Ratios written on Macro lenses are usually like this 1:1, 1:1.5, 1:2, 1:2.5, and so on.
To get the magnification captured on the sensor, take the left-hand side of the ratio and divide it by the right-hand number, this gives you the magnification of the subject captured on the sensor.
For a given image to be a called Macro, it has to have a Magnification Ratio of at least 1:1, else it is considered a close-up.
For Non-macro purposes, it will usually be like this, i.e. 1:2. 1:3. 1:5 etc, meaning the image captured on the sensor is lesser than the actual size of the subject in real life, a dedicated Macro lens will have at least a 1:1 magnification ratio along with the other mentioned ratios.
Let us look at these 3 examples to understand what is Macro Image.
1) Consider this Image of a Golden Orb spider which is commonly found in many gardens.
This Spider is about an inch long in real life, when I say this is a macro-Image, it means that the image size captured on the camera sensor is about an inch in length.
In the above example, the image size of the spider captured on the sensor is the same as in the real life. i.e the Size of the Spider is one inch, the image that is captured on the sensor will exactly be 1 inch which replicates the actual size of the spider in real life.
In this case, the frame is filled because the spider was big enough to be captured fully on the frame.
2) Consider this Image of the buds of a plant that are yet to fully bloom.
These buds are about 5 mm in width each, when you try to shoot the macro of a subject like this, then you will not be able to fill the frame, the reason being simple, the subjects are so small that even with life-size magnification, they are still small that the image cannot fill the frame on the sensor.
In this case, you will need to crop the image, this is something very common in macro because your subject may not always be large enough for the captured image to fill the frame.
In the above picture, the magnification ratio is 1:1.
3) Consider this Image of the water droplets on the flowers of Parijatha.
This partially bloomed flower of the Parijatha tree has a few water droplets due to the drizzle of rain, this partially bloomed flower is almost round and is a little less than an inch in diameter.
In this case, unlike the spider example which is also about an inch in length, the frame is almost filled here due to the flower being almost round in shape, the droplets of water on the flower give you a sense of scale.
Now that you have learned to float, let us learn how to swim.
What is Ultra Macro Photography?
A Macro Photo means the Image of the subject on the Sensor is the same size as the subject in the real life.
Ultra-Macro photography is when the Image of the Subject captured on the sensor is larger than the subject’s size in the real world.
The Magnification Ratios in Ultra Macro Photography is more than 1:1 and with the current lenses available in the market, you can get a Magnification Ratio of up to 5:1
Let’s take a look at these illustrations to understand the Ultra Macro Magnification ratios better.
1) Magnification Ratio of 2:1
When the magnification ratio of the Ultra Macro lens is set at 2:1, then the size of the subject captured on the sensor is two times that of the size of the subject in real life.
2) Magnification Ratio of 3:1
When the magnification ratio of the Ultra Macro lens is set at 3:1, then the size of the subject captured on the sensor is three times that of the size of the subject in real life.
3) Magnification Ratio of 4:1
When the magnification ratio of the Ultra Macro lens is set at 4:1, then the size of the subject captured on the sensor is four times that of the size of the subject in real life.
4) Magnification Ratio of 5:1
When the magnification ratio of the Ultra Macro lens is set at 5:1, then the size of the subject captured on the sensor is five times that of the size of the subject in real life.
Some Popular Lenses from various brands for Macro Photography.
Dedicated Macro Lenses:
- Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM.
- Canon RF100mm F2.8 L MACRO IS USM.
- Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM.
- Nikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED.
- Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro.
- Sigma 105mm F2.8 DG DN Macro.
- Tamron SP 90mm F2.8 Di VC USD Macro.
- Laowa 15mm f/4 Wide Angle Macro – (Manual Focus Only)
Ultra Macro Lenses:
Below Lenses are Manual Focus only.
- Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo.
- Laowa 60mm f/2.8 2X Ultra-Macro.
- Laowa 25mm f/2.8 2.5-5X Ultra Macro.
- Laowa 24mm f/14 2X Macro Probe – This is a Specialist Lens used for Macro Creativity purposes within the Ultra Macro specialty.
Now that you know what is Macro and ultra-Macro, what do you do next?
The photos look good, you think you should try it out, do you get yourself a dedicated macro lens? Or Should you buy yourself a dedicated flash?
Before you go and buy yourself any camera gear, ask yourself this…
- Will I be someone who will take a liking to Macro photography?
- Will I be patient enough to set up a tripod, lights, and lenses in just one photo? (it is not simple or easy for someone starting Macro)
- Will I be someone who spends enough time focus on stacking multiple photos in any post-processing software?
Before you think of taking an action, let me help you solve this problem
There is a way you can start with macro without spending a huge amount of money and then figuring out that you do are not so interested in Macro and it is not your genre, check out if you have these things with you?
- Any Basic DSLR or Mirrorless camera?
- A kit lens?
- A good tripod?
Well, if your answer is Yes, then you already have the minimum equipment required to see if the macro is to your liking and if you should pursue it?
Here is what you can do…
- If you have a DSLR, switch on the camera with the lens on, and without turning it off, take out the lens and then reverse the lens on the camera, this helps you get close then the minimum focusing distance of the lens, be sure to hold the lens close and not to let any dust get into the sensor, this helps you get a proper Macro shot of any subject you want, if you have a mirrorless, be sure to see if reversing the lens will not touch the sensor, in this case, do not use the reverse lens technique.
- If you do not want to risk dust on your sensor, then there are less expensive alternatives like extension tubes, this adds space between your lens and the sensor thus decreasing the focus distance between your lens and the subject giving you an effective Macro Image.
- If you are using Extension Tubes, then make sure that you have your camera on a tripod and is set up correctly and steadily, set up the focus where you need and then check if you have got the exposure for your image correct, then take the shot of your subject, this will ensure that your image is sharp.
Bonus Focal lens tips to kickstart your Macro photography
- When Setting up your equipment for a Macro Image
- Use manual focus to get your subjects in focus, it is very difficult to take a macro shot of a moving subject, so it is better to start with a still subject.
- Always start with a tripod whenever you want to shoot a macro photo, once you have enough practice, you will be able to take handheld macro shots.
- Use a small light source (maybe your mobile flash or any small light) to brighten up the scene.
- Use the camera’s inbuilt flash if needed, however, having an external flash is usually recommended.
- Start with what you have, once you start practicing and figure out your niche, you will automatically create great images.
- You need to learn the art of Post Processing.
- Focus stacking/Bracketing is a commonly used post-processing technique for getting a great dept of the field by combining multiple macro images into one in a photo editing software like Photoshop.
- Most Important of all Practice, Practice, and Practice, no amount of blog posts can help you if you do not practice.
- Whenever possible try to rent the camera and lens to see if you enjoy taking macro shots and if that can be your niche, as I said earlier this particular genre may not be everyone’s choice of Photography.
- Once you have a sufficient level of practice and are comfortable enough in macro photography, you can then decide if you want to purchase a dedicated macro lens or not.
- last, but not least, you need to enjoy what you are doing no matter what the genre of photography is, if you do not enjoy photography, then no amount of camera gear and equipment can help you.
- An Important Point is you will have to put in a sufficient amount of effort, it does not come easily, but if you love it, the results will be rewarding to you.
Macro Photography requires a lot of effort, patience, and practice, each step is learning, and with every practice, you will gain experience and will master macro techniques and post-processing skills to help you create great macro-Images.
Please leave a reply, we love to hear from you.
Have fun shooting…