Hello readers! This will be my first post for this blog… yeaaah!! I hope you will find the contents useful and worthwhile of your time 🙂 For those of you who has followed me since my days at tanji.me (unfortunately hacked and deleted); I sincerely welcome you again, and thank you for the support all this while!
Before we go into the details, I suppose it would be proper if I put down the definition of Macro Photography at this point.
Macro Photography basically refers to the taking of photos of subjects up-close.
Simple as that. There are no definitive rules governing when a photo is “macro” enough, as long as the subject is larger than what we usually see 🙂
So now, the basics aside. Why learn Macro Photography? What does Macro offer over the other genres of photography like portraits, landscapes etc.? Read on to find out!
Why Macro Photography?
1. It is NOT as expensive as some genres of photography
….AND IT IS TRUE! Contrary to most beliefs, Macro Photography is not expensive, considering that you don’t need the most expensive and high-end lens to create awesome macro shots 🙂 I have personally seen a few macro gurus who took amazing shots using a normal DSLR kit- very impressive! All you need is passion and a lot of practice.
If you have a compact camera, you can shoot macro right away by adjusting the settings dial to “macro” or “super macro”. Of course, the image quality of a photo from a compact camera is definitely not as good as those from a DSLR, i.e. the photo will not be very detailed. If you are really into Macro Photography, it would still be best to invest in a DSLR.
On the other hand, DSLR users need only invest in some cheap accessories to make the camera capable of taking macro shots, which include Extension Tubes (ET)(~RM15-RM500), Reverse Rings (~RM15-RM100), Macro Conversion Lens (~RM250) etc. (to be covered separately in future articles). The cheapest option would be the Extension Tubes (ET) which work with any kind of lens you have (as long as the lens is not too heavy!). ET are essentially hollow tubes that hold your DSLR lens farther away from your DSLR sensor, so that the focal length of the lens will decrease dramatically, thus enabling macro shots!
Macro shots greatly benefit from a good light source: the softer the light, the more beautiful the resulting photo (see below). As most cameras come with a built-in flash, all you need to do is design and build a DIY diffuser or softbox to get the ball rolling.
2. It improves your “photography eye” and photography skills
Most people tend to start off with “conventional” photography before going into Macro Photography. So, the basic knowledge on how to operate a camera should already be there. Still, knowing how to use a camera doesn’t always guarantee good shots, of which usually require good subjects, composition, lighting, background and sharpness. Understanding and mastering these few greatly develop your photography skills, regardless of level.
Macro photography will help you learn how to compose shots better, improving the overall impression or quality of your photo. You will be more selective about the subjects you shoot too; choosing only those that are obvious head-turners. Lighting is essential in every genre of photography, after all, photography is the art of light; by learning proper diffusing and direction of light, macro shots will turn out a lot better than those without proper light manipulation. Last but not least, an appropriate background will help strengthen the focus on the subject of your photo.
Once you have honed your “photography eye” and skills in macro photography, they will forever be yours. You can easily apply these skills and techniques in other categories of photography i.e. portraits, landscapes, stills, etc. Based on my personal experience, you will often learn many other important skills which will come in handy in your daily life as well. This includes editing, printing, marketing, communication skills etc.
3. It improves your knowledge on your subjects
In the world of Macro Photography, photography skills alone might not be enough to produce great shots, particularly so if you are shooting nature e.g. insects, spiders etc. It may be difficult to anticipate or even find a shot if you have no knowledge of the subjects’ behavioral patterns e.g. where to find them, how many types are there, are they jumpy etc. As you walk down the path of Macrography, no doubt the number of creatures you encounter will increase. From there, you will be able to learn and understand them better, making it even easier for you to locate them the next time.
Different subjects tend to behave differently to you. For instance, if you have been shooting a lot of dragonflies or damselflies; you would know that most will return to their original perching location even if you accidentally scare them away. All this understanding will definitely help you get better shots. Of course, knowledge never ends there; if you are willing to go the extra mile, unknown organisms can be studied, described and shared with the world!
Personally I find that searching and learning about new types of animals, insects or spiders is equally exciting- It’s like Pokemon in real life, with new things to see and learn with each encounter! And your task is to see and catch (photographically, of course haha) them all 🙂
4. It teaches you to be patient and accept challenges
Be it frogs, snakes, insects, spiders etc., they don’t come around that easily. You will have to learn their habitats, and also how to spot them. Even after you have located them, there is always the chance that they will move/fly away/escape. So more often than not, you will have to take a couple of shots (plenty more if its a difficult subject) before getting a shot you really like. It takes great patience, especially when waiting for a particular moment to happen e.g. insect taking off, jumping at prey, mating etc. Of course, you don’t always get your shots, so be prepared to try again and again.
Good subjects are usually not that easy to find. For more unique subjects, you will have to pay a visit to parks, or even better, forests to find them (even at night) It might sound like a hassle, but for the animals and insects you can potentially discover, it’s definitely worth it. You will definitely be amazed at what you can find!
5. It teaches you to appreciate nature and life
As you progress with Macro Photography, and have met and seen many animal, insect friends (or foes XD), a bond WILL form between you and them. You will learn to care more about them (well, maybe not the mosquitoes :p)- whether populations have flourished or diminished with time. Sometimes you might notice subjects in a particular area vanish completely, making you wonder what happened to them.
In the end, you will learn to appreciate how important life and biodiversity is in an ecosystem. After all, without biodiversity, without life, there will no longer be beautiful organisms for you to photograph or appreciate; in fact, there might not even be an Earth to live on!.
6. It teaches you to be creative
Anyone with a macro-capable DSLR setup would be able to take macro shots. So how do you make your photos stand out from the rest? You get creative! And this rely heavily on the choice of subject, composition, lighting, background and sharpness. Learn more HERE.
Apart from getting creative shots, there is another aspect of macro photography that people love since it depends very much on creativity- your macro setup! Since there is no “best macro camera”, many macro enthusiasts spent a lot of time and effort in customizing their own macro gears and testing them out, with essentially 3 common aims in mind: (i) It has to be cheap, hence a lot of DIY is involved; (ii) It must not be too heavy or bulky; (iii) It has to provide good magnification, image quality and lighting.
There are basically no restrictions on what you can do with your macro rig (A simple Google search will tell how crazy some people get with their setup!) hehe, so it really depends on how creative you are! You are welcomed to keep track of my Macro Rigs HERE.
7. It promotes a healthier lifestyle
Instead of staying home and becoming a couch potato, with Macro Photography, you get to go out and enjoy the sun, nature, and breathe some fresh air. Since you often have to do a little bit of hiking or searching for subjects to photograph, you get to do some exercise too. Did I mention that most of the Macro Photographers I know are very healthy and long-lived? XD
Moreover, subjects of different localities can be very different as well, so Macro Photography might take you to new, wonderful places- a change of scenery and mood can be very refreshing to an otherwise monotonous lifestyle.
8. It builds and strengthen bonds
Going out hunting for great macro subjects can be a really fun thing to do with friends or family, since there are always new places to go and new things to see. Macro enthusiasts like to go out on macro sessions together as it is a great opportunity to meet new people, make new friends as well as learn from the pros. Of course, travelling in numbers will bring security as well 🙂
Ops! Looks like I have gotten a bit too long-winded here! Sorry about that, I was a bit excited about writing this article, which is based entirely on my own experiences. I do hope that the points here will fuel up your passion towards Macro Photography! It surely is a worthwhile hobby, one that you can still do, even with age.
Thank you very much for reading. Until the next article, do take care!
** All photos in this website are taken and owned by me. The use of any photos here is not allowed without my permission.