Hello again Macro lovers, thanks for stopping by!
Today I will be writing a simple article on how to shoot macro for beginners, so that those who are new to the field could produce some macro shots too! And hopefully from there, develop a burning passion towards Macro Photography as I have! I could use some more macro companions hehe :p
All right, before I start, I would like to again write a few assumptions made in this article:
- By now I have to assume that you have already found a proper set of Macro gears. If not, perhaps you could refer to an earlier article here- Getting Your First Macro Camera.
- This article is for beginners of Macro Photography; I will try to keep it as simple as possible 🙂 However, this article will assume that you are already familiar with the terminologies Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO, and how to adjust them on your DSLR (all referable in your DSLR manual). If you are having any difficulties with these, please do not hesitate to ask 🙂
- All photos taken in this article will be done using available light (no using of flash). Shots will also be taken with Aperture (A) priority for ease-of-understanding.
Okay, lets begin the fun, shall we?
Now that you have gotten your Reverse Ring/ Extension Tubes (ET) or Macro Conversion Lens (MCL) which help increase magnification, please connect them appropriately to your DSLR body or lens. Do not worry about the camera settings first. Now take a look through the DSLR’s optical viewfinder or LCD screen (depending on your make and model), try finding a subject to focus on (Note: You might need to get very close (~5cm) to your subject for certain systems). For those of you who are using a kitlens with variable focal length (18-55mm, 18-105mm etc.),try playing around with zooming in/out and see how it affects what you see.
At this moment, you will probably notice three things about shooting Macro:
i) Things look a lot larger now. Duh! But you will probably also notice that your hand shakes become more prominent in the macro world- an issue that needs to be minimized to avoid blurred shots.
ii) Very short focusing distance. Depending on the lens and setup (Reverse ring, ET or MCL) you are using, you might need to get really close for subjects to become in focus. It is perfectly normal if you bump your whole lens into your subject XD
iii) Only a very small portion of your subject is in focus. This is called a thin or small Depth of Field (DoF). This is very normal when you go Macro, and also a problem to note when taking macro shots. [Depth of Field (DOF) is defined as the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image (wikipedia).]
These may be simple observations in Macro Photography, but they are important if you want to take a good macro photo.
Getting A Shot
Okay, now that you have noticed the differences between taking a macro shot as compared to a normal shot, it is time to learn about shooting using the right settings:
- Find a non-moving subject in a well-lid area. It will be much easier to make the shot if you could find a subject outdoors (during daytime) since you will need the extra light.
- Switch your camera mode to Aperture Priority (A), and turn off Auto-ISO.
- Adjusting aperture (F) value. As observed earlier, the Depth of Field (DoF) becomes very thin during macro, so what we can do here is to decrease the aperture opening (by increasing F value) of the DSLR. This will increase the area in focus. I almost always shoot at an aperture value of F16, so please adjust to said value. However, do take note that even at F16, the DoF will still be thinner than in say, normal portrait shots; don’t worry, it is normal.
- Avoiding handshakes by indirectly adjusting shutter speed (via ISO). Handshakes are greatly intensified when taking macro shots, resulting in photos that are blurred or not sharp. To avoid that, you will need a fast shutter speed, say a conservative 1/500, which should be enough to prevent small vibrations due to handshakes. However, since you are in Aperture (A) priority, you cannot just change the shutter speed directly, so what you have to do now is adjust the ISO value of your camera accordingly, until you see a shutter speed display of around 1/500 while pointing at your subject. (Note: You will need a lot of light (preferably sunlight) to be able to reach a shutter speed of 1/500- hard to attain indoors).
- Turn off Autofocus. (*not applicable to those using Reverse Rings and non-AF-capable ET) There should be two dials in general for autofocus, one on the DSLR body, the other on the lens. Normal lenses autofocus slow and inaccurately during macro mode, so for the time being we should just stick to the basic, manual focusing method.
- Manual focusing and shoot. While pointing your camera at the subject and moving close enough so that you subject is somewhat in focus, you can EITHER (i) slowly lean your body forward and back, and guesstimate the time to release the shutter (take the photo) by predicting when the subject will become completely in focus; OR (ii) stay as still as you can (but still close enough to be in focus of your subject), then turn the focusing knob (not the zoom knob ya!) until you get the right focusing before releasing the shutter. Personally I would recommend using the first method; it will still come in handy even after you have become a seasoned macro shooter!
- Practice makes perfect. Congratulations, you have officially taken your first macro photo, I hope it turned out well :p It will take some time to familiarize with the way macro photos are taken, so just keep trying and you will surely succeed. Don’t forget to enjoy the process and resulting photos along the way!
Don’t be upset if you didn’t get your first few photos right, it is not an easy task, just keep trying okay? 🙂
Here are some of the common problems faced by macro shooters:
1. The shot is somewhat in focus, but not entirely sharp. This is one of the most frequent problems in Macro Photography which will even bug the pro shooters. Shots like this occur as a result of movement, which can be a result of hand-shaking, subject moving, wind etc. This issue can be solved by minimizing movements: (i) Capture the subject at a much faster shutter speed (say 1/2000 if surrounding is well-lid) or use a flash (also “equivalent” to fast shutter speeds); (ii) Use a tripod to minimize hand-shaking.
2. The subject is out of focus (OOF), meaning the entire subject is blurred or cannot be seen entirely. This happens when you are either too far or too close to the subject, and can be easily rectified by changing your position.
3. The shutter speed is still too slow after adjusting to Aperture and ISO. This usually happens when you are indoors, or in areas that are not that well-lid. do take note that the DSLR sensor is not as sensitive as our human eyes i.e. what we see as “bright” may not be applicable to a camera. To avoid low shutter speeds, try shooting outdoors when the sun is out. Advanced shooters will often resort to using a flash for artificial light, but more on that next time.
4. The photo is very noisy. A photo is considered noisy when there are a lot of “interference” in it (see image). This happens when you are shooting with high ISO values (e.g. ISO1600 or higher), often because you are in a dimly-lid places. The solution is again simple: Choose a brighter area for your shots, use a tripod or a flash.
Once you have mastered the basics of taking macro shots, it is time to really challenge yourself to learn more about Macro Photography. Most beginners will try and shoot photos of insects, which is a good choice, although it would be wise to find camera-friendly insects (i.e. those that don’t move much) in areas that are not too windy. Learn more about everyone’s favourite insect models here: Where To Find What- A Beginner’s Guide. By shooting more, you would also learn on how to take photos with better image quality, composition, lighting and background. All these will require patience, time and effort, so just take it slow and learn macro at your own pace. After all, the most important thing that I want for you is that you enjoy nature, and the learning process!
You are always welcomed to read the articles here at PixelDimensions, I’m sure they will help you in learning. For example, if you are eager to improve your Macro Shots, please check out the entire series on Taking Better Macro Shots as well as the specially-compiled Macro Photography- Taking Photos That People Like.
Alright, I suppose that’s all for this article. I hope you find the information here useful for your journey into the macro world; you will probably not stay long as a beginner once you get the ball rolling!
Until the next article, take care and happy shooting guys!
** All photos in this website are taken and owned by me. The use of any photos here is not allowed without my permission.