Macro photography can
be done by everyone. Photography is such a vast subject, there is always
something you can try any weekend, even if mobility is a problem for some of
the older photographers. One branch of the art is in ‘Macro’ photography.
The simple name for macro photography
is ‘close-up’ photography and allows you to get much more detailed images of
subject matters that are very small. Obviously one does not need macro
facility to photograph an elephant, but to get the elephant’s eye and
nothing else, a macro capability in your camera would make life easier (even
if not for the elephant).
Look at the icons on the top of your
newly acquired digital SLR camera. Does it have a thing that looks like a
tulip? If so, you are on your way to macro photography.
There are, however, some pitfalls in
macro photography, and some are financial rather than photographic. If you
want a car that does 200 kph, it is easier to start with a Ferrari than it
is to start with a small family pick-up and then modify the engine. However,
the Ferrari is a lot more expensive. Likewise, true macro lenses are more
expensive than ordinary ones modified to have near macro capabilities.
Having said all that, it is still
possible to get close-up photographs with some fairly simple equipment, with
the easiest being called ‘close-up lenses’ that screw on to the front of
your existing lens. These usually have numbers like +1, +2, +3. The +number
refers to the diopter measurement of the lens and the higher the number, the
greater the magnification possible. The diopter measurement is actually the
reciprocal of the focal length of the lens measured in meters. Therefore a
+1 diopter lens is 1 meter focal length, a +2 is 500 mm and a +4 is 250mm.
These add-on lenses are available in a variety of filter sizes and
qualities. If you don’t wish to get heavily involved then a set of uncoated
close-up lenses to fit your favorite lens is the way to go. Coated close-up
lenses cost more and will yield a better image, and two element close-up
lenses (much more expensive) will give better results but you need to be a
dedicated macro man to justify the cost of these lenses.
The effect of these close-up lenses
increases as you add them together. The +1 and the +2 screwed together will
yield +3. However you come across another problem when you start ganging
them up – the focal length gets smaller and the light that gets into the
camera becomes less.
Understand that in all macro
photography as the lens gets closer to the subject and the image gets larger
on the electronic “film”, the light reaching it is lessened. Also the depth
of field gets very shallow and to combat this, very small apertures are
called for which lessens the light to the sensor even more. Both these
things in combination mean that normal hand held exposures are usually out
of the question. A tripod is needed for steadiness plus flash is needed in
nearly every circumstance to give decent illumination. However, as you
strive to get closer to the subject, there may not be enough distance to get
the flash to light the subject. A ring flash can help here, but that is
There is another way around this and
that is to use a light box. Now these can be purchased from specialized
camera suppliers and do cost money, but you can make your own light box very
inexpensively. The secret is a large cardboard box and some tracing paper.
You can go on line and Google how to make one.
So there you have it. If you have a
macro lens in the camera, then experiment with how close you can get to your
subject. If you haven’t, then try screwing the close-up lens on the front. I
find the +3 the best for my camera gear. The biggest problems are short
depth of field and lighting, however none of these are insurmountable.
Try it today, after you have built the
light box! Lots of luck!