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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Intro To Macro

Top lens options for macro photography

Labels: LensesGear
This Article Features Photo Zoom

Macro photography is a passport to a world of details and new perspectives. It's also one of the most challenging types of photography to master, but don't let that stop you. Whether you want to get into product photography or explore the intricacies of nature, with the right lens, camera support, lighting accessories and practice, you can take incredible macro photos.

First, not all lenses that call themselves macros actually are. All true macro lenses are primes (not zooms) and have a magnification of 1:1 ("life-size") or greater.

Selecting a focal length depends on the types of subjects you want to photograph. For a studio still life, a shorter focal-length macro lens is a good choice if your subject is such that you can get extremely close. For nature macros like insects, you may need to be farther away to avoid frightening the bug, and in that case, a longer focal-length lens like a 100mm or even longer is the better choice.

Minimum focusing distance, or working distance, is another important specification when choosing a macro lens. Your lens achieves maximum magnification at the minimum focusing distance. A very short minimum focusing distance can be uncomfortable to use, and it can make for difficult lighting situations as you struggle to keep your shadow out of the frame.

It's always recommended that you use a tripod for macro photography—critical sharpness is essential. But there are times when working handheld may be your better (or only) option, and in those cases, image stabilization can be the difference in capturing a sharp shot.

Finally, the maximum aperture of your lens plays a big role in macro work. Creatively, a large maximum aperture allows you to limit depth of field for soft backgrounds that accentuate your subject. It also gives you the most latitude working with natural light and getting the fastest shutter speed possible when photographing moving subjects like insects.

Ring lights are a popular solution for macro photography because they provide very even lighting for objects close to the lens.

For portable outdoor use, consider a battery-powered ring flash like the Sigma EM-140, which is available in five variations to provide TTL metering for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma and Sony DSLR systems. Estimated Street Price: $379.

Or, if you already have a compatible Canon or Nikon speedlight, you might opt for the Ray Flash from ExpoImaging, which will convert your existing flash to work as a ring light. Estimated Street Price: $199.

A studio ring flash offers some advantages over portable units. Their larger light sources provide softer, less focused light. And because they're more powerful than smaller portable units, they will provide better illumination if you're working farther from your subject with a longer focal-length macro lens. If you're working indoors, consider using a studio ring flash like the AlienBees ABR800, which has a 6-stop adjustable output. Estimated Street Price: $399.


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