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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Go Macro

Tools and tips for getting started with macro photography

This Article Features Photo Zoom

If you’re shooting a leaf, for instance, a subtle sway on a breezy day can blow your subject wildly in and out of frame. If things are moving more than you want them to, consider incorporating another piece of gear, the Wimberley Plamp. It’s ideal for holding subjects steady while you shoot. A fast shutter speed also can be more crucial with macro shooting, as the subtle movements of a small subject become much bigger close up. So with unsteady subjects, use a faster shutter speed to ensure those movements don’t translate into blur in an unsharp final image. Or you always can do whatever is necessary—like just packing up and moving your subject indoors—to get it to stand perfectly still.

3. Backlight for depth; add frontal fill for color. One of the most popular macro subjects is the flower. Positioning your camera so the sun is backlighting the subject not only creates beautiful flower photos, but it has the added benefit of keeping your own shadow out of the scene. What can happen, though, is the color may appear a little washed out due to backlighting. To compensate, add a bit of fill light from the front. This can come from a ring flash or a reflector. The important thing is that you balance the light and create a pleasing contrast ratio to keep from under- or overexposing a crucial part of the subject or background.

4. Use your macro lens to find unseen beauty. One of the neatest things about macro photography is that it brings a whole new, very tiny world into sharp view. You’ll see details you never knew existed, and you may discover colors that only bugs ever get to see. Bugs are actually a great macro subject, especially if they’re more exotic than gross. Discovering the beauty in a common fly or a plain old plant leaf represents what’s so great about macro photography: exploration. Anything up close can become an interesting abstract work of art. So don’t be afraid to experiment with subjects
that may not seem so great when viewed life-size. That’s part of the beauty of macro photography.

5. Tether your camera to a computer. Sometimes the hardest thing about macro photography is physically getting your camera in position and then getting your eye in position behind the camera while you compose, focus and check the depth of field. This can be even trickier out in the field. Whether you’re set up far from home or you’re shooting around the house or in a studio, consider tethering your camera when you make macro exposures. Not only will the massive enlargement of the screen make it easy to check critical focus and sharpness (almost as if you were working with a large-format film camera and checking sharpness on the ground glass), the subtle compositional adjustments will be easier via the big screen. Working via tether makes the whole process easier and more comfortable, which is bound to allow you to spend more time perfecting the ideal macro image. The only problem is if you’re working far afield and weren’t planning to carry your computer. Closer to home, though, be sure to test the power of shooting with a tether.

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