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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Go Macro

Tools and tips for getting started with macro photography

This Article Features Photo Zoom


Tamron SP AF60mm F/2 Di II LD (IF) 1:1 Macro
Macro Lens. This one is sort of obvious, right? You need a macro lens to do macro photography, but there are lots of options. There are prime, fixed-focal-length macro lenses, often in the 50mm, 60mm and 100mm range, but there also are zooms with close-focusing capability built in. A dedicated macro lens usually will offer more powerful magnifications, as well as the flatter focus field that allows you to maintain precise focus across the frame. The best news is that all your favorite lens makers offer dedicated macro lenses for practically any interchangeable-lens camera. Some even have extra bells and whistles like image stabilization built right in.

Giottos MTL 8350B
Tripod. The lens is doing most of the heavy lifting in the macro setup, but the tripod is the piece of gear that separates great macro photographs from bad ones. When you’re focused so close to a small subject, every miniscule movement (including every breath you take) can create huge vibrations in the lens. To eliminate this, a tripod is critical. A full-sized tripod works just fine, particularly if the legs can spread wide enough to get the camera just a few inches from the ground. Failing that, some tripods have a center column that can be inverted to hold the camera low. If you don’t have these full-sized options available, consider a compact tripod designed to steady the camera less than a foot from its feet.

Nikon ML-3 Remote
Cable Release. Cable releases are ideal for situations in which the slightest camera shake can ruin an image—and that’s certainly the case with macro photography. The simple pressure of finger on shutter release can be enough to totally change the perfect composition. A cable release not only allows you to keep your camera safe and steady during the exposure, but often can make it easier to fire the shutter when the camera is in a tricky position. With the many smart options available, you can program your cable release to make interval exposures, create long exposures of a precise duration or even make time-lapse videos of seeds sprouting and other macro transformations. When you forget your cable release, you still can create a hands-free stabilized exposure by utilizing your camera’s self-timer. And if you do have an image-stabilized lens, be sure to turn it off when the camera is used on a tripod.

ExpoImaging Ray Flash
Ring Flash. When you need to add a light source to a small subject, particularly when that subject is only a few inches from the front of your lens, a regular hot-shoe-mounted flash just won’t work. Even if you pulled your flash off the camera, it can be tricky to get the light exactly where you want it when the lens is so close to the subject. The ring flash solves this problem by putting the light source around the lens barrel. The ring flash is ideal for macro illumination, but you also can get an adapter like the ExpoImaging Ray Flash flash attachment to modify a hot-shoe-mounted flash into a pseudo-ring light.

Photoflex LiteDisc White/Gold Reflector
Light Modifiers. In many macro situations, a flash isn’t necessary—especially if shooting outdoors in sunlight. What’s more necessary, though, is a light modifier to allow you to tweak the daylight exactly as you need it. To create a more directional light, to fill in shadows from the close camera setup or simply to add some pop on an overcast day, a collapsible reflector (in silver, white or gold for warmth) like a Westcott 14-inch Illuminator allows you to add a small item to your gear bag that can do a lot to improve the lighting in a macro image. A collapsible diffuser can be used for similar reasons in the exact opposite situation: On a bright and sunny day, the contrast between shadow and highlight can be too much for the camera to handle. With a 12-inch diffuser, though, soft lighting can accompany you anywhere.


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