Shoot at Home an intro to Macro Photography

Now the measures around the Covid-19 virus are being tightened further and further. Photographers are increasingly at home. No shoot assignments, perhaps some very limited wedding. But the hobby or amateur photographer is at home and in many countries is no longer allowed to leave the house. If you still want to take pictures, which gives me peace of mind in this hectic time with a home-working partner and school-skyping children, macro photography is a form that you can perform at the kitchen table, so to speak. You can put in as much energy as you want here. From relatively simple to quite complicated setup.

What is macro photography actually.

Most people know what macro photography means or at least have a good idea about it. For those who seem unfamiliar to macro photography, here is a brief explanation.

Macro or close up photography is the part of photography that deals with the representation of small motifs. But what is small then? While in landscape photography motifs of enormous size, which in some cases can be up to many kilometers in size. The portrait photography photographs motifs that are about the size of us. Does the close-up or macro photography deal with motifs that are much smaller. Normally between a few centimeters and millimeters. You often hear or read about a 1: 1 ratio of motif and sensor. This means that in reality the motif is just as big as it is projected onto the sensor. The usual sensor size for digital cameras today is between 17.3 x 13.0 mm, for micro 4/3, to 36 x 24 mm for a full-frame camera.

So unlike landscape, product, portrait photography, etc. that are defined for their subject to be photographed, close-up and macro photography are about the size of the motif. A classic definition that is often used for close-up and macro photography is: If a motif is projected on its true size or up to 20 times its size on the sensor, this is called macro photography. When a motif is projected up to 10 times smaller than the actual size on the sensor, this is called close-up photography.

At even stronger magnifications, so above 20 times the magnification, one speaks of micro photography. I will not discuss this because the equipment needed to photograph this incredible world is very different from close-up and macro photography.

What equipment do you need.

A camera

Of course, the first thing you need is a camera. You can of course make this as crazy as you want. If you just want to try macro photography, a smartphone is basically enough. Most pocket and bridge cameras now have a macro or close-up stand. This is often indicated with a flower. This also applies to many of the other cameras that have a preset for shooting macro or close-up images. These cameras have a built-in lens that cannot be exchanged. Where a compact camera is actually compact, bridge cameras are often somewhat larger and more robust in construction. Often there is also a difference in the size of the sensor. But to give it a try that’s fine with these cameras, but don’t expect miracles, of course.

The system cameras, on the other hand, do have the option of changing the lens. It is therefore possible to place a special macro lens on such a device, but that is absolutely not necessary if you want to try taking macro photos.

Digital SLR cameras (DSLR) are very suitable. Most brands certainly have a macro lens in their collection, but often more. In addition, there are manufacturers such as Tamron and Sigma who have lenses for different systems. That brings us to the lenses.

Lenses

Let me start with the clip lenses that you can buy for your phone. These are usually of poor to at most moderate quality. Which does not alter the fact that to try macro photography this is already possible for little money. You can find them on online stores such as: eBay, Amazon, Aliexpress and Wish. But of course there are plenty of local sites where you can find this.

If you have a threaded camera, you can get conversion lenses through the same online stores, but also at your local photo shop. These lenses actually work as a kind of magnifying glass that you put in front of your normal lens. The quality is very diverse, including the prices for which you can buy them. Anyway. They are much cheaper than simple macro lenses. But a good starting point to see if you like macro photography.

A qualitatively better way that is also relatively cheap is to use a reverse ring. Many macro photographers use this. With this method, you turn your lens over and attach the front to the camera. This allows you to take good macro photos fairly easily and cheaply. You can do this with any lens you have. Although the older lenses with a separate aperture ring are recommended. Modern cameras control the aperture via the camera. Of course, if you turn the lens over, it doesn’t work. A separate aperture ring allows you to slightly control the depth of field of your subject.

A third not so expensive way to start with macro photography is to use extension rings. These also come in different qualities, but they are relatively inexpensive. Spacers work very simply. They increase the distance between your camera and the sensor. This creates a larger image on the sensor. In addition, this allows you to get much closer to your subject than the normal focus distance of your lens.

The last option that I want to briefly highlight is the macro lens. These also exist in different price categories. On average, the macro lenses are among the sharpest lenses you can buy. They can be purchased in different focus distances. In short, the greater the focus distance, the more expensive the lens. They all do the same thing. They ensure that your subject is projected on the sensor in full size. The difference between a 28mm and a 200mm macro lens is mainly the distance you can have from the camera to the subject. This is of course less relevant for certain subjects such as flowers, miniatures and the like. For example, if you photograph insects such as butterflies, you can imagine that they will not stay when you come up to 5cm away from them with your camera. With a larger focus distance, that is often no problem. These lenses are of course much more expensive. You also sometimes see zoom lenses that indicate that they have a macro mode. This is often not the case when you look at the aforementioned definition. But to get an idea whether you think macro photography is worthwhile, this is no problem at all.

This concludes the first part on macro photography. We talked about a definition of macro, close-up and macro photography. We looked at the minimum equipment you need to get started with macro photography. Starting with your mobile phone to a DSLR camera with interchangeable lenses. We discussed what you can use to shoot in macro.

In the next part I want to first discuss what you can photograph in macro. Some ideas to do at home now before we go into the third part to see what accessories you can possibly use to lift your macro photography one level higher.

Until then.

RainerKersten

I'm a photographer in the dutch 3 border region. I started photographing about 30 years ago as a student. At that time I shot a lot of sports, but I did also shot nature, macro and just pictures in the street with my second hand Praktica. Later on I got a Canon eos 1000fn and a eos 50e. Unfortuanally my gear got stolen. Nowadays I'm using a Nikon D7200 just for photographing. I also use a Lumix GX80 for street and some filming. Hope you like it.

Leave a Reply