Macro Photography Techniques
- Close Focus Lens
- Extension Tubes
- Reversed Lenses
- Macro Lens
- Combining Techniques
- Close Up Filters
There are of course other methods of taking macro photos, which I have not yet covered, the main reason for that is I have not tried them! I don't want to limit your macro photography methods just by what I've done.
A Macro Lens
The most obvious technique I have not mentioned is a true macro lens. A macro lens is a lens which allows 1:1 magnification. Some popular examples are the Tamron 90mm f2.8 Macro, Sigma 105mm f2.8 Macro, Pentax D-FA 100mm f2.8 Macro, Sigma 70mm f2.8 Macro, Canon 60mm f2.8 Macro, Canon 100mm f2.8 Macro and so on. There are also many very good older options, which are manual focus only, so do some research before you buy into this option. The only real downside to this option is the cost. A good Macro lens will set you back at least $300 (even for a manual focus one). This is the only reason I haven't got 1 myself, although it is on the "One Day" list.
When using a full macro lens the same focusing techniques can be applied. You can set the focus on the lens to the magnification you want (1:1 or 2:1 etc) then physically move closer to, or further from your subject until it is in focus. If your macro lens has Autofocus, this can be of some help, but remember when working with extreme close up photography, the Depth of Field is VERY small, so a slight movement of the camera after focusing can result in out of focus photos. Also the Autofocus sensor in your camera may report the centre to be in focus, but what is really in the centre of the shot? Is it the eyes of your insect subject, or just its wing? For this reason I would still recommend manual focus.
The good thing about this option is its very simple to use, and you get a great portrait lens for free! (although some may argue macro lenses are a bit TOO sharp for portraits...). It means you can concentrate more on your composition, finding the things to photograph and perfecting your exposure.
Aperture and Flash Again
Again with a macro lens, you will have a very narrow depth of field, as you are so close to the subject. This means you will want to be using a very small aperture, probably around f22 in a lot of cases. So a flash is always a good option. A tall hot-shoe mounted flash pointing down at the subject can work well, or you could point it up and use a reflector of some kind to direct the light output down towards the subject. Another option is to use an off camera flash, off to the side of the subject, again either pointed down towards it, or up with a reflector. If pointing the flash directly at the subject, a large diffuser of some kind is a good option to soften the light and shadows cast.
As I have already mentioned, this isnt a method I have used, as I don't have, or have access to a macro lens. The best I can do is post a shot I took with a friend's Carl Ziess Flektogon 35mm f2.4 lens, which focuses down to 2:1 magnification. I borrowed the lens for a walk in the Roma St Parklands, while composing another shot, this fly landed right next to me on the wall I was sitting on, so he became the new subject.
Carl Ziess 35mm f2.4 @ f4.0, ISO 100, 1/1000 sec, minimum focus distance (2:1 magnification)
Get out shooting, and enjoy!