Macro Photography

M acro photography (or photomacrography or macrography, and sometimes macrophotography), is extreme close-up photography, usually of very small subjects, in which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than life size (though macrophotography technically refers to the art of making very large photographs). By some definitions, a macro photograph is one in which the size of the subject on the negative or image sensor is life size or greater. However in other uses it refers to a finished photograph of a subject at greater than life size or a 1:1 ratio.

Macro photographers employ either a dedicated macro lens to capture their images, or in addition a bellows or extension tubes. Another alternative if you dont have a dedicated macro lens, is to use an existing lens in conjunction with macro close up lenses, which may then be stacked according to the magnification strength required to achieve the image. The depth of field in macro photography is extremely shallow, so to be able to capture a fully focused insect, it may require photostacking of several images together. Macro photography may also be accomplished by mounting a lens in reverse, in front of a normally mounted lens of greater focal length, using a macro coupler which screws into the front filter threads of both lenses. This method allows most cameras to maintain the full function of electronic and mechanical communication with the normally mounted lens, for features such as open-aperture metering.

Here are some other necessary tools of the trade:

  • Focusing Rail. This fits in between your tripod head and camera body, and precisely guides your camera so that the location of focus is determined by camera position instead of the (less precise) manual focus ring.
  • Magnifying Eyepiece. This attaches to your viewfinder to enlarge visibility.
  • Right Angle Viewfinder. This attaches to your viewfinder so that you can more comfortably see through it when the camera is really low to the ground.
  • Rear Live View LCD Screen. Cameras capable of showing their subject on the rear LCD screen in real-time can greatly assist with composition and focus.

With its emphasis on detail, pattern, and texture, macro photography can yield rewarding and unique results. I know I’m not alone when I say that macro photography is an absorbing activity: to be able to reach into ‘near space’ and record an image that is not easily visible to the naked eye is an attractive option. There is nothing more satisfying than to make a huge print of an insect, mineral specimen, water droplets or any small object that is normally so tiny to the naked eye and captured with the technique of macro photography.

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