As the weather gets warmer, now is a great time to get out in nature and photograph springtime's great awakening.
While there's certainly no lack of inspiration outdoors at this time of year, maybe you're wondering how to get closer to those fresh blooms and capture them in all their complexity and beauty.
Macro is the answer—it's a type of close-up photography in which the subject is greatly enhanced and made bigger than life. It's a ton of fun and makes you really appreciate the details of the world around us—whether it be blooming flowers, curious insects or the intricate workings of everyday items.
It doesn't take a ton of equipment to get started, and you can get you good results with pretty much any budget. Here is the gear you need to get into the world of macro photography.
Lens Reversing Ring
If you’re not looking to make a huge investment, these inexpensive but ingenious rings simply allow you to reverse how a lens is mounted onto your camera. By mounting a lens you already own backwards, you'll be able to focus very close to a subject. Just pick the correct camera mount and your lens' filter thread size, and you're ready to go. However, this technique does come with limitations—largely around autofocusing and setting the aperture, so it does take some trickery to get good results.
Macro Extension Tubes
Similar to lens reversing rings, extension tubes are an inexpensive way to alter lenses that you already own so that they can focus closer. Extension tubes are simple spacers that fit between the camera body and the lens that help reduce the minimum focus distance. They come in different thicknesses and can be stacked, however, doing so excessively can degrade your image quality. This is one of the most popular ways to get into macro because it’s simple and relatively cheap.
Bellows work similarly to extension tubes, but they give the option to make more precise adjustments to the minimum focusing distance. They also allow you to go well beyond 1:1 magnification, but again, you don't want to take it too far or you'll start experiencing some image quality issues. Make sure to get bellows that work with your specific camera and lens mount.
For longer lenses that still have a pretty hefty minimum focus distance even when using extension tubes or bellows, conversion lenses (or close-up filters) are a good alternative. These are optical filters that screw on the front of your lens and allow for close focusing. Of course, adding any glass to your lens causes a slight degradation in image quality, but there are some quality options out there that keep losses to a minimum. An advantage of conversion lenses is that they can fit multiple lenses across manufacturers as long as the filter size is the same.
Of course, the easiest solution is to simply get a lens that is built to shoot macro. Most manufacturers offer several macro lens options, from economy models all the way to professional-use. They usually start at the 50mm range and go all the way to telephoto length, but the unifying factors are a close-focusing distance and a life-size reproduction ratio, which means that your subject is the same size in real life as it appears on the sensor of your camera. Macro lenses are sharp and contrasty, so they often make for excellent portrait and landscape lenses as well—investing in one is a good idea since you won't get stuck with a single-tasker in your kit.
Once you have a solution for your lens, you'll need to start looking at a few macro accessories that will make your life a lot easier and assure that you capture the kind of images you're after. First and foremost, a good tripod can give you the stability you'll need to shoot at smaller apertures to get maximum depth of field. Equip your tripod with a macro focusing rail set and you'll be able to make precise adjustments to get that perfect shot. Additionally, you may want to add light to your scene with a macro ring flash, a close-up speedlight or through the use of reflectors.
Now Have Fun!
Hopefully now you have a few ideas on what gear you need to get started with macro photography. If you should have any questions on what solution is right for you, remember that you can always give us a call at 1-770-333-4200 and we'll help you find what you need.