How to Shoot finer details with your Canon

Shooting finer details with your Canon

Getting up close and personal with the incredibly small isn't just about bugs - everyday textures such as bubbles can seem alien through a macro lens

← Works best with EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens

Macro photography is arguably one of the most abstract incarnations of the art, whether it's photographing tiny insects and making them look like behemoths or capturing textures and transforming them into abstract landscapes.
 So what is macro photography? The simple answer is close-up, detail photography, like photographing details in a landscape through binoculars. Macro photography is relatively straightforward as it's all about distance. Not just the physical distance between photographer and subject, but more a closeness inside your camera. The sensor within your camera, whether it's cropped or fullframe, sits static at the bottom of a lens once one is attached, and there it stays, capturing the light sent to it. All the lens has to do is move glass closer or farther away from the sensor to send a focused or zoomed-in image. The difference between macro lenses and standard lenses is lens construction.

Abstract beauty
By shooting macro, and using a little creative thought, you can turn everyday items such as washing up liquid into striking colourful textures  


General macro tips

1 Be supportive to your subject
With small objects, it can be helpful to support them via rigid clips or shield them from ambient wind if shooting outside

2 Back ground checks
Just because you are shooting fine detail doesn't mean you can't use an interesting background. Try coloured sheets or something that creates bokeh.

3 Get closer with an extension tube
To get closely focused on such a tiny object is one thing, to fill the frame with detail is another. Increase your focal length with an extension tube.  


The internal glass element in a macro is further away from the sensor, and will usually be a prime lens. A prime lens is a fixed lens with no zoom. It stays at one focal length. The light passing through the lens has farther to travel, and the speed of which the light can travel is relevant to the f-stop listed on the lens.
 The more glass within the construction of a lens, the higher the f-stop as there are multiple pieces of glass for the light to pass through, slowing the strength of the light. With a dedicated macro lens you have minimal glass, meaning a faster f-stop, usually around f2.8. To shoot effectively in macro, you need an idea of the subject you want to shoot, a lens that will enable you to get close enough to achieve the desired result and a tripod to keep things steady.

A bug's life in full glory
As macro photography is a great way to shoot insects and flowers, let's look at what makes a great macro shot. Looking at the subject matter, as well as the composition, there is more at play than just finding the subject to shoot


Tips for macro success

1 Use a sturdy tripod
You will be micro focusing on an already tiny object so any movement could shift your focal point

2 Use the right lens
Depending on your subject, and the level of macro shooting you want to achieve, select the correct lens.

3 Set aperture
If you are looking to focus on a specific area, or focus on the whole item, set the aperture accordingly. 

4 Use flash for extra detail
Try bounced flash light. It's perfect for specular highlights and enhancing colour.


Which lens should you use?
If you want to photograph insects and flowers from a casual distance and are looking to dabble, then a prime lens in the region of 90mm to 105mm will be perfect, allowing you to get in close enough to fill the frame and experiment with depth of field. For the more seasoned macro enthusiast, wanting to get that bit closer and not afraid to step back and add some distance between them and the subject, a prime lens ranging in the ballpark of 150mm-200mm would be adequate. Again, this choice would enable you to fill the frame, using the aperture selection available within the lens to affect the depth of field, forcing attention on your subject. This is the main draw to macro photography - the sheer detail you can gather from a subject.  

Reversal trick
Additional tools such as the reverser ring can be used as effective alternatives to dedicated lenses when shooting macro. By reversing the focal qualities of your lens, they bring the subject closer

Of course there are other alternatives available, such as a reverser ring, which reverses your current lens' focal distance by reversing the traditional attachment of your camera body and inverting your lens. Although initially a great and cost-effective measure, it does leave the most fragile part of your lens open to damage.

Ugly bugs
Shooting macro can not only allow you to get close to an otherwise unreachable subject, but also add a sense of personality to it. Take insects such as the preying mantis, who are far from human but we can still relate to simply due to their pose

Filters and tubes
Another alternative is using macro filters that can be attached to your lens. Through a combination of glass screw-threaded filters, they bend the light through convex and concave glass. Extension tubes are exactly as the name implies - an extension tube to further the distance between the glass and the sensor, allowing for a closer shot. What you get in extra closeness though, you lose slightly from your aperture, as the light is travelling further than intended, so it may be an option to consider your ISO or even a lash gun when shooting macro.

For macro lower shots, use glycerine to recreate water drops. Simply drip it into place.


Macro ring flash
Ring flash has become associated with high fashion and creative portraiture of late, however it was originally a lighting practice most commonly used in dental, medical and even forensic photography. Employed as a way to evenly light a subject with minimal shadows but still with maximum detail, it is the perfect lighting choice for macro photographers as the light sits in front of the lens itself.
 Macro ring flashes are a lot smaller than the now more familiar portrait ring flashes as they need to direct the light into much smaller areas.


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