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by Barrie Smith The advent of digital photography swept away one of the most challenging problems in image capture: how to shoot macro without a pile of specialised gear. Now you can get down, dirty and close in the image capture business and make macro the digital way with a 100 per cent success rate.
Image by ~jjjohn~ 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 or any small object that is normally so tiny to the naked eye and captured with the technique of macro photography. To shoot macro in the days of film — aside from the requirement of using an SLR camera — you needed a few add-ons to take highly magnified images of extremely small subjects. You could begin by slipping a diopter lens to the front of the existing standard lens … this would impart a degree of magnification; you could also install
it is surprising how powerful a macro camera a circa-$1200 DSLR can become. you could invest in a fairly expensive — and optically superb — macro lens that was dedicated to macro shooting. really big shots of tiny subjects. Image by macropoulos . The higher-priced compact digicams can do it even better. $200-special digicam you can capture images of the tiny world before you. These days. you could also acquire a set of macro bellows and place them between lens and body. so you can stand back a bit. But to be honest. digital does it with a dash! With a digital camera — compact or DSLR — even newbies are surprised by how easy it is capture really. In truth. you can make digital macro photography as basic or as complex as you wish it to be: even with a budget. The other approach is to use a DSLR. another option was to fit a reversing ring that allowed you to fit the lens on backwards … this improved the lens close up resolution and allowed to you to focus much more closely. subjects as small as a matchbox. some offering macro shooting with a powerful zoom lens.extension tubes between your normal lens and the camera body. and finally. it was a hassle — although you can still use these methods if using a DSLR to shoot macro. a match-head or even tinier.
that resulted in an image on the 35mm film frame (24×36mm) that ranged from 1:10 to 1:1 the size of the original subject. the lens-to-sensor is increased. the term micro referred to a film image that was larger than 1:1 life size. an explanatory note for all those with a modicum of photo history and tech basics: the term macro used to refer to the capture of an insect or whatever. What a wonderful world in which to shoot macro! . a sharp image of a tiny object requires the lens to be positioned much closer still. like landscapes. while in others you must access the viewfinder menu.What is Macro Photography? First. A CCD or CMOS sensor can be as tiny as 3×4mm. no special lenses. For its part. no macro tubes or bellows. the lens is positioned at a minimum lens-to-sensor distance. In some cameras you can select macro mode via an external control. But the rules that apply in accomplishing successful and satisfying macro photography still stand. like people. Normal photography works in using a camera to record a sharp image by adjusting the lens-to-sensor distance to attain precise focus: for distant subjects at infinity. with the lens moved even further out than for normal photography. In macro photography. just about all compact digicams and most dSLRs have a selectable macro mode. so any definition term that applied in the film days is now obsolete. micro photography could easily give you a 35mm film image of an ant that was itself larger than the original ant. to capture sharp images of closer subjects. As far as my investigations go. Think about it: no extra lenses.
Why is this so important? The best macro photography — regardless of camera — requires that you use the smallest lens aperture to gain optimum image sharpness and depth of field. gained by chatting to the tech expert at a major camera company. Engage macro mode on a digicam and the system adjusts the lens elements to rearrange them into an array that best suits close focusing. as even simple camera lenses have a surprising number of lens elements to juggle. Quite a feat. . Here are my findings.Image by macropoulos Tips for Macro Photography Beginners Being curious about how digital cameras can capture macro so easily I investigated the subject. Unfortunately. so you need to extend the exposure time to make a correctly exposed photograph. by engaging macro mode with the vast majority of cameras you lose control of both the lens aperture (f-stop) and shutter speed. Using a small lens aperture means you need more light.
Select macro and you activate a different chain of events: with any lens fixed to the camera. . The pro approach would be to use a purpose-built macro lens on a DSLR. engaging macro mode on the camera commands the lens aperture to close to its minimum. nor can you slow the shutter speed to permit the use of a smaller lens aperture.So you can’t reduce the lens aperture to a smaller. With DSLR cameras the macro operation is somewhat different. For the keen macro makers I’ve discovered a few digicams that do allow the use of macro mode and lens and shutter speed adjustment (see Chosen Few). many macro lenses also compensate for the additional exposure necessary when racking out the lens to distances very different to those used in normal photography. Shooting macro with a compact digicam is easy but you have to forgo a fair bit of control and you need to understand that the demands of an amateur as far as resolution and colour quality are less stringent than the pros. so extending the depth of field and allowing you to move closer to the subject. With macro lenses you are unlikely to experience problems such as colour fringing and optical distortion. Dedicated macro lenses are not cheap but they are optimised to operate at closer than normal distances. more favourable setting.
very close detail of your subject. it’s most likely you’ll move the lens to the widest . For macro shots you need a steady camera and subject. Using the macro mode on a compact or DSLR and wanting to capture a very. Using a macro lens on a DSLR is the optimum way to travel. at too close a distance you may distort the subject.Image by ecstaticist In macro photography you should aim to capture a sharp image of your tiny subject with all — or nearly all — of the subject in sharp focus. Keep Your Distance In macro shooting the optimum camera-to-subject distance is a long one. Place the camera too close to the subject and there’s a good chance you’ll throw a camera shadow onto it. Then you need more light to cope with the slower shutter speed. Image by ecstaticist There is one more thing to be taken into account: you must keep the subject still and the camera must be locked off. a small lens aperture and a slow shutter speed.
Macro lenses for DSLRs are best chosen in the longer focal lengths: many lens makers market a 100mm macro — ideal for the task. . a stabilised lens would seem to be the answer to the need for a steady camera.angle/shortest focal length setting. The truth is that there are too many variables in the equation: moving camera. image by macropoulos Chosen Few There are some cameras that offer lens/shutter speed adjustment in macro mode. moving subject. The idea is sound in principle: if you have to handhold the camera/lens combo while you snare close shots of a bug. This also presents the possibility of optical distortion. The best approach is to keep the camera steady. And then you have to frame the shot properly. moving focus. Canon and others make stabilised macro lenses.
With this arrangement you can select shutter or aperture priority and macro simultaneously. There are others that have the same benefit. an often difficult chore with the camera positioned so close to the subject. Aside from an extraordinary 18x optical zoom lens it has 7.0 million pixels of image capture.1 megapixels on its CCD. allowing selection of a small aperture for depth. Now you can reduce the lens aperture to a minimum setting and attain the optimum depth of field when the camera is close to the subject. This avoids ‘washing out’ the subject at close range.The Canon PowerShot S5 IS has a long 12x optical zoom lens along with 8. This camera has a 10x zoom and 8. The Ricoh’s Auto Soft Flash function dampens the output of the camera’s flash. Another macro-friendly model is the Canon PowerShot SX100IS. When selecting macro the camera still allows you to use the zoom.0 megapixels of image capture. And it has a terrific macro mode: unlike most others digicams this camera’s macro button is a separate control placed on the lens barrel and not on the mode dial. It is unusually well set up for macro shooting: with the SX100IS you can engage macro mode along with aperture priority. Another contender in the maxi macro stakes is the Olympus’ SP-5500UZ. In a slightly different fashion. so you can back off and yet still take big closeups. the Ricoh Caplio R6 helps you light subjects in macro mode. image by macropoulos Viewing .
Depth of field varies with the lens aperture. Try shooting a square subject — like a stamp — and you’ll see what I mean. The solution is to use the Spherize filter in Photoshop to straighten the barrel distortion on the affected image. the depth of field includes the plane you focus on plus an area in front of and behind that plane. shots taken with the zoom set to tele may show distortion which forces the picture edges to bow inwards. When you focus. Distortion Digital compact camera optics are a compromise between size and price. Depth of Field This is possibly the core factor in successful macro shooting. Use the optical finder and you will encounter parallax error … what you see in the finder is not what the camera will photograph. . Half of the sharpest area will be in front of the plane and half will be behind it. making it stand out sharply. With budget cameras you will probably encounter spherical distortion: shots taken at the wide end (even in macro!) of the zoom will barrel out at the edges. Competent use of it will give you a subject in pin-sharp focus with the background in soft focus: a soft focus background isolates a subject.When shooting macro with a digicam always use the LCD screen for viewing — never use the optical viewfinder. like a pincushion. focal length and the camera-to-subject distance.
image by jerryhsu2k No Confusion Take care to position your macro subject against an appropriate background: no confusing fuzz. Lighting You’ve probably set up the camera only centimetres from the subject. Arguably the optimum light for macro work is to set up a scrim of translucent material (like rice paper) over the subject. dark backgrounds for light subjects and vice versa. If you’re working in filtered daylight (my ideal) you can help by scattering small reflectors around the subject. But in most cases you’ll have to live with the existing ambient light level. with the subject illuminated by soft light. no bright spots. . Flash is useless at a close working distance — it would overexpose the shot. In this fashion you can shoot in bright sunlight.
Image by Matthew Fang .Light Loss If you’re working with a DSLR you might like to use extension tubes or close up bellows to shoot macro. If your camera allows manual focusing. you will encounter one problem: the further the lens is extended from the image sensor the more you will encounter light loss. If you do. requiring the camera to use a larger lens aperture. Focus In macro photography it is advantageous to have full charge over focusing — especially when you want to have control over that part of the subject you want in focus. use it and manually focus on the part of our subject that is the main point of interest.
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