Today we are going to talk about one of our favorite shooting techniques: Macro photography. What we love about macro photos is the possibility to bring before the eyes a universe that usually escapes our attention.
Macro photography focuses on small or microscopic subjects. Flowers and insects are among the favorites for many photographers. However, there are many other inanimate objects to capture, such as water droplets, snowflakes, jewels, and precious stones.
For today’s guide, we will give you some practical tips on how to use photography to reveal the wonderful “invisible” world around us. All you need is a macro lens kit and a curious mind.
What is Macro Photography?
The human eye has a rather limited vision of the world. None of us can see objects that are too small or too far away. Yet on earth, there are animals, plants, insects, and things of all shapes, colors, and sizes.
So, what is macro photography? To put it simply, these photographic techniques are all about obtaining images of a very small subject through strong magnification ratios. Make something small look bigger, highlighting the details.
The secret to having stunning results lies in the macro lens. Macro lenses can focus from very close distances and photograph subjects with a reproduction ratio of at least 1: 1. This means that if the real size of a bee or a pebble is equal to 1 cm, the image captured on the camera sensor will have at least the same dimensions.
You may ask, what subjects can we capture with a macro lens? The answer is everything! No, we are not kidding. The limits are set only by your creativity. Usually, the most common topics are flora and fauna (insects and plants). Sometimes, we see macro photos of jewels. However, you can capture every single tiny object. You can start by checking around your room. You will find out that you can take amazing shots even with a simple object like a pen. Look around and start creating!
Choose the Right Mobile Lens
Some may think, why not using the standard setup on my smartphone to take pictures? At the first shooting attempts, you will probably notice some issues. Your lens cannot focus from a short distance, and the subject is not magnified as it should. Besides, the shutter speed that you thought was okay is not enough to freeze the subject.
If in doubt, you can test your goal with a practical exercise. Place a small object on a coffee table. Focus it once, then move closer and closer, continuing to focus. You will find out that your lens is no longer able to focus, and the image is distorted when approaching the object.
A telephoto lens can be used in this situation. However, for the telephoto lens to work, you need to be distant. In this case, being far away from the subject sacrifices the magnification of the photo.
For this reason, the best solution is macro lens. These lenses help you to keep the focus of a subject at a minimum distance while also having a greater enlargement ratio. In macro photography, what really matters is the magnification ratio, which is the relationship between the real size of the subject and its dimension on the sensor. The macro lens typically has a 1.1 scale and a focusing distance of 30 centimeters. These measurements translate into the object in the photo having an equal dimension than in reality.
How to Get a Stunning Macro Picture
Having a macro lens does not guarantee top results. When you are new to these techniques, you will be facing different problems: unexpected depth of field, risk of moving, focus, and difficulties with light management.
Then, where to start? In the following paragraphs, we will explain the best ways to keep the situation under control.
Get as near as possible
If you want to do macro photography, the fundamental thing is to get as close as possible to the subjects you need to photograph.
Approaching the target object, you will find out facets and shots that, at first glance, you would never have noticed. This is the beauty of macro photography that can make you fall in love with it.
One thing you will notice right away when you try to get close to the subjects is that at some point, your camera can no longer focus on the scene. Our advice is to perform manual focus. This way, you can directly bypass any problems caused by autofocus. Then, run some tests to know the limits of your optics.
A practical example: A 50mm macro lens requires a distance of 7cm to get a 1: 1 magnification. This is often enough to make any insect run away. On the contrary, Apexel 100 mm HD Super Macro Lens obtains the same magnification with a distance of 4-7 cm.
Bring the extra light
Light is the key! The particular shooting conditions of macro photography – with a small aperture and close range – inevitably decrease the amount of light available. Therefore, it is necessary to create shooting situations with abundant light. The most obvious thing is to try to photograph your subjects during the brightest hours of the day.
The dazzling light of the midday sun can allow for a very fast exposure time. When the sun is at its peak, though, beware of the shadows. In macro photography, a small shadow can completely obscure the subject or a significant part of it. Our suggestion here is to use external light sources, besides the built-in phone flash. We would suggest some reflective panels positioned outside of the frame or an alternative flash separate from the camera.
Focus on the depth of field
The depth of field is the distance between the closest and farthest subject in a picture to make the image sharp enough. As a remedy, try to keep more distance between you and the object and close the diaphragm. At the same time, reduce the gap between the subject and the background while also decreasing the focal length.
In macro photography, it can be useful to have a very small aperture to maximize depth of field. This can be helpful for a novice photographer. How far do you need to close the diaphragm? There is no general rule. It depends on what you are photographing and the angulation. We would recommend to use apertures close to f/8.
Avoid any movements
It goes without saying that you need to keep your mobile camera steady. It would seem simple, but a little wind is enough to make taking the shot much more complex. If the shutter speed is not sufficiently reduced, the photo will look blurred.
To better stabilize the shoot, we suggest to set up a tripod to hold your mobile phone firmly. Another trick could be to rely on remote triggers to be 100% sure of the results.
Get the focus right
In 99% of the cases, you have been taking photos with the autofocus. In macro photography, the subjects and depth of field are so small that autofocus has a hard time focusing exactly on the point you want. Think, for example, of a photo of an insect where you want to focus on one eye. How big can it be, 1, 2mm? So you need to rely on manual focus.
For this part, the setup process requires a lot of patience and preparation. You do not want your target to move or the camera to shake. You also want to keep testing the right distance based on the setup of your lens. This process can also be made easier by using a smaller aperture and tweaking the amount of light in the photo.
The Apexel macro lens kit gives a brilliant close-up view of any object. The different sets are designed to have an extremely narrow plane of focus, meaning that it is easier to bring into focus the portion of the subject you are targeting. With the Apexel set of 100mm Super Macro Lens you can get crisp shots and attractively blurry backgrounds. As for other models, we used the same materials often employed in the aerospace industry, reducing the distortion effect of our equipment to a minimum.
Here you have it! We hope you found this guide useful to learn how to take stunning shots with macro lenses. At Apexel, we are committed to letting everyone express their creativity through photography. Check our guides and discover our new solutions for mobile phone photography!