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Submitted on
December 23, 2012
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The essentials of Macro photography.

Sun Dec 23, 2012, 2:36 AM

Hi, deviants! This week is Community week, and I am giving my best to introduce some essential tips concerning macro photography.

But first of all: What is macro photography?

Macro photography - what is it about? 
Wikipedia tells us things like "extreme close-up photography, usually of very small subjects, in which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than life size" (Source:
But is that really all that matters? It is a common fact that many people believe that macro photography is photography which refers to life size, which means 1:1. The object is the same size on your sensor/film it is in real life.

"Great thing, but I cannot start macro photography, since I do not have a macro lens."

That's what many people think. It is not the lens or the camera taking the pictures. Of course everything is made easier for us when we use a macro lens, but if you do not have any knowledge about your camera settings, then you will just take snapshots, even with the most expensive camera ever. If you do not know what I mean, then check out this journal, it will help you! 
How to improve your skills in close-up-photographySince many people asked me how I take my pictures and why they are so "special", I would like to tell you how I manage things when I take pictures.
I. Finding the location
When I go outside to take pictures of nature, I do barely have any concepts in my mind. I just go and let nature inspire me. The first important step is finding a location.It is not that difficult to find an interesting background. I personally do prefer backgrounds which are not monochrome. Many shades of light (light and dark contrasts or different colors) make your picture interesting, no matter if the final result will be monochrome or colorful in the end.I look out for locations where not many people are. Like a big meadow in front of a house or a field or forests. (Forests do have the special plus that it does almost always have different light shadings I mentioned in 2).
II. Know your possibilities!

You have found your favourite location? Great! Many people do the mistake to

Right. As I already said, it is not that difficult to take macro shots, or to come close the 1:1-ratio, even with a Kit lens!
You do not know how? Then listen to me, I will try to explain it to you.

Which equipment is absolutely necessary?

That's a fact many people ask me, actually. 
As I said, it is not the camera taking the pictures, and it is also not the lens. It is the photographer taking pictures, and that's why it is up to you how to take pictures! You may choose the angle, composition, etc.
So I would not say you need the newest Canon-Mark III or the Nikon D800 to take great pictures, the megapixel size of the sensor does also not count that much (almost always it is better to stick around 10MP, since there are not that many pixels on one millimeter, and the grain is reduced then). But what I would really recommend is a DSLR, because while a "normal" Digicam may have the best macro mode ever, it will never have the ability to create shallow depth of field, which is important for a "good" macro photo. (Which does not mean you cannot take great pictures with a point and shoot-camera, but I will continue with DSLRs now.)
You do not even need a macro lens for macro photography.
"Oh really??" will some people ask now. Yes, it is possible, and you can also take even higher scales (like 2:1 [the object is twice the size on your sensor as it is in real life) with you Kit lens, which is normally a 18-55mm lens. I do also own one, and I began my passion for macro photography with this Kit lens.
Of Endearment. by dragonfly-oli

Which equipment is optional?

I personally own a closeup-filter, which really helps me to get much closer to the object. But I will talk about that later.
Helpful are also extension tubes, which increase the focal distance of your lens. I never tried it, but many people told me it is a great alternative to a macro lens, too.
Optional is also an adapter for sticking your lens upside down towards the camera, which means: The electrical devices are pointing towards you then, not to the camera!

What are the techniques?

Yes, I used the plural, since there is more than one technique!
I will try to explain them to you in a short, but understandable way.

1. Reverse macro technique
This technique does not require any purchase of additional equipment, since you only need your kit lens, or any other lens, which can also have a wide angle (10-50mm). 
Step 1: Remove your lens from your camera.
Step 2: Turn it around 180°, so that the electrical devices turn towards you.
Step 3: you only need step 3 if you have a retro-adapter, which allows you to stick the lens reversed to your camera. If you do not have an adapter, skip to step 3a. Put on the reverse adapter to your lens (like a filter) and put it on your camera again. Tada, you have a selfmade macro lens!
Step 3a: If you do not have an adapter, do it like I do: Take your lens and hold it to your camera, which can be quite complicated. 
Since you cannot choose the settings to use, just do experiments. There is no general formula for doing this, but I am sure you will make it when you spend a little time on it.
Pictures taken with that technique:

Of Endearment. by dragonfly-oli  

2. Getting closer to the object with the help of Extension tubes (… )
These tubes allow you to get closer to the object, since their closest focussing distance is avoided here. The focal length of the lens is increased through the millimeters you win with them. You can go closer to the object and focus normally, like you did before.
How to use it: You put it behind your lens, between lens and camera.
Advantage: You get no loss of quality.
Disadvantage: Since the lens is "longer", the light needs more time to travel through it, which leads to a loss of light. Also, when you buy cheap ones, there are no electrical connections in it and you cannot choose aperture or shutter speed anymore.
I personally did never use any tubes, but maybe you prefer trying that method out.

Pictures taken with that technique:

little reminders by wolf-minori    Happiness by fruitpunch1

3. Getting closer to the object with the help of close-up-filters (… )
This method allows you to lower your closest focussing distance by the use of a filter. You put it on in front of your lens. The Closeup-filter operates like a magnifying glass, depending on which dioptre you use. Be careful: You need to go much further to the object, which means that the depth of field gets really shallow.
Advantages: More light comes in, the pictures are brighter
Disadvantages: The image quality gets lost a bit if you do not buy expensive filters. 
Pictures taken with closeup-filters: 
Of happiness. by dragonfly-oli  The end of autumn. III by dragonfly-oli
50.52 - Little wonders. by dragonfly-oli 17.52 - Rest in peace. by dragonfly-oli Elements in heaven. by dragonfly-oli
When everything's quiet. by dragonfly-oli Leave me alone or.. by dragonfly-oli The jump. by dragonfly-oli

Finally, some tips for macro photography, and then I will come to an end.

Use composition rules like
DSC 9032 DxO raw1111mit111da by dragonfly-oli 
the rule of thirds


DSC 8088 DxOda by dragonfly-oli 
the golden ratio.

2. Avoid distracting objects in your picture, try to focus on only one object.
DSC 8964 DxO rawda by dragonfly-oli

3. The most important one: Take care of the focus. Some millimeters handshake may lead to unsharp pictures. I recommend a tripod or a really calm hand. :giggle:
Some DON'Ts:

DSC 9038 DxO rawda by dragonfly-oli 
the focus is behind the flake

DSC 9036 DxO rawda by dragonfly-oli 
focus behind the flake

4. Get close to your object. The closer you get, the more shallow will be your depth of field.

DSC 8972 DxO rawda by dragonfly-oli

My final snowflake-pictures:

Silence. by dragonfly-oli  50.52 - Little wonders. by dragonfly-oli

The last tip is very simple:

Shoot, shoot, shoot! ;)

I hope this tutorial helped you a bit. If you have got questions, just note me or write it in the comments!

I wish you a Merry Christmas! :love:

Macro photography tutorial - 23.12.2012
Add a Comment:
dragonfly-oli Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Astrikos Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2012   General Artist
Informative and detailed! Well done!
dragonfly-oli Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you! :)
Astrikos Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2012   General Artist
:la: You're so talented Olivia!

I'm so excited, I get a DSLR in spring. :eager:
dragonfly-oli Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Oh thank you :blush:

:eager: How great! Which one, and what would you like to take pictures of? ;)
Astrikos Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2012   General Artist

Not sure yet, but I think I might want the t3i or t4i. Or possibly the D5100 or D5200.

I want to take pictures of nature. :happybounce:
Skies, animals, flowers. :dummy:
dragonfly-oli Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
It's your decision. I took the D5000, and I am still happy to have it, although there are already two updated versions of it. :aww:

Same like me. :heart: yay!
Astrikos Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2012   General Artist
Ooh that's cool :la:You're so amazing and awesome. And yeah I love nature :w00t: Can't wait to go to the nature reserve and take pictures :eager:
dragonfly-oli Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
I'd love to see the pictures then :giggle:
(1 Reply)
DA-Andrew Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2012   Photographer
I use auto extension tubes on a 55mm lens, one of the potential difficulties when shooting so close to a subject is that the lens of the camera may cast a shadow over the subject. A cheap way of the removing the shadow is by using a white bounce card to direct light back on the subject. Another way is to use off camera flash, I actually attach the flash to the camera via a ttl flash extension cord, attaching the flash to a gorilla pod which I can wrap around the lens so to position the flash close to the subject
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