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Macro Photography

Macro photography is the outcome of combining microscope optics principles with a camera. Cameras with macro lenses are the porthole to the world of the small, the illusive and beautiful life forms that we overlook in our daily life.

Have you ever seen a picture of flower pollen and was amazed by its beauty? Maybe it was an insect? A snail? An eye of a fly? Have you ever wondered how these pictures were taken? Read this article and find out the secrets of macro photography.

drinking insect

Macro Photography

Macro photography has two main aspects, the technical and the artistic. For the technical aspect, we need to understand and use special gear, like macro lenses, extension tubes and macro flashes. Post processing software like Photoshop will be needed for advanced macro photography techniques. After purchasing the gear we need to understand when is the best time for photographing, where do we photograph and how. By implementing Macro techniques with basic photography principles you will capture pictures that will make people say “Wow!” caterpiler

Macro gear

If you try to take close-up shots of flowers or insects with your regular DSLR camera, you will find that it is impossible to get the subject in focus when you are very close to it.

Macro lenses – Macro lenses are made especially for taking close-up pictures; they enable you to zoom in and fill up your frame with the subject. Another special feature is the ability to choose a relatively high f-number compared to regular lenses, in other words, a macro lens can close it’s aperture relatively small, giving more depth of field, thus more of the subject will be in focus. Macro lenses can also  be used for landscape and portrait photography.

Pros – high quality, small aperture and versatile.

Cons – Expensive, you need to carry extra weight and you need the extra space in your bag.

Extension tubes – extension tubes are the answer for people who already have a camera with lenses and do not want to buy an additional lens for macro. Extension tubes have only one job, to move the lens further away from the sensor (they do not have optical elements), that will make the lens focus on subjects that are very close to the camera. Without the tubes the lens would not be able to focus on them. Videlicet, the extension tubes brings the focus plane nearer.

Pros – Cheap, small and can be used with any lens.

Cons – Reduces the amount of light that gets to the sensor, enhances lens aberration, some extension tubes do not offer auto focus.

Macro Photography Principles

Depth of field – this is the main factor that will influence your pictures. When trying to focus on a close-up shot, you may find that only a very small amount of your subject will be in focus, and by small I mean millimeters! If for instance you take a picture of a fly, you might have only it’s back leg in focus. This is called a shallow depth of field. butterfly

The depth of field is determined by the aperture size (f number) and by the distance of the object from the camera sensor. A low f number (large aperture) makes the depth of field shallower; moving closer to the object will have the same effect. Using different lenses with different focal lengths will also have an affect on the depth of field.

Taking the same picture from the same distance with a longer focal length, will yield a shallower depth of field. Shallow depth of field is a good thing or bad? Well, that depends; choosing the part of your frame that will be in focus will determine the mood and feel of your picture.

If you want a shallow depth of field you need to open up your aperture and get as close as you can to your subject. If the depth of field is too shallow and you can`t get  enough of your object in focus, close your aperture and\or move further away from your object. Take notice that closing your aperture will make a slower shutter speed, so make sure your object and your camera are still or crank up your ISO.

mating grasshopers

Choosing the amount of depth of field and where to place the focal plane for the best looking picture, can simply be a matter of taste. But, there are some basic rules that can be followed for maximizing the picture’s popularity.

Whenever you take pictures of a living thing it is recommended to implement two principles; firstly, adjust the focal plane to its eyes. This rule is true for all kinds of pictures, including human portraits. Secondly, go down, take your camera to the eye level of your subject, when the focus is on the eyes and you are shooting from eye level, the pictures will feel more intimate and interesting. snake

When you take pictures of flowers and plants look for interesting features in your composition, it can be a colorful pollen stem or a delicate petal with drops of water on it. Find interesting features to emphasize by making them sharp and clear while the rest of the frame is blurred.

How, Where and When to Take Macro Pictures?

How – One option is hand held, this is not the best option but it is possible. Because the depth of field can be as little as 1 millimeter, the smallest movement of your body will make it very hard to keep the focal plane in one point still. The second option deals with that problem by mounting the camera on a tripod. The tripod will eliminate any body movement and will keep the camera still. If you buy a tripod with the intention to photograph macro, make sure the tripod can open its legs for getting the camera very low. bee on a flower

Camera movement can be very noticeable in the picture; the simple pressing action of taking the picture can be enough to blur the picture. This could be easily fixed by using a remote control (some are cheap as 1 USD)  or using the internal timer of the camera.

Where– You can take macro pictures wherever you are, in the kitchen, in your garden or while hiking in nature, even a small patch of grass can hide a world of macro photography opportunities.

When – The best time of the year is normally in the spring, the blossom is at its peak and nature is exploding with small insects. The best time of the day for macro photography are the first couple of hours after sunrise. This is for two reasons, firstly, the insects are calm and “sleepy” so they will not move a lot and will stay still. Especially the ones that have wings and are covered with morning dew, they aren’t going anywhere! Secondly, there is usually less wind in that time, wind is a big enemy for the macro photographer because wind disturbs the subject and that makes it more difficult to focus. mosquito

Remember, basic composition rules are key factors in any kind of photography. Try to compose with the aid of the rule of thirds, look for interesting foreground and background. Lighting is important, make sure your object is well lit, but not with the harsh light of midday.  Go down to eye level and focus on the eyes.

Take your gear out and practice, don`t be afraid to break some of the rules,   experiment with different f numbers, take several pictures of the same object each frame with a different part in focus and see what you like the best. Practicing will make you develop your own style and will improve your technique.

flower pollen   mating mosquitoes   grasshoper

 If you found this article helpful and you are planning to buy one of the pieces of equipment that I mentioned, I would appreciate you buying it through the links attached. I will get a commission for it, but the price for you will be the same as if you would buy it directly from the store. That will support the site and will help me write more articles.

If you have any questions or thoughts you would like to share, you are more than welcome to leave a comment below and I will try to reply as soon as possible.






Travel Photography Tips – How to Take Better Pictures While Traveling


camino de santiago

Photography Today

Today just about everyone has a camera, it can be a camera on your phone, a simple point and shoot pocket camera, or an expensive DSLR camera. Today, like never before, we like to document our lives and share it with other people. However, sometimes we just can`t capture the beauty of the event in the pictures we take and the photos look dull and unexciting. “Why are my pictures so boring compared to others? Can any camera produce good pictures? How do I take better pictures? What makes a good picture good?”

Travel Photography

So you have decided to go for a vacation, you have planned your route, your schedule, and you have all the gear necessary for the trip. You are ready to go. Are you? If you haven’t learned some basic photography you’ll probably take poor pictures and will miss capturing those beautiful moments. An important part of the preparation is to learn some basic skills in photography.

There are some basic rules that if one follows, will upgrade one`s picture by far. A good photographer will take a better picture with a cheap camera than a bad photographer with an expensive one. So no matter which camera you use, the technique is what really counts.

We will look now at some common scenes of which you will probably take pictures while on vacation.

Landscape

You are standing at an observation point, looking at the vista. It’s stunning. You pull out your camera and you take a photo, but when you look at the picture on the camera`s screen, it just doesn`t reflect the real sense of the place. “What am I doing wrong?” you think to yourself.  Follow the next guidelines and your landscape pictures will make people say “Wow”!

Composition can be the difference between sending a picture to a photography competition or sending it to the recycle bin. So what are the rules of a good composition?

The Rule of Thirds

John Thomas Smith was the first to write down this rule in his book Remarks on Rural Scenery in 1797. But this rule had been used years before.

We have a tendency to place our object in the middle of the frame. It can be a flower, a person or a horizon. That is a common mistake and it creates a boring picture.

Two examples:

monkey

camino de santiago

To avoid that mistake we need to divide our frame into 9 squares or into thirds. Like so

squares

– Many cameras have a built in function that shows this grid on the camera screen-use it!

Now we are ready to compose the picture properly. For landscape we would want to position the horizon on one of the horizontal lines. In other words, the horizon should be a third from the bottom or a third from the top. Witch one to choose? It depends on the situation. If you have an interesting skyscape scattered with clouds, you would want to have more sky in the picture, therefore placing the horizon on the bottom third.

camino de santiago

But if the sky is all grey and overcast, or it`s all plain blue with no clouds at all, you will want to keep the horizon high to minimize the amount of boring sky in the frame.

camino de santiago

Foreground and Proportions

Placing an object in the foreground of a landscape gives the picture more depth. Art masters found that placing an object on the intersection points makes the picture much more pleasing to the eye, so try to aim for those points. The object can be a rock, a flower, a tree, a person or want ever looks interesting to you.

pokhara

Manali

mae hong son

קמינו דה סנטיאגו

Diagonals in photography

Lines and geometric objects create interesting pictures; they attract our attention and guide our eyes around the picture. When you compose your picture try to find diagonal guidelines that will draw the eye into the frame. Lines that start at one of the corners will make a better composition.

kala patthar

DSC_0048

Masuri

Not every place you visit will have exciting scenery or interesting objects to photograph, however sometimes you would simply like to record what you saw when you were there. So use the rule of thirds to make the most out of what you have. Like in this picture of a village in Nepal.

EBC treck

EXTRA TIP – Use the grid function on your camera screen to keep the horizon leveled, a picture with a crooked horizon is very amateur looking.

So now you know how to compose the picture and where to place key objects in the frame. That alone will improve your pictures tremendously! But there is one more thing to pay attention to, it`s the special ingredient of fabulous photography; it`s the light!  Normally that will come from the sun, and because the sun shifts with time, timing is the key. Obviously when you are traveling you can`t always wait for the perfect light and the perfect timing, but knowing which light is best and when to get it will make you a better photographer and you will take better pictures.

What is The Best Time for Taking Pictures?

If you mount your camera on a tripod in the morning and compose a shot, and then take the same picture few hours later the two pictures will look and feel very different. In fact, sometimes even a few minutes are enough to show a change of light or weather.

The rule of thumb says that the best light is at sunrise and sunset, AKA the magic hour. Just before sunrise you can get a cool blue light that will produce no shadows, low contrast shots.

EBC track

As the sun rises the light becomes warmer and redder. Then after an hour or two the light will be too hard and will make harsh shadows and high contrast thus bad pictures.

ebc

Then when the sun is starting to set the light becomes warmer again and more flattering

tel baruch

camino de santiago

Bear in mind that some great pictures were made by breaking those rules. Try to play around with different compositions and different lights. Read your camera’s manual and get to know all the functions in it. The more you learn and practice the better your pictures will be.

If you found this article helpful and you are planning to buy photography or outdoor gear, I would appreciate you buying it through the links attached. I will get a commission for it, but the price for you will be the same as if you would buy it directly from the store. That will support the site and will help me write more articles.

If you have any questions or thoughts you would like to share, you are more than welcome to leave a comment below and I will try to reply as soon as possible.