I love macro photography. In a world that continues to get larger, it is wonderful to look at the same surroundings on a much smaller scale. However, viewing the world through tiny eyes does bring on its own challenges outside correct exposure, white balance, and battery life. So, if you are like me and want to see this tiny world, read on!
The first thing you will want to invest in is a good tripod. I have boasted the benefits of tripods before, but a key feature you want to make sure your tripod can handle is getting close to the ground. The reason this is the first item you want to buy is that any movement from yourself, or the subject, is ultimately going to lead to noticeable blur in your photo. It will help if you can find one that allows you to mount your camera on the bottom, the legs fold out wide, and yet provides you a sturdy base for all your work. A good tripod of any kind is well worth the investment!
The next item you want to start considering is a macro lens. Every camera brand comes with a nice range of options here, however this is where you need to sit down and do some thinking. The most important item to consider is what you expect to shoot up close. There is a big difference when it comes to shooting a deadly spider or photographing spare pocket change. Knowing this will help you determine if you can get by with something like a 60mm macro lens, or if you will need a 200mm to put as much distance between you and the eight legged death dealer. Both lenses maybe great, but understanding the nuances of what you want to capture is going to help you budget planning.
Another item that comes with macro lenses are something called 1:1 aspect, or life-size aspect. How this term breaks down is that the image coming through the lens to your camera sensor will be life size when it is printed off on a 35mm film frame (24x36mm). Digital camera sensors will skew this number, so if you are looking to reproduce life sized images, you will need to do the math on the lens you buy in combination with any crop factor your camera may have.
One last item to keep in mind with working distances is how it will affect your lighting. A 60mm may have a 1:1 working distance of one inch. This can cause all kinds of issues when dealing with shadows and flashes. The same is true if you are planning on having a foot or more of distance between you and your subject. Your best bet is to find a camera store and take a few lenses for a test run so you can experience the limitations of each first hand.
Finally, you will need to acquire something else that is not available in any store. Patience is going to be a big part of plant and insect macro work. Bugs and Mother Nature all work without a care for what you maybe working to capture. Trying to get a great macro of a flower in 50mph winds may not be a great idea unless you have a good way of blocking the stiff breeze. I cannot tell you how long I have sat on the ground waiting for the wind to die just enough for me to snag a shot. Patience is a true virtue here.
Macro photography can open your eyes to a world you may otherwise overlook in the hustle and bustle of life. Even the smallest item in nature can provide an elegant and wonderful image. Have fun looking at a the world through tiny eyes!
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