Macro Photography - It's the Little Things That Count

By: Erinmanning Feb 11, 2008

 

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I've had a lot of requests lately for more information about macro photography, so as a little Valentine's gift to you - I've written a step-by-step guide for capturing those close-ups.

Have you seen a beautiful photograph in a book or magazine that captures all the detail of a flower or insect, close-up? The art of taking pictures of things extremely close-up is called macro photography. Professional photographers have expensive cameras and lenses that enable them to capture these macro shots in great detail, but did you know that your compact digital camera is also capable of macro shots? You’ve probably already noticed it, but let me formally introduce you to the flower icon on the back of your camera – it looks like this:flower icon Pressing this flower icon button and activating the macro mode will enable you to focus closer to your subject and capture details in your images that were previously too small or out of focus. For comparison, most compact digital cameras set in macro mode will focus approximately 1 to 1.5 feet away from the subject versus normal mode that focuses about 3 feet away. Just because macro mode is represented by a flower doesn’t mean that flowers are the only allowable subject.  Get creative with a few of the following macro photo ideas:

  • Flowers and insects
  • The human eye
  • Baby’s fingers and toes
  • Textural detail in fabric, stone or wood
  • Coins and collectables
  • Documenting serial numbers on electronic items
  • Greater detail in your online auction images

The list is endless! Let’s get started - here are the steps and a few tips for taking better macro shots with your digital camera:

  1. Turn on the macro mode by pressing the flower icon (make sure the icon appears in your LCD viewfinder).
  2. Compose your shot and press your shutter button halfway down to lock in the exposure and focus.
  3. Experiment with the angle and distance to your subject until the focus looks sharp in your LCD viewfinder.
  4. Experiment with your camera’s zoom feature until you are happy with the perspective.
  5. Now depress your shutter button all the way down to record the shot.

Potential problems and solutions

Problem: Over-exposed images

Solution: Turn off your flash by cycling through the flash options and selecting “flash off” - the icon looks like this: 

no flash icon 

Problem: Under-exposed images

Solution: Move to another location or increase the strength of your light source.

Problem: Blurry images - Getting close-up magnifies more than your subject, it also increases the potential of image blur because your subject or your camera moves slightly.

Solution: To decrease the blur in your photos, stabilize your camera on a table or use a mini-tripod. To further ensure that your camera doesn’t move, use your camera’s self-timer feature and set it to 2 seconds.

Tips and tricks

  • Use a magnifying glass in front of your lens to get even closer to your subject. The results can be really unusual.
  • Capture water droplets on your flower images by spraying water on the petals right before the shot.
  • Diffuse harsh light by using tissue paper or a transparent, white plastic grocery bag between your light source and your subject.
  • Reflect light into your scene with tin foil or a car dashboard reflector.

The best camera to have is the one you have with you - now compact digital cameras are so small that they’re easy to carry along. I bring my little digital camera with me everywhere. If you see me in a restaurant, I’ll be the woman photographing not only my friends but also the table utensils, salt shaker and candle.

Macro photography opens up a whole new world of photo opportunities, and anything is possible! Look around and begin to explore. Once you see the detail in everyday objects, you’ll be hooked.

 

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