Sunday, January 31, 2010

Some Thoughts on Macro Photography

I'm quickly learning that macro photography is not easy, but that it can also be a lot of fun too! Have you ever been in a situation where you just wanted to get a little bit closer to your subject? If so, you may want to consider getting a macro lens for your camera, or seeing if your compact camera has a macro mode. Thankfully many compact cameras today do have macro abilities, and they can take excellent shots. I've found it easier to take good macro shots with my DSLR, but that does not mean you cannot get good results with a compact camera.

A tiny 7MP CCD sensor from Kodak point and shoot camera
One of the most important things to remember when taking macro photos is depth of field. In the photo above I manually focused on the sensor unit itself, and I left the aperture of the lens wide open (which is F5 at 1:1 on the Nikon 85mm VR Micro), and you can see that the area in focus is very narrow. The Nikon 85mm Micro Samples photos that I showed from the 85mm VR Micro last week were all taken stopped down a fair bit, some stopped down to F16 or as much as F45!

After you start taking a few macro photos you start to realize a few things, first that you need a lot of light to take good images with anything short of the narrowest depth of field. If you are taking macro photos indoors a flash is a must, from what I've seen so far. I wouldn't recommend long exposures without flash, as even the tiniest amount of movement at 1:1 will cause blurring. I would also recommend using a tripod for any serious macro photography.

Using image stabilization or vibration reduction can be helpful, but once you focus as close as 1:1 (Life Size) then VR/IS is not as useful, the shutter speed  you shoot at will have an impact on that. I find that VR is useful when shooting at around 1/60s at ISO200 with a flash, but honestly the results are not that much different than without VR turned on. If you do not have a tripod available then you may want to try with and without VR/IS and see what works best for you.