Everything You Need to Know About Macro Photography By Spencer Cox 97 CommentsLast Updated On January 20, 2022«1. Introduction2. Depth of Field3. Focusing4. Composition5. Reader Comments»Table of ContentsIntroductionDepth of FieldFocusingCompositionReader Comments
Hi Spencer – just finished your first tutorial – and i found it very inspiring . Cant wait to start .
About to enter into the wonderful world of MP – what lens would you suggest for an Olumpus EM 10-111
Spencer, thank you very much for writing such a clear and concise article! This is extremely helpful and appreciated. I am looking to upgrade my D7200 with another Nikon capable of achieving better image clarity for very small subjects. Is there an easy way to calculate pixel density (e.g., sensor dimension x total pixels) or anything else (aside from lens) that I should consider with the camera body?
You’re welcome, Paul. I usually just Google “pixel pitch” for a given camera. Smaller is better if you want the maximum magnification (although it’s not important if you’re shooting macro photos around 1:2 or more moderate magnifications).
Pixel density is based on the resolution of the sensor as well as the sensor size. A full-frame camera with 45 megapixels is similar in pixel density to an APS-C camera with about 21 megapixels.
Thank you Spencer! I see the cameras with the lowest pixel pitches are point and shoots. For subjects such as moths, which can require 1:1 or somewhat more moderate magnifications, would you think that a DSLR with a macro lens (e.g. Nikon D7200 with 100mm lens) or a point and shoot with a snap-on macro lens would produce sharper images? P.s., thanks again for writing these terrific articles.
The DSLR by a long shot. Point and shoots are decent at macro photography, but they are well behind the quality you’ll get with a DSLR and a dedicated macro lens.
The D7200 and 100mm macro lens is a great combo. Just remember to get a flash and a pop-up diffuser as well (or make your own diffuser). Getting enough high-quality light is the biggest challenge of macro photography.
Thank you for being so generous with your time and guidance. Your 2020 article on macro photography lighting is terrific. Do you see any benefit of moving to a newer mirrorless from a camera like the D7200 for shooting moths in lowlight early morning/late evening hours? Seems like the magnification would not be as good, but are there other features that could offset this? For instance, is the focus shift on the 6zii/7zii hugely helpful for those interested in stacking?
Thanks for putting all these gems together in one place on the Internet. All I need to begin to my macro photography journey on a right foot.
I am a pretty fair landscape photgrapher but would like to get into intentional macro photography…by that I mean I’d like to set up situations and take the images in my home..Water droplets on flowers or captured bubbles in ice..pretty beginner stuff. I notice many photographers on you tube have special metal arms and clamps to help them set up the objects they want to photograph…where do you get these things and what are they called?
Hi Maggie, I see nobody has answered your question. I use a Wimberley Plamp and can it on amazon.
I’ve always been impressed by the influence, on balancing, of reading from left to right (would expect similar effect in cultures that read text from right to left.). A schematic in a photo class demonstrated this: a clear path starting in the foreground, diminishing in size to just above image center, then veering off to the side, continuing to get smaller. Three schematic figures (think bowling pins) were on the path, just below the point it started to curve. In the image in which the path veered to the left, we all had the impression the figures were walking toward us; veering to the right, the figures were walking away from us.
I am conscious of this when driving on a road without distracting cues. If the road curves to the left, I have the feeling of the road coming at me; when curving to the right, I feel drawn forward, to the right. Check out that feeling the next time you’re driving, especially in situations of lower light. Another way to learn about this: flip asymmetric photographic images horizontally, and experience the feeling. Sometimes, doing this, everything instantly comes together and the feeling is “yes,” or “no!” Of course, pics involving landscapes, landmarks, people, etc., should not be flipped, without compromising the photo’s and photographer’s credibility.
An excellent article! I’d just like to add a small comment which reinforces what you say: “As your distance from a light source doubles, the amount of light you receive cuts in four. When your flash (or diffuser) is extremely close to your subject, which is true in macro photography almost by definition, the distant background receives comparatively no light at all. ” Well, if you are using a flash an object at double distance gets a quarter of illumination. But since most objects scatter light diffusively, the light suffers from another factor of 4 when travelling back to the camera. So the combined effect is 16-times fainter at double distance or 81-times fainter for triple distance, i.e. it goes with the fourth power of distance, not with a square. So the background is really dark if illuminated by a flash. That’s why one can speak of a well defined range of a flash: at twice the distance the object is 4 stops darker and at triple distance 6.33 stops darker! My profession is astronomy and we know of this effect when observing bodies at the outer edge of the Solar system: just replace a flash with the Sun and a camera with a telescope and objects at twice the distance are 16-times fainter and so (unfortunately) difficult to discover unless you send a space probe to approach them (as we do in macro photography).
You are incorrect because you have confused luminous flux (unit: lumen) with illuminance (unit: lux) — the latter is relevant to photographic luminous exposure (unit: lux•second); the former is not.
What is correct depends on your intentions: if you want to make an identically looking photo of a person using a built-in flash, then double distance implies zooming-in from e.g. 100 to 200 mm, and you will see a 4 stop difference. But if you keep the same focal distance it would be the usual 2 stops, because the area (= number of pixels) covered by the person will be 4 times smaller.
The sensor area covered by the subject (person) is irrelevant to luminous exposure. Spencer’s article is correct; you are incorrect.
Zooming a lens from 100 to 200 mm makes zero stops of difference to luminous exposure, using the same f-number. That’s the whole point of using f-numbers, aka f-stops.
See “Inverse Square Law” by Wayne Fulton:
Agreed. I was not careful enough in formulations, so I did not make myself understood. There’s no point to drag on, perhaps the moderator can delete this exchange.
Very good article and very informative, thank you
Best macro video I’ve seen so far! I am 100% a visual learner so went straight for the video, I’m not techy at all so get easily lost if I can’t see what you mean. Even more example photographs for every step (including the bad photos to visualise your warnings) would be really really helpful. Many Thanks
Some bad examples would further reinforce the excellent points being made.
Good introduction to the subject but I have a couple of comments.
Firstly, macro photography requires lots of patience! It may not be for everyone. I would suggest that before paying out hundreds of £/$/€ for a dedicated macro lens, a beginner should try using close up filters or extension tubes on their existing lens. These may not get you 1:1 magnification, but you can see if macro is for you without spending a fortune. For example, you can get filters second hand on eBay for about 10 £/$/€.
Secondly, focus stacking is a lot simpler these days if you get the right camera. I understand that the Olympus OMD EM1 and EM5 for instance, will take several shots in sequence, each focussed at a slightly different distance, and combine them for you. Other manufacturers probably have similar capabilities but I don’t know the details.
Canon XXD cameras and above can do this. Maybe the Rebels too — I don’t know. I have a 90D and it easily supports focus stacking. You can sent the number of images you want, set the shutter timer for 2 seconds, mount your camera on a tripod, compose and focus on the closest part of your image, set the lens for auto focus, press the shutter, and watch and listen. Run all 20 (or more or less) photos through Image Stacking in Photoshop and you’re golden. This is fun! You need a tripod, though.
Very informative and interesting. I’ve been contemplating what’s the best camera for macro photography. Thank you.