Tue, Mar 20, 2018 12:56 AM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue

Get close up with macro photography

01/11/2008 - The term "macro photography" confuses many people. It conjures images of large, grandiose photos. In reality, macro shots are close-ups of small objects. They're ideal for photographing flowers, insects or collectibles.

You see the object's details that are not possible cropping and enlarging portions of your pictures. Many point-and-shoot cameras tout macro abilities. Try the camera's setting but they don't provide true macro reproduction. For better results, use a digital SLR.

There are many ways to achieve macro photographs. A special macro lens is your best bet. These lenses have a 1:1 magnification ratio. That means the object is the same size on the sensor as in real life.

In rare cases, you'll see a lens with a magnification ratio like 2:1. The item is twice as large on the sensor as in real life.

But magnification ratios like 1:3 are more common. The item is three times larger in real life than on the sensor. Purists don't consider these true macro lenses.

Macro lenses

Macro lenses come in varying focal lengths. Shorter lenses are ideal for stationary objects. Longer lenses put more distance between you and your subject. They're more suitable for insects and wildlife that may be easily frightened.

When buying a macro lens, look at the minimum focusing distance. This will help you judge whether it meets your needs.

Other tools for macro shots

Extension tubes also work well for macro shots. These place greater distance between the lens and the sensor. Several tubes can be used simultaneously.

However, you may lose auto controls and have difficulty with light metering. Extension tubes also require longer exposures.

Less common are bellows. They work much like adjustable extension tubes. But they're more cumbersome to use and are more expensive.

You'll also find reversing rings and macro couplers. These are more complicated tools for achieving macro shots.

Finally, you'll find diopter filters. These are essentially magnifying glasses that attach to the front of a lens. The higher the diopter rating, the greater the magnification. They are appealing due to their low price. You can use several at once.

Taking macro shots

When taking macro shots, avoid autofocus. Because you are close to your subject, only portions of it will be in sharp focus. Manual focus gives you greater control over what appears in focus.

For greater depth of field, use a longer exposure time and smaller aperture. This may not be possible with moving objects.

With longer exposure times, the images are more susceptible to blurring. That's due to handshake. Optical image stabilization can counteract this. That may not be available in many macro lenses. If not, use a tripod. Even at fast shutter speeds, blurring from handshake is more apparent.

Lighting also presents problems with macro shots. With the lens (and photographer) closer to the subject, you'll introduce shadows. Ambient light works best. Use a white card to bounce light onto the subject.

You may be tempted to use a flash. That can bleach out your subject. So, if you use a flash, use a diffuser to soften the light. You can also buy macro flash units. These soften the glare caused by standard flash units.

Macro photography presents its own set of challenges. However, when you want to get up close and personal with small objects, there's no better way.

Copyright 2008, WestStar TalkRadio Network. All rights reserved. Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. To get the podcast or find the station nearest you, visit: To subscribe to Kim's free e-mail newsletters, sign-up at

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