Macro photography - introduction

So... do you want to start macro photography. I will share with you some of my experience. This is an introductory post and in time I will get deeper and deeper.

Macro photography means to shoot insects, part of flowers or very tiny objects from a very short distance. The results are fantastic, you get to see details unseen with your bare eyes.

Before you start doing that you better read something about DOF (depth of field), magnification ratio, diffraction. Simply put, the more magnification ratio you have, the thinner DOF is. To increase DOF you step down at F11 with APSC crop sensor or even at F16 with a full frame 35mm sensor. In this image of a black ant you can see that only the head is in focus, the rest in blurred.

Why not increase the F number more? Well, actually you can, but diffraction will come in place and you will loose details. But then comes in place a new concept... if you have a good diffusion of light you can actually increase the F number. I constantly use F18 with an APSC (1.5) crop sensor (Nikon D5100). Here i increased the F number very much, at F22, because the magnification ratio was about 2.6:1. I have photographs with even higher F number but they are not usable, the effects of diffraction are visible.

If you want to see for yourself the effects of a good diffusion take some transparent material (let's say a bubble wrap), place it between the sun and the flower at various distances and you will observe that the closer the bubble wrap is, the better diffusion of light you get, hence better details.

Sometimes stepping down so much implies the need of extra light. The professional solutions instruct you to use two (or more) small flashes mounted in front of your lens. I don't have earned so much money from photography so I found two inexpensive Chinese flashes with manual control, two wireless triggers and I mounted them on a metallic hood. It's a little bit of DIY solution, but the results are exactly the same as using the expensive professional solution. This image was taken during the night, so the importance of flashes is vital in macro photography, allowing you to shoot insects in any condition. I will give you hints when the critters stand still because generally, when the sun is up they are very active and hard to shoot in a photograph.

In the next post I will tell you about the alternatives of a macro lens such as extension tubes, close-up lens and reverse mounted lens. If you have questions I am more than happy to try answering you.

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September 29, 2012


Very nice subject and explanation.I own a macro 2.8 lens and a ringflash but never took such stunning images as you did. ! I am looking forward to your next blog !

September 29, 2012


Very beautiful pictures and shooting skills. The ant is very active, you are how to set the ants fixed during filming, stay in your photos. Whether you can share detailed filming?

September 27, 2012


Great images . It's always nice to learn an alternative to buying more expensive equipment.

September 27, 2012


Thanks for sharing this, great blog, great images.

September 27, 2012


thank you for the information~! I am also shooting with the nikon 5100... but seem to have a lot of trouble with NOISE. do you have this issue with this camera too?

September 27, 2012


Hi, I like your blog about macro photography. You have nice images also. I like take some macro shot as you. Could I ask you, how did you take a macro shot with ant on the photo above ? Ants are very lively .. :)

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Photo credits: Bogdanzagan.