Macro photography is the business of making photographs of little things.
Take a look at: Photomacrography.net.
And, take a look at these strobist links:
And here are some other great online macro resources:
Some people say that macro photography and closeup photography should be
distinguished and that macro photography begins at 1:1. Whatever the case,
macro photography is a specialized aspect of photography that is a lot of fun
and has become very popular. There are a number of ways to approach it.
One approach is to get a special "macro lens", mount it on your digital SLR, and go
to it. This is extremely convenient, and such lenses are often quite sharp, even
for plain old photography (and they work just fine for ordinary photogrpahy).
Since I have a Canon DSLR, I compiled a
lineup of Canon macro lenses.
Another suggestion that I am playing with is using
movie camera lenses
(which are easy to get cheaply) as macro lenses.
Extension rings and bellows
Dedicated macro lenses are by no means the only way to do macro photography.
Any lens can be used with extension tubes to allow much closer focusing,
and macro lenses on the end of some extension will focus closer yet!
A bellows is a versatile (but somewhat bulky and fragile) way to obtain
lens extension, but is really suitable only for studio work.
All kinds of rings are available. You can get really cheap but useable
rings without electrical connections. These mean you will loose electrical
control of your lens, so you must have manual aperture control, and will
need to do manual focusing. The first is a big issue unless you are using
an old manual lens (which is a great idea if you are on a budget). Having
to do manual focusing doesn't matter much anyway, most macro work is focused
by moving the camera around to get focus (at least that is how I do it).
If you are using a belows, it probably incorporates a focusing rail.
If not, you are in the market for a focusing rail.
Decently priced rings with electrical connections are available, or you
can shell out the money for the Canon EF-12 ($80) or EF-25 ($130) rings.
A number of people have done do it yourself projects on bellows:
Also (perhaps wrongly) called diopters,
these are things like filters that screw on the end of any lens and
allow closer focusing. The main advantage here is that they are small and
light and can be mounted in the field without opening up your camera and
exposing your sensor to dust.
If you are interested, I have a whole section on
Anything goes, but consider that the more optical surfaces that get involved,
the more opportunity for image degradation there is. You can combine extension
tubes, diopters, and teleconverters as you see fit. You can mount lenses
backwards, and even put one lens backwards in front of another with the
Manual focus with digital SLR cameras can be problematic in any case.
With a manual lens and a lot of extension, things can get really hard.
One answer is a live hookup to a computer that allows focus test shots
to be made and evaluated real-time on a large screen. Another answer is
to change the focusing screen in the camera (a signficant undertaking,
but worth considering if you are serious about all this).
An outfit called Katz Eye Optics
markets viewscreens with a split prism and microprism, much like the
good old days of film SLR cameras. All kinds of grids and special
patterns are available.
They have a
Screen for the Canon 20D for $98.00 - and then you have to install it.
Here are one man's instructions (8 pages) for the screen install process:
One rail is the manfrotto 454 "micrometric positioning plate".
Reviews say it is good at 1:1 and a little beyond, but becomes
too sloppy at higher magnifications. Beyond that it is frustrating.
The price is right at $85, however
built his own rail using some 8/32 threaded rod with a brass knob
and a couple of ball-bearing drawer slides from a hardware store and
said the results were far superior to the Manfrotto 454.
Velbon also has a rail for $99 that has pretty good reviews.
Novoflex makes rails in the $300 bracket, as does Kirk.
The Kirk rails require an Arca type quick release plate.
This can be a big issue.
In the field, you take what you get, or use a flash, and or use a reflector
(such as the photoflex litedisc). In the studio, we used to use a couple of
tungsten high intensity lamps along with tungsten balanced "type A" ektachrome.
These days, your digital camera will do the white balance for you, but
you can certainly use flash in the studio, most likely with some kind of
diffuser. Some people would make you believe that ring lights are essential
for macro work, but I have never used them, and some people who know what
they are talking about say that the flat lighting they generate is exactly
what you do NOT want.
What about the "macro" setting on my zoom lens?
Give it a try! You are probably going to find that it provides worthwhile
close focus ability at one end (probably the short end) of your zoom range,
but not what purists would call a true macro capability.
Depth of field
Suffice it to say this becomes a big issue when doing macro photography.
Depth of field is typically a few millimeters, or perhaps less than a millimeter.
This is why one mark of a true macro lens is tiny apertures such as f/32 which
would not be found on an ordinary lens.
One option in this bold new world of digital photography is image stacking to
gain depth of field. There are a number of software packages dedicated to
doing this. One photographer I know uses Zerene.
Drop me a line!
Tom's Digital Photography Info / email@example.com