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Old 7th of January 2010 (Thu)   #1
Macro Photo-Lord of the Year 2006
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Default Macrophotography by LordV


Hopefully this will be a series of articles on macro that will be of use to both beginner and experienced macro shooter. I will only be covering shooting macro with a DSLR setup and will add sections regularly Rather than clog this with replies and suggestions I will set up a separate comments/suggestions thread here

1. Equipment

1.1 Lenses

Macro lenses

The best all round lens for macro is a prime lens around 100mm focal length. I have yet to come across a bad macro lens made by a major manufacturer so canon 100mm, Tamron 90mm, Sigma 105mm, canon 60mm EF-S to name a few are all optically excellent. Longer focal length macro lenses not only cost a lot, they are harder to handle hand held, more difficult to get higher magnifications with and are in general slightly less sharp than their smaller cousins. I'd only recommend getting one if you really do have very nervous or dangerous subjects or you really do want the lovely background bokeh they can give.

Alternative (cheaper) macro lens setups

An alternative is to start off with a set of extension tubes (eg Kenko) and use them with a prime lens around 40mm to 85mm.Only major disadvantage is the loss of infinity focus.
An even cheaper alternative is to use lens reversing techniques.
You can reverse either a kit lens or say a 50mm lens directly onto the body using a reverse body coupler. This can give suprisingly good results but suffers from the problem of losing aperture control. You need to preset the aperture of an autofocus lens whilst the lens is mounted normally, set the aperture in Av mode, press the DOF preview button and remove the lens whilst keeping the DOF preview button depressed. This leaves the aperture set on the lens until the next time it is mounted normally but does result in a dimmer viewfinder. You can get round this problem by using a reversed older manual lens which has an aperture control ring.
Another reversing technique is to reverse lens onto the front of another lens. For this you need a male/male lens reversing coupler that has filter threads fitting both lenses. This has one advantage over the previous reversing method in that you retain aperture control of the main lens. This is normally done with a smaller focal length lens reversed onto a longer lens.

Achieving higher than 1:1 magnification

With a 1:1 macro lens of 150mm focal length or less you can get to 2:1 magnification or higher using a full set of extension tubes (68mm)
Another method is to reverse a smaller lens onto the front of the macro lens using a reverse male/male lens coupler. With a 50mm lens on the front of a 100mm macro lens you will get 3:1 magnification. Lens reversing like this is similar to adding diopter filters to the front of the lens although a 50mm lens is equivalent to a +20 diopter filter.
A body reversed 18-55mm kit lens will give a zoom macro lens going upto around 3:1 magnification.
The ultimate high magnification lens is the canon MPE-65 which goes from 1:1 to 5:1 magnification without additions.
You can go higher than 5:1 using bellows arrangements or even microscope objectives on a suitable tube and fixing. I'm currently playing with a 10X microscope objective mounted on a lens cap fixed to the end of 75mm of extension tubes.

1.2 Lighting

Natural light

Natural light is fine for macro shooting upto 1:1 magnification but past this becomes increasingly difficult. I tend to use natural light where I can for flowers and often larger bugs such as butterflies and dragonflies. I prefer shooting natural light on slightly cloudy days as this avoids the high contrast and ugly specular highlights you can get with full bright sun. Typical camera settings I would use for handheld work would be ISO200-1600, 1/200th, with the aperture around F6.3 to F11 adjusted using the ISO with the camera in TV mode. I normally dial in some negative Exposure compensation (around -.3 or -.6) to avoid blown highlights but this does vary with camera body. Obviously if you have a static subject and some form of stabilisation (eg tripod or bean bag) you can drop the shutter speed.


Flash has a number of advantages for macro work , you can always get enough light with small the aperture values that are often used to get reasonable DOFand it helps provide very high effective shutter speeds (the flash duration) which helps stop motion blur (either you or the subject). It becomes a necessity for most shooting above 1:1 simply because there is not normally enough light.
I use standard flashguns (430Ex) mounted on a bracket with a diffuser. You can obviously use macro flashes but I would avoid single flash tube ones and ones where you cannot move the flash heads which only really leaves the rather expensive MT-24Ex. Single tube macro flashes tend to give very flat looking shots and dual tube macroflashes are just rather hard to diffuse adequately.
Typical camera settings for full flash shots upto 1:1 magnification - camera in M mode, F11,1/200th, ISO 100/200. Above 1:1 you may need to start opening up the aperture more if you want to avoid diffraction softening, I tend end up around F5.6 at 5:1.
Flash in ETTL mode but the FEC (Flash Exposure Compensation) will need to be adjusted depending on the shot brightness. I have to adjust mine down to -.66 for dark backgrounds or no close background and upto + 1.66 for a white background from a normal setting of 0 FEC (note the normal setting for good exposure of a grey card may not be 0 FEC on some setups).
There are some situations where you may want to shoot mainly natural light but add some flash to light the subject a bit more- this often occurs if the subject is significantly backlit. Typical camera settings as for natural light shooting but with EC probably at -.66 and FEC set on the flash around - .66 to -1

Flash Brackets and Diffusers

I either use a DIY modded vidcam bracket which has a ballhead fitted on the top or a Manfotto 330B flash braclet with one arm removed and a Jessops medium ballhead fitted to it. The DIY bracket is similar to a Hakuba LH-1 ballhead bracket (EBAY) but again might need the supplied ballhead replaced with a larger cheap generic 1/4" male fitting ballhead. Obviously you also need a canon fit off-camera flash cord to use these brackets. I use coke-can diffusers on the front see but a similar diffuser like a lumiquest mini softbox would be fine.

5Dmk2 with modded vidcam bracket setup

40D with manfrotto 330B bracket setup

1.3 Supporting/stabilising the camera

I'm not saying anything about tripods or monopods as I do not use them.
I sometimes use a beanpole which I grip in my left hand along with a bit of camera.
I often rest the camera lens on something when I'm shooting such as a solid surface, or bits of me. One trick is to actually hold part of the plant or whatever near the subject and rest the camera lens on you hand or arm. Some people use beanbags especially for natural light shots of bugs.

1.4 Camera Body

The DSLR camera body used in macro is largely irrelevant as you tend to only use the simplest of functions on it. Most macro shooters shoot with manual focus by moving the camera to focus. The only debate you sometimes get is 1.6 crop vs full frame where 1.6 crop cameras obviously have an advantage of higher "print magnification". I can only say that I've found using an MPE-65 lens on a full frame 5D mk2 a delight and well worth the loss of print magnification (this can easily be regained by cropping).

2. Magnification.

The magnification maximum of most macro lenses is 1X or 1:1, this simply means that 1cm of subject produces 1cm of image on the sensor. The magnification is a property of the lens not the camera body/sensor size. Smaller sensor cameras produce higher "print magtnifications" simply because the image is enlarged more to produce a standard size print.

2.1 Measuring the lens magnification

The easiest way of finding out the lens magnification of a setup is to measure it. This can easily be done by photographing the mm scale of a ruler.
Then Lens magnification = sensor width (mm)/mm across pic

2.2 Calculating the lens magnification

The Maximum magnification of a lens reversed onto the front of another non macro lens is given by the formula
Magnification = focal length main lens(mm)/ focal length reversed lens
So a 50mm lens reversed on to 100mm lens will give 100/50 = 2:1
For a macro lens you simply add the intrinsic magnification of the lens
so for a 1:1 100mm macro lens with a reversed 50mm the magnification is 1+ 100/50 = 3:1

Magnification with extension tubes
For a non macro lens with extenson tubes the magnification is given by the formula
magnification = length of ext tubes (mm)/focal length of lens (mm).
So for a 50mm lens with a set of extension tubes totalling 68mm the max magnification = 68/50 = 1.36:1

For a macro lens again you simply add in the existing magnification, so for a 100mm macro lens with 68mm of extension tubes the max magnification should be 1+ 68/100 = 1.68 :1
However this is not what actually you get because at minimum focus the focal length of a macro lens shortens considerably from that at infinity. The focal length of a macro lens at minimum focus is given by the minimum focus distance/4 which for a 100mm macro lens works out to be around 75mm so the magnification you actually get is 1+ 68/75 = 1.9:1
In practice even this is a slight underestimate so I recommend you actually measure it with the ruler method.

Magnification of lenses reversed onto the camera body.
I have not come across a simple formula for working this out but from observation a reversed 50mm lens gives around 1:1 magnification and a reversed 28mm lens gives around 3:1 magnification.
Macro Hints and tips
Canon 20D, Canon 40D, Canon 5D mk2, Sigma 105mm EX macro, Tamron 90mm macro, Canon MPE-65,18-55 kit lens X2, canon 200mm F2.8 L, Tamron 28-70mm xrdi, Other assorted bits

Last edited by LordV : 7th of January 2010 (Thu) at 02:35.
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Old 13th of January 2010 (Wed)   #2
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Default Macrophotgraphy Subjects and methods 1

3. Subjects and methods.

3.1 Focusing

I tend to use the same focus method no matter what I'm shooting. I set the magnification I want with the focus ring with the lens set to MF and then focus on the subject by moving the camera towards the subject. If I'm hand holding or using a pole then once I'm near focus I gently move the camera back and forth by swaying slightly and take the shot as I pass through the focus point I want. If I'm resting the camera lens on something then I gently move it forward until I get the focus point I want. It does take a bit of practice doing this but you will get more keepers this way once you have mastered it.
With most bug shots they work better if the eyes are in good focus unless you are specifically trying to focus on another detail.

3.2 Bugs

I normally just hunt bugs and this forms part of the pleasure of macro shooting for me . Rather than shooting bugs I find straightaway, I often watch them to see what they are up to. This is often interesting in itself but does often result in better shooting opportunities when you have some understanding of their likely behaviour. The one "rule" I try to observe when shooting bugs is that no harm comes to them because of my activities.
With most bug shots they work better if the eyes are in good focus unless you are specifically trying to focus on another detail.
One of the subjects that often comes up is...
How to get close to bugs without scaring them

1. Make sure you are not blocking the sunlight on them
2. Keep low (if possible at the same level or lower than the bug)
3. Approach slowly taking pics as you go ( at least you end up with something if they do fly off)
4. Luck and time - I often find if the bug is occupied doing something - cleaning, feeding, mating, blowing bubbles they take almost no notice of you, but if they are just sunbathing they can be a bit jittery.
5. The smaller the bug often the less notice they take of you.
6. If you do scare them off just wait a while- they will often come back.
7. Stand/sit near a popular plant or flower and wait for them to come to you- they seem to regard you as part of the scenery if you are there when they arrive.
8. Although it's harder to take pics of them, they are less jittery if it's slightly windy- many times I've actually managed to hold the leaf the bug was on to stabilise it when it's been windy and get closer shots than are normally possible.
9. Shoot early in the morning whilst the bugs are still cold- they have a hard time flying then.
10 The method of focus I use prevents another no-no that is putting your hand on the lens to focus when near a bug - guaranteed to scare them off.

One problem with trying to not block the sun on them is that when using full flash the sun can still be a significant source of light and you can end up with ugly highlights. Sometimes you can't do anything about this especially with larger rather skittery subjects such as dragonflies or damselflies. One thing I sometimes do with smaller bugs is to test how sensitive they are by temporarily shading them with my body or the camera. If they are busy doing something such as feeding they often will take no notice of this and you can move in with the camera and purposely block the sunlight.

One common trick if bugs are just not being cooperative is to bait them with something. This helps attract them and also keeps them busy in one place. Honey is good for many bugs but I also use a sugar/honey spray on leaves as a general attractant.
Example shots
ants feeding on sugar syrup

Dronefly feeding on sugar/honey spray

The only bug trapping I normally do is just bugs I find in the house. I trap them using a glass tumbler and a sheet of card and then often put a spot of honey on the card to see if they will feed on it. I then just put the card on a small block (often a hoya filter box) on a surface with something behind it for background and shoot the bug whilst feeding with the camera lens resting on the surface and the tumbler raised out of the way.
I've only a few times resorted to trapping outside where I really couldn't get a shot of the bug I was after.
Example shots

Dolichopid fly

Drone fly

Camera Settings

I most frequently use full flash when shooting bugs no matter what the ambient light is like. Typical settings- camera in manual, ISO100,1/200th,F11- F5.0 depending on the magnification and flash in ETTL with appropriate FEC setting.
If there is nice light cloud I do sometimes shoot natural light normally with the camera in Tv mode 1/200th with ISO adjusted to give reasonable aperture (F6.3 or smaller) - by smaller or larger I always refer to the physical aperture size rather than the F-number which is of course the reverse.
With larger bugs such as damselflies, butterflies or dragonflies, I'm often forced to shoot natural light in strong sun but will sometimes use fill flash to help lighten strong shadows. Camera settings as for natural light but with EC on the camera at -.6 and FEC at -.6 or -1. flash in ettl mode

Soldier fly full flash

Soldier fly Natural light (cloudy)

Soldier fly Natural light (cloudy)

Soldier fly Natural light (bright sun)

Composition and shooting angles

Composition and shooting angles when shooting bugs or any other subject is really up to the shooter and often depends on why they are taking the shot. For example taking Identification shots of a bug is a rather different proposition to trying to take an arty shot of a bug. I'll therefore restrict this to some general hopefully useful comments.
I try to compose the framing of a bug shot such that the bug has more room in the frame in the direction it is looking. This takes the subject off center and tends to give a more pleasing composition. If you are taking a head on shot then a central composition can work fine but off-center also works. This also works with flowers if you imagine the flower has a face.
Take note of the background when shooting - close background will obviously show in the shot and can give unpleasant background clutter but can also give pleasing OOF background colour. As I often use the hold twig/leaf the bug is on and rest the camera lens on the hand technique, I often move the leaf to either get a better shooting angle and/or to change the background. I actually prefer some background colour/light so use this technique to get some close background colour.
I find low angle shots of bugs (ie slightly side on) more pleasing than top down shots.
Depth of field (DOF) can be a problem with bug shots depending on what you are trying to do. To try and get most of a bug in focus you can use the idea of magic angles. eg if you start off head on to a bug and then move at an angle of 30 to 45' sideways and the same amount upwards you will find you can get most of at least a cylindrical bug in focus.
Macro Hints and tips
Canon 20D, Canon 40D, Canon 5D mk2, Sigma 105mm EX macro, Tamron 90mm macro, Canon MPE-65,18-55 kit lens X2, canon 200mm F2.8 L, Tamron 28-70mm xrdi, Other assorted bits
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Old 13th of January 2010 (Wed)   #3
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Default Macrophotgraphy Subjects and methods 2

3.3 Flowers

I find shooting flowers at low magnification much harder than bug shooting. I suspect this is really to do with flowers being a much more common sight than bugs and therefore it makes it a lot harder to make an interesting shot. The ones I have seen that I like are all to do with mood, light and use of DOF which I don't have the patience or knowledge to setup, but I do sometimes take advantage of naturally lit scenes that catch my attention.
The only flower shots I do that I actually really like are either high magnification shots of bits of flowers or dewdrop refractions. I normally do high power shots with a very simple setup of a picked flower sitting on a curved sheet of background (normally taped to a wine cooler sitting on the table). Camera settings as for high magnification bug shots. ie camera in manual, 1/200th, ISO100/200, F11- F6.3 depending on the magnification. Typical setup for a fuchsia flower shot with a piece of butyl rubber as a background. I simply move the flower around and often remove some petals so I can get a shooting angle/composition I like.


I use extensive focus stacks for this type of shot and take the shot slices simply by sliding the camera on a table mat using my standard flash setup.

3.4 Water drops

One of my favourite subjects is water drops, not the wonderful splash shots you see but drops stuck on things. Most of the time these are natural raindrops or dewdrops but I do sometimes use water sprays or even glucose or glycerol to make droplets.

Dewdrop flower refractions.

Tutorial here on how I do these

Shot of a typical setup for a dewdrop refraction except my hand would be on the ground with the lens resting on it.


I also like taking photos of raindrops stuck on all sorts of things. These are normally taken in situ and often involve focus stacking to get the DOF I want. Just a case of looking around after rain and seeing what looks interesting and playing with shooting angles and magnification. I normally use flash for the shots.

Some typical shots -

The last shot has been "pharted" in PS- I'll explain that later
Macro Hints and tips
Canon 20D, Canon 40D, Canon 5D mk2, Sigma 105mm EX macro, Tamron 90mm macro, Canon MPE-65,18-55 kit lens X2, canon 200mm F2.8 L, Tamron 28-70mm xrdi, Other assorted bits
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Old 13th of January 2010 (Wed)   #4
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Default Macrophotgraphy Subjects and methods 3

3.5 Other Subjects

As I'm not a professional photographer I have the privilege of just taking shots of what I find interesting. I normally find enough potential subjects in my garden to keep me happy. The range of potential subjects for macro is huge and I would urge you to at least try shots of just about anything - foods, sweets, hardware, kitchen implements, fizzy drinks, bubbles,models and drop splashes to name a few. Find out what interests you most and try to get shots you like of it. The main point is to learn to see possibilities.

Some examples

Soap bubbles lit using LED lights

Soap bubble interference colours

Rust fungus gall

Macro Hints and tips
Canon 20D, Canon 40D, Canon 5D mk2, Sigma 105mm EX macro, Tamron 90mm macro, Canon MPE-65,18-55 kit lens X2, canon 200mm F2.8 L, Tamron 28-70mm xrdi, Other assorted bits
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Old 18th of January 2010 (Mon)   #5
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Default 4. Processing

4. Processing

There is no correct workflow for photo processing, just what you do to get the result you like.

My workflow

I always shoot RAW primarily because I do not always get the exposure correct and this gives me some latitude plus I do not like the overly warm colour canon flash seems to give and normally adjust flash shots down to 5600'C. I shoot with AWB on the camera and this does not generally cause problems apart from when using odd light sources such as LEDs or halogens lamps where you may again need to adjust the colour temperature.
I transfer the files from the camera using a card reader into date folders - as I found out to my cost use copy when transferring files rather than move and then delete the files off the memory card when you have checked they have copied correctly.

RAW Processing

I use canon's DPP for the RAW processing this picks up the cameras picture style (which can be changed) but mine is set to standard. I do not use noise reduction in DPP but have sharpening set to 3. Firstly I normally change the colour temp of all flash shots as detailed above as a block and then singly or as a shot group look at the exposure under the RAW tab and adjust this if too bright or too dark. When doing this I've only recently found that it is necessary to look at the RGB tab (assuming you are doing jpg output) to check the colour channels for overexposure. It normally works out that you are ok if the RAW histogram stops one line short of the RHS. If you are showing the colour blowing in RGB histogram (ie bunched on the RHS) then you can either try reducing the exposure under the RAW tab and/or the saturation under the RGB tab and /or change the picture style under the RAW tab to natural. If you have a rather high contrast shot which lacks dark area detail it's worth trying the curves correction under the RGB tab. Once I have all the photos corrected I do the RAW conversion as a block into a subfolder of the date folder.

JPG Processing

I use photoshop for processing with some additional filters. If I'm focus stacking then I do the stacks straight after RAW processing.
I routinely use Noiseware pro to denoise at it's lowest setting - this takes care of all but extreme high ISO noise. I now find that I rarely have to do any levels correction in PS. I would then do any minor cropping (if necessary) sharpen using USM set at 200,1,1 but faded normally to around 50% (but adjust to taste) and save that shot as my master jpg at quality 12. I reduce the size of the shot for web posting to 9cm short side at 180 DPI, resharpen this with USM at 200,1,1 but faded to around 30% and save this at quality 10. This gives a file about 960 pixels longest side and between 100Kb to 200Kb size
Macro Hints and tips
Canon 20D, Canon 40D, Canon 5D mk2, Sigma 105mm EX macro, Tamron 90mm macro, Canon MPE-65,18-55 kit lens X2, canon 200mm F2.8 L, Tamron 28-70mm xrdi, Other assorted bits
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Old 22nd of January 2010 (Fri)   #6
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Default Other macro techniques 1

5. Other macrophotography techniques

5.1 Focus stacking

Focus stacking is not a necessity for macrophotography but it suits my preferred style of trying to capture sharp detail in shots. I use fairly open apertures to avoid diffraction softening of the image and focus stacking allows me to get the DOF back I'm losing or more.
There is a tutorial here on focus stacking using one of the freeware combine software stackers

I do however now use the commercial programme zerene stacker as it has many advantages over the combine series. It keeps low contrast detail, is better at reducing haloing and also better at aligning as it does do rotational correction as well.

There are many problems associated with focus stacking.

#1 You need to be pretty good at focusing to get the overlapping DOF slices needed for a good stack. It does however sharpen up your focusing and can be good practice for focus bracketing a shot.

#2 Some focus stacks can look very unnatural due to the abnormal DOF which can flatten the image and also give rather odd DOF boundaries on the background. This is largely a matter of personal interpretation of a 2-D picture and what we normally use for depth cues. Problems like this can often be avoided by using incomplete stacks and careful choice of shooting angles to avoid sharp DOF boundaries. I often also cheat by doing what I call differential focus stacking by hand where I only focus stack the parts of the image I want more DOF in, often not stacking the background.

#3 Obviously some subjects are almost impossible to focus stack if they are moving although you might be suprised what you can stack if you get used to shooting quickly.

So why bother ? - well I just prefer the results you can get when it does work.

Comparison single shot vs a focus stack

5.2 Panorama shots.

One problem you can get with an MPE-65 lens out in the field is to come across an unexpectedly large subject which just does not fit the FOV at 1:1. One way round this if you have a stationary subject is to take multiple shots with overlaps trying to keep in mind the overall format of the shot just by moving the camera side ways or up or both between shots. Commercial panorama software such as autopano pro seems to handle these pretty well. The other reason for trying this is it enables you to get some extremely high resolution shots (ie high pixel count). I have ended up doing panorama shots of focus stacked single shots sometimes but the shot count can get slightly out of hand doing this.

Some examples

Macro Hints and tips
Canon 20D, Canon 40D, Canon 5D mk2, Sigma 105mm EX macro, Tamron 90mm macro, Canon MPE-65,18-55 kit lens X2, canon 200mm F2.8 L, Tamron 28-70mm xrdi, Other assorted bits
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Old 22nd of January 2010 (Fri)   #7
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Default Other macro techniques 2

5.3 3-D shot pairs

I enjoy doing 3-D shot pairs when I can. These are simply taken by moving the camera sideways between shots approximately 1/30th of the subject distance - this equates to movements of about 5mm to several cms for macro depending on the magnification or larger movement for non macro shots. Focus stacking the single shots can help here as it gives more 3-D depth but you do need patient subjects. I use stereophotomaker (freeware) to align the shot pairs horizontally and to set the stereo window. You then swap the images over for cross-eye viewing and put a border around them which makes viewing easier.

Some cross-eye stereogram examples below.

5.4 GIF animations

Sometimes when i do a shot sequence it can be fun and useful to string them together as an animated GIF.
The method I use is detailed here


Macro Hints and tips
Canon 20D, Canon 40D, Canon 5D mk2, Sigma 105mm EX macro, Tamron 90mm macro, Canon MPE-65,18-55 kit lens X2, canon 200mm F2.8 L, Tamron 28-70mm xrdi, Other assorted bits
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Old 2nd of February 2010 (Tue)   #8
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Default Thoughts on macro

6. Some thoughts on macrophotography

Macrophotography probably more than other form of photography takes a lot of practice just to get a half decent shot. This is mainly due to the incredibly small DOF you get but also because any camera movement is "magnified" by the lens system. You therefore need to get comfortable and understand the various factors affecting the type of shot you are taking and practice a lot.

6.1 Lighting

Choices of natural light vs full flash . Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Natural light can give wonderful pastel colours but tends to lack detail due to the lower contrast and is more difficult to avoid camera shake problems. Full flash has a major advantage of helping stop subject or camera movement, can give better rendition of finer detail but can be much harder to work out how the final shot will look and often lacks the subtle colouring of natural light. You can combine flash and natural light by adjusting the ISO when in M mode on the camera so that the indicted underexposure in the viewfinder is around 1 stop
6.2 DOF/Aperture /Diffraction
Depth of field (DOF) is one of the major challenges of macrophotography. You can obviously manipulate it with aperture settings but then can run into diffraction softening as an issue. Depending on the type of shot you are after you can use DOF/aperture settings to your advantage. Wide apertures can give beautiful narrow DOF shots with a dreamy abstract look and lovely background blur (bokeh) especially with natural light shooting and can be used to make the subject standout against the background. Small apertures give greater DOF and a slightly softened appearance due to diffraction effects.

6.3 Style

When you first start macrophotography just getting an in focus image is a challenge and tends to take all your concentration. Once you begin to master this you start wanting to take "better" images. Better in this context is really a purely personal matter and obviously depends on what you are trying to achieve with the shot. Choices obviously include the light (angle and type), shooting angles, composition, amount of detail and DOF and magnification. Look at other people's shots in this forum and in other galleries - some good examples on Flickr are :-

These may give you some ideas but the main thing is to experiment with subjects/shooting styles and try to get shots that please you and fulfill your requirements. Linked to this is analysing/critiquing your own shots as if they are someone else's. What would you say about it if it was someone else's shot ?
Hopefully by following your own ideas you will develop your own distinctive style of shooting however it is always good to try other ways of taking the shots.

7. Other odd tips

.1 If you get a flash sensitive subject that startles when the flash goes off (eg dolichopid flies) try using the flash in manual mode rather than TTL- it's the preflash they are reacting to. Manual settings for macro tend to be in the range 1/8th to 1/32th power but obviously depend on the magnification/diffuser etc.

.2 Insects in poor shooting situations- eg out of reach or unsuitable background.
You can often as previously mentioned manipulate the plant the insect is on to get a more suitable shooting angle/background but this does tend to involve shooting one handed. Another method if you are careful is just to cut off the leaf the bug is on and move it somewhere else- it's suprising what you can get away with especially if the bug is busy feeding. Always return the leaf to where you cut it off assuming the bug is still present.

.3 High speed sync flash in most situations with shooting macro does not have any advantage over using normal flash sync speeds of around 1/200th sec. This is because at normal flash sync speeds you get a single flash and the effective shutter speed is the flash duration (normally around 1/1000th to 1/10000th sec). In high speed sync flash the flash is actually fired as a strobe sequence and can result in the total flash duration being longer than the single flash situation.

.4 With insects rather than jumping in and photographing them it often pays just to watch them for a while - see what they are up to and what their habits are. A better understaning of the behaviour will often lead to taking more interesting shots.

.5 Insects in flight. My only advice with these is not to try. I only take these when an opportunity arises which generally means I have been watching the subject for a while, know what it is doing and the insect is not bothered by my presence. If you try and follow a flying insect to get a shot you generally end up chasing them all over the place and get no decent shots. The other obvious way to do these requires a lot more patience than I have, is to setup, probably with a tripod, with the camera aimed at some likely flowers and wait for a suitable opportunity.

.6 Learn to see.
I don't normally go out shooting with a fixed idea of what I'm going to shoot. I just look around and take shots of what I find interesting. It is often quite suprising how things you take for granted look different at high magnification. For example those tiny weed flowers are often amazingly beautiful. One thing that is often said about macrophotography is it opens up a new world. It does but you need to learn to look for it !
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Old 17th of April 2010 (Sat)   #9
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Default Re: Macrophotography by LordV

This is truly excellent stuff and I really love your photos. I think you've given me a macro bug
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