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Making the little things big - macro photography

Why travel around to photograph fjords, mountains and large animals, when a unique world is right around us at all times, and we can capture it with a little knowledge of macro photography. This part of the world is also so infinitely beautiful, and has a color spectrum that is amazing.

By: Henning Harsem

Macro photography opens up a whole new world. The possibilities in the little things are endless. Macro photography is really about making the little things big. Small things like flowers, insects, amphibians and details of something bigger. Showing this part of the world in an enlarged version often gets a lot of attention, because this is something we rarely see. Presenting an insect as a wall picture in the size of a meter will make most people stop and become curious. And then we as photographers have achieved something we want - attention to our images.

The macro lens has a very short close range. It is about the distance from what you are shooting to the sensor in the camera. The purpose is to get so close that we can also enlarge what we photograph. That's when you can make these amazing pictures of "monster insects" that you have probably seen. A macro lens usually comes with a focal length from 50 to 100 mm, but is also available in more extreme versions.

In macro photography, we wants to achieve a magnifying effect. To understand this, you have to look a little more at how to state this. A 1: 1 ratio means that the subject being photographed will be as large on the sensor in your camera as it is in real life. Based on a full-frame sensor of 24x36 mm, a wasp will be very large if it is placed directly on to the sensor. A 1: 1 ratio therefore gives a perceived strong magnification to other lenses that will only be able to focus at a longer distance, so that the subject becomes much smaller on the sensor. For those of you who want to take this all out, there are lenses that magnify many times, and then you can imagine the details of the wasp that comes with it.

Camera selection

Any camera with loose lenses can be used for macro photography. It is nevertheless the case that modern cameras with rear screens offer some clear advantages in use. There are also some other modern solutions that offer some benefits, but which are by no means a prerequisite. More on that later.

Macro lens alternatives

Now it is not the case that you need a macro lens, because there are several solutions. Intermediate rings and near filters can be alternatives, but so far I believe from my experience that intermediate rings can work well, but that near filters do not become full-fledged replacements for a good lens. Intermediate rings are an extension of the attachment of the lens to the camera, halving the near limit each time it doubles the focal length of the lens being attached. They are relatively inexpensive, and can be easily purchased for any camera on ebay or at your nearest photo shop. The near filter is often screwed on in front of the lens, and in my experience has such a large distortion and reduced sharpness that I would not recommend this. Then photography will not be fun - we want good results.

Depth of field

Macro lenses provide very short depth of field. Sometimes well below a millimeter. Then you absolutely have to use the possibilities of using high aperture numbers. The alternative to this is to stack images. That is, to photograph the same image many times with different focus points, and then put them together afterwards. This is a very common method, but you depend on the subjects standing still and the camera standing still on a tripod. It becomes more difficult when photographing insects etc. that just as easily move or fly away. Then you want to have such great depth that the final result is taken with an exposure. In those cases, you will need artificial light.


If you use a high aperture, you naturally lose a lot of light, and can benefit from extra light such as a flash or reflector. A normal top-mounted flash normally hits too high with its light cone when you have the subject directly in front of the lens, so here you need either a loose flash or a reflector on top of the flash so that the light comes down on the subject. Good alternatives for solving this are a top-mounted reflector, or a softbox that is mounted directly on the flash.


Autofocus can be used for macro photography, but will basically only work well if you select follow and point focus. That way, you ensure that the focus remains where you want it to be. You want to decide for yourself where the focus should be, and that it should be right there even if you do not keep the camera completely still. The alternative is to use manual focus, but if you hold it at the same time, the short focus area will be challenging. For those cases where you have such a short and demanding focus area, the alternative is to deliberately move the camera back and forth over the right focus. You will then be able to take the picture when the focus is sharp. A conscious movement will be easier to calculate than the tremor that occurs when you try to stay calm. A stand will in these cases be invaluable. When using a tripod, the distance to the subject will also be stable, and you will be able to use the camera's focus magnification. This means that you get to enlarge the area you are focusing on, to ensure that you focus completely sharply. This is very useful in macro photography.

Camera setup

Of course, it is possible to use all the program selections on the camera for macro photography, but it is still the case that some settings provide a better starting point for success than others. Therefore, I would recommend that you try to set the camera to manual setup with the following settings. Shutter speed 1/200, aperture f / 5.6 - f / 11, Iso 100-200.

Such a setting depends on a lot of light, and the use of a flash is usually necessary if you are not shooting in full sunlight. For flash, I would also recommend manual setup, as it is this that will now largely determine the exposure. You may want to vary with the aperture, but a normally strong flash should be set to manual, and 1/8 - 1/32. Here you should take some test shots to ensure the correct exposure.

It's just a matter of trying. With a few last tips along the way, you are ready to embark on a new macro world.

Some tips on macro photography

  1. Use manual camera setup.

  2. See layout suggestions above.

  3. Use a tripod - it gives you better control at a distance and ensures that you get the right focus.

  4. Use a flash or reflector - you will need a lot of light, and flash is very useful.

  5. Spray bottle with water - this will create beautiful pearls that give extra effect.

  6. Paper in color - create your own background with paper in different colors.

Good luck!

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