I have a confession to make. I am an addict.
What started as a young child’s fascination, marveling at larger-than-life photos of ants blown up to monster size in the pages of Encyclopedia Britannica, transformed to full-blown addiction in the mid 70’s when I discovered how to shoot close-up with a super-eight movie camera borrowed from my high-school’s AV department. Back then, close-up photography with a still camera required special lenses and complicated manual camera settings and you’d have to be somewhat of a photo geek to pull it off. However, all that changed with the advent of the highly automated digital camera, and suffice it to say, my addiction has been fueled in recent years thanks to the ease with which such photos can now be squeezed off in rapid succession.
Today’s breed of digital camera, and even some cell-phone cameras now feature fully automated close-up or ‘macro’ modes that make it simple to do and with spectacular results that will have you enjoying your own addiction in no time! Most digital cameras support a mode of close-up shooting called “macro” mode. This is typically chosen from a menu or directly selected via a button on the camera and is almost universally indicated by a tulip symbol.
Now if you have tried selecting macro mode on your camera but found that it won’t focus, it’s probably because you’re shooting your subject from too far away. On most cameras, when macro mode is selected, you need to get your camera lens down close to your subject, usually as close as a couple inches or less from your subject. Okay, so what does this mean? For me it means a lot of crouching and laying on my belly to get ultimate shots of moss or mushrooms or other miniscule wonders of nature. You can start however by shooting flowers or other objects closer to eye level. Some cameras are totally automated and will handle everything when macro mode is selected. Some, however, are not so user friendly and will let you choose conflicting settings that give you frustratingly fuzzy results. Here are a few guidelines to help get you on your way towards being a full-blown addict yourself:
– When shooting in macro mode. make sure your camera’s zoom is set to the ‘W’ or ‘wide angle’ setting. Zooming in while in macro mode will just confuse many cameras and render out-of-focus results.
– Plan on getting your lens close to your subject. As close as an inch or less. Better cameras will shoot distances to a fraction of an inch. You can experiment with your own camera by placing a penny on your dining table and moving the camera closer and farther away (within inches though) and observing when it will focus and when it will not.
– Don’t expect your flash to be useful for lighting your close-ups because in most cases, your subject will be so close it will be in the shadow of the lens.
– The effects of movement are greatly exaggerated when shooting close up. Use a tripod or monopod where practical to steady your hand. Trying to shoot a butterfly or bee on a flower? Unless you have a high-end camera, save it for a windless day. Shooting objects up close when the wind is moving them generally will give disappointing results.
– And finally, keep an open mind about your subject. The thing that makes macro photography so fascinating is not necessarily what you expect to capture, it’s the unexpected surprise that gives you that “wow!” photo you may have never thought you could shoot.
Now go find that tulip symbol on your camera and get out there and shoot something amazing! And if you become addicted?? Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
P.S. To truly appreciate the detail in these images, click them to enlarge!