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Macro Photography

Macro photography is, (rather briefly), the art of photographing things close up. Be it bubbles in champagne, a butterflies wings, microscopic robots or a blade of grass macro photography is the term used to described this style of shooting. Macro photography can be very exciting as with the right equipment, techniques and some patience you can produce stunning images that show something in far more detail than the human eye alone can interpret. A word of warning... macro photography can be very addictive and once you've exposed your first few successful shots and admired the sheer amount of detail you'll find yourself wandering around aimlessly, scratching your head and wandering what random objects would look like under the scrutiny of the macro lens!

For best results when taking macro photographs you really must have an SLR camera. Some of the more expensive point and shoot type digital cameras on the market do have fairly impressive macro capabilities but due to the minuscule nature of the subjects you will be photographing an SLR allows for perfect composition almost every time. Basic macro photography is possible with a regular lens, however for the best quality shots you should really invest in a good quality macro lens for your camera body (discussed in the next paragraph). If you are attempting macro photography with a standard camera lens be wary of automatic focusing, you will achieve better quality shots if you manually focus on the scene. You should pick your subjects carefully as well; whilst someone with a macro lens may be able to focus quickly (or even get away with using autofocus) to capture a shot of something such as a house-fly by the time you have focused using your standard lens the wee beastie will have departed the frame a long time ago.

A macro lens should be able to focus to 1:1, so you should be able to see a life size representation of the scene before you in good focus in the viewfinder. Be wary when purchasing a macro lens; some manufacturers love to confuse their potential customers and like to call it a "micro" lens, so you should double check before you purchase. A good rule of thumb is to avoid anything labelled as a "macro zoom" or "micro zoom" lens as by definition anything that can zoom is not a true macro lens and is liable to give you very low quality shots. In the quest for gadgets it is easy to consider the zoom function an advantage but when you are photographing things that are already incredibly close to the camera lens the quickest way to "zoom in" is simply to move closer to your subject! You are almost guaranteed a high quality lens if you purchase a regular single focal-length macro lens. In macro photography focal lengths work in exactly the same way as in other types of photography, if you can get very close to your subject then a smaller focal length will suffice, however just as you would forgo your standard lens for a 350mm one when taking a picture of something in the distance the same applies to macro lenses.

When you come to take your first macro photographs you should remember that you are working with a very limited depth of field so focusing correctly is crucial to achieving high quality images. If you focus on the centre of your subject you may find that other parts of the object are out of focus, so you must work to achieve a good balance across the subject or forego crystal clear focusing away from the centre of the image. This allows for some wonderfully artistic shots with some parts in focus and others blurred, however you must always keep this limitation in mind when composing your image and try not to fixate solely on the centre where things are correctly focused. Lighting can also cause you some headaches until you get used to the subtle nuances of macro photography; on occasion you will find yourself getting so close to your subject that you are blocking out all of the natural light and you will be unable to artificially light the scene to a suitable degree for photography. Experimenting with different types of lighting or shooting your subject at different times of the day will produce results that vary wildly so be sure to experiment as much as possible.

Macro photography can be incredibly rewarding if you have the time and patience to work around a few small limitations. If you are a creative photographer and enjoy the challenge of composing the "perfect" image then you should certainly give macro photography a try.