f11 1/100 ISO 200
This post is part of a series on different ways to get in close. It shows the whites and lights of Fall in the garden and fields.
How Do We Define Getting in Close?
First it is good to define Closeup photography. Even though it is a subjective definition, it does have some accepted guidelines.
f7.1 1/1600 ISO 1000 A photo from Summer shot with the 105mm macro. This image is not soft like the rest of the white and pale photos, but Fall calls for its own kind of compositional treatment I think. It is a softer, gentler time of year with the clear light. More on using high ISO in a later post on macro work.
In this case, it is based in lenses dedicated to macro work, specifically in this post, a Micro Nikkor 105mm, my go to bug lens. Busier bugs get a zoom lens, though.
The closest this lens can focus is to one foot. This is important too, because if you get closer, the lens will not focus well if at all. Many make the mistake of getting in closer than the lens can handle and the result is an unintentional blurry image. Want to know more?
f13 1/100 ISO 100 You can see a lot of detail in this image if you click to enlarge. I love these high key images. The washed out look of high key is a feminine look. Only a small portion of the image is well focused even at f13.
What is the difference between Macro and Micro?
All Nikon lenses are Micro Nikkor lenses. Other manufacturers are designated as Macro. When I shoot with each subsequent lens and supporting equipment, I will show you what is in the camera bag. This post, I only used the Micro Nikkor 105mm, f2.8 on the Nikon D7000. It is strange, but Nikon calls their lenses Micro when in fact they are Macro at 1:1.
What is Micro Photography?
Anything larger than 1:1 is Micro photography. That is what one considers when magnifying like adding an extension tube or diopter.
f11 1/100 ISO 200
What is a Closeup Photo?
A closeup is an image anywhere from 10:1 to life-size.
Macro is a 1:1 magnification, determined by the macro lens, a prime lens. Meaning, if you photograph a small object at the lens’ closest focal distance, the subject will be the same size as the image projected onto the camera’s sensor. Viewed on a computer screen or turned into a print, there’s levels of detail revealed that are unmatched by other types of lenses used for closeup work.
f8 1/200 ISO 100 Shots this tight of individual florets need to be on a tripod, which this one is not, but you can still see selective detail none the less. Without scale, it is difficult to judge the small size of the pedicels making up the wild carrot.
Macro lenses are very sharp lenses. In the last post, I shot some landscape shots and they were very sharp. These lenses will shoot to infinity, which is like shooting the exact scene you are seeing, not smaller or bigger.
f11 1/200 ISO 100
What is the Depth of Precise Focus?
One thing you will notice about true macro photography, only a small area of a subject is in sharp focus. All in focus will lie in a narrow band.
You may only have a half-inch of focus depth around f11 that is in precise focus, at f32 maybe less than three inches of depth. It takes some getting used to in order to focus on that small area. Another tip for well focused shots… use a tripod. I keep making this point bold too, at least until you get a handle on going without.
I bet many of you have noticed limited focus depth using other lenses or macro settings in your own garden photographs and wondered why. It is based on the lens’ focal length, how far you are from your subject and the f-stop you are using.
Try moving back a bit and more will appear in focus. Move in tight, and there is less distance of focus. More on this later. There are numerical ratios that apply to how this works. Real simple to remember for reference too.
f6.3 1/100 ISO 100
See how above, less than 1/2 inch of focus is not very much on this milk pod? Very little is in sharp focus at f6.3, just some of the silky hairs.
In the last milk pod image of this post, I was not as close to the subject as in this shot above, plus it was taken at f7.1 with a pod and seeds more in the same plane of view, similar to the bee above.
This is very important if the subject can be parallel to the camera lens and be small enough to ‘fit’ into the area of focus. You can see too that there is much more available light on the last milk pod and the bee. Plus, in these windy conditions of the pale Fall images illustrated today, a tripod would have helped greatly.
I purposefully shot white subjects because the exposure is a bit trickier in sunlight. I added this image above to illustrate all these points.
f10 1/100 ISO 100
Here is the simple focusing tip I said I would share, learned on Kelby Training. Based on focusing SLR film cameras, it is a three-step process, more and you are over compensating.
Manually focus by completely throwing the subject out of focus, then go right PAST perfect focus, then quickly right back into focus.
Doing it this way avoids optical accommodation. When you keep trying to get it perfect by going back and forth repeatedly, the eye says to the brain it is focused already, now stop, when in fact it is out of focus slightly.
How many of you experience this? You think you have the shot only to upload them and find a completely blurry image. This tip is for all cameras that can be manually focused, but is especially important with zoom lenses and macro lenses. They seem to be the ones most people fuss with.
Another tip for those considering purchasing a true macro lens, one that is a prime lens dedicated to macro, start learning to use it with a tripod. They are very hard to focus in the beginning when not accustomed to them. It took me a while before I could manually focus the lens consistently.
Autofocus is not recommended on closeup shots. I will get into why this is so later on focusing and depth-of-field. The only photo here that was shot using a tripod was the dahlia. Compare that to the hand-held image of the Ironweed, both at f10.
Beyond the focus area, you have intentional blur, depth-of-field and even bokeh. And Depth-of-Field gives your photos character and mood. It also gives a richness of detail and texture you cannot see unless looking very close.
When you see a closeup and much of the image is well focused, it is likely a photo that was taken with a non-macro lens, like a zoom and cropped in tight to look like a macro image. Tightly cropped photos are not true macros. It is unlikely you could print them at large-scale.
You will not necessarily have the nice, smooth transition of depth-of-field in a tight photo and too much is in perfect focus which lets you know it was a zoomed in image. I will show those too. I use my zoom lenses a lot for closeup work and do get some nice DOF, but it is based on camera settings, focal length and wide aperture.
f10 1/80 ISO 320 Camera on a tripod.
So how do you go about shooting a macro shot?
What is recommended, is to shoot in Manual to control where that focus point is located. How precise it is will determine the look of the photo. I like soft images, even some high key, so often will overexpose a bit.
f4 1/250 ISO 100
So, What is Life-Size?
To give you an idea what life-size is, I placed a penny inside a slide mount. The penny, although round, fills the frame. When more pennies virtually fit the frame (the white space, background or negative space), you have differing ratios, like 4:1 or 10:1.
Life-size shown in a slide mount, meant to simulate your camera sensor, taken with the Micro Nikkor 60mm lens and flash.
FYI, I use a DX camera and that has a smaller sensor than the FX professional cameras, like what was the format of a SLR film camera. Hint, hint, hint…. the smaller sensor crops the image which is good in macro work, so even when I get my FX camera, I will likely still use the D7000 for closeup work. Plus I use FX lenses on this camera which gives me a 1.5x bump of apparent focal length. All cool stuff to know if you have a DSLR that accepts pro lenses.
f7.1 1/100 ISO 100
One thing I learned about cameras and lenses, is the best of both that you can use, is the ones you are comfortable with. When you are most comfortable with your equipment, you are more creative. So, before purchasing a macro lens, try it out in the store. You will see it is different to use and you will never use it if you don’t think you will become comfortable with it.
As I mentioned in the introductory post to this series, I am not a pro and do not pretend to be, but have been photographing for a long time. I always feel sometimes that even non-pros can offer advice that the pros might overlook as being too routine. But, by all means, seek out the advice of pros. They may explain in more detail, but it also may be a bit more technical.
My next post on macro work on Monday will be taking you to all the sites where I learned much of the information and listing photographers that I follow and learn from. Some you may know, others you may not. Some are specific to macro and others are not. Some you may follow too.
It is hard talking about this subject without adding the techy stuff, and I do have posts upcoming for more mainstream camera work. I know that many use point and shoots and I will use mine too in a post. There are some tips with that camera as well, so stay tuned.