Experimenting with a macro lens over the last week or two has opened up a whole new world for me and my photography. Attaching a macro lens to your camera allows you to see the world as if you were looking through a microscope. I discovered features that I didn’t know existed, I also discovered that it’s not as easy as I thought it would be but here are a few pointers to assist in your attempts at capturing the finer details in life.
The first thing I noticed was the incredibly shallow depth of field, the amount of your photograph that is actually in focus is, at times, only a few millimeters. This can be extremely effective, it can help concentrate all the attention on one particular part of the photograph and blur the rest but it also has a down side. When hand holding your camera the slightest movement can mean that slither of focus is now nowhere close to where you had intended it to be. I found using something as a dead rest helped to combat this, either a tripod or a bean bag.
Just briefly going back to the depth of field, it is surprisingly shallow and all the way down at an aperture of 2.8 very little is actually in focus at all. The lowest aperture I used was f4 and I took a whole lot of photos to get the one I wanted with the chameleon looking into the lens and getting the focus in the right place. I mentioned this as something to look out for but not to avoid completely, a shallow depth of field can be powerful if everything comes together.
The ability of a macro lens to focus at incredibly short distances allows you to get extremely close to your subject. In getting so close it can be difficult to auto focus using the points on the camera, the point of interest on your subject can be close to the outer edge of the frame making it difficult. Don’t let this force you to get further away from your subject and lose some of your photograph’s intended impact. Rather, put your lens on manual focus and set it to the minimum focal length and then move toward your subject until it is in focus and then fine tune your focus from there on.
One last thing before having to go into serious detail, be aware of your background. Even though it is usually too blurred to see anything, using a certain colour or positioning in a way that you could cut down on any distraction and make your subject pop out more is advised. I used a piece of paper in one of my shots and used a flash which I found very effective.
Enjoy this less explored part of photography and experiment with different ideas and settings. I found I had more time to adjust settings with the smaller subjects than one normally has with the bigger animals and this allowed me to get the results I was aiming for.
Tell us what you think of the amazing detail captured in the photographs by posting a comment below.
Written by: Simon Smit
Photographed by: Simon Smit and Kate Neill