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Macro Photography Equipment

 
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For most people who are starting out with macro photography, all the equipment that's needed is a digital camera with a macro option.  You can tell if your camera has a macro option by looking for the telltale flower icon.  The macro button will tell your camera to focus at the correct focal point — close to your camera — while ignoring distances far away.  This will ensure that the subject you are photographing remains in focus.

Reversing Rings

Reversing rings allow you to reverse your lenses on your camera, which can add stunning results to macro photography.  A reversing ring is essentially a bayonet fitting with filter threading.  Its job is to make sure that the reversed lens and your camera are safely fitted together.

Filters

If you want to improve your macro photographs, you can consider adding some close-up filters.  These filters, which work like magnifying glasses, screw on to the camera lens.  They bring the focal range closer, in effect, allowing you to better focus on your subject.  If your current camera lens doesn't have threading that allows these filters to be used, you can usually add an adapter to your lens.  Filters are available in different magnification sizes — from 1x all the way up to 10x — and can also be stacked to increase magnification.

macro lens with katydid macro photo

Lenses

While compact digital cameras don't have interchangeable lenses, you can "stack" lenses for effect.  "Stacking" refers to adding a reversed lens to the current lens, so that the fronts of each lens are facing each other.  In order to stack your lenses, you'll need a lens stacking adapter called a male-to-male coupling ring.  While you can use any lens to stack, most macro photographers prefer something called a prime lens.  Prime lenses, because they have been abandoned by more traditional photographers in favor of newer technology, can be found inexpensively at second-hand camera stores as well as on online auction sites.  When choosing a prime lens, a general rule of thumb is that the wider the lens is, the closer you will be able to get to your subject.

Macro lenses are special lenses that are designed to allow the photographer to engage in close-up photography.  Macro lenses will allow you to take pictures at a shorter focal distance, and are particularly effective when it comes to contrast, sharpness, and quality of close images.  Macro lenses are available from 50mm to 300mm.  While macro lenses are more expensive than non-macro lenses, they add a certain quality to all photographs.

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Tele Converters

Tele converters are designed so that you can trade lens speed for longer focal lengths, and generally come in 1.2x, 1.4x, and 2x magnifications.  While a tele converter changes the magnification of your lens, buying the proper lens will almost always result in better quality photographs.

Extension Tubes

An extension tube, which is a piece of tubing with a bayonet fitting, has a similar effect as a close-up lens, with improved quality.  Extension tubes come in lengths that range from 13mm to 24mm, and can be combined to make longer lengths.

Bellows

Bellows do the same job as extension tubes, but their accordion-like style allows the photographer to conveniently manipulate their length, without removing them, for different magnifications.

Flash and Lighting

Because getting so close to your subject results in serious loss of light, one of the ways you can compensate is with flash lighting.  Special macro flashes are mounted directly on the front of the lens, and while expensive, make it easy for the photographer to control the amount and direction of light used.

Reflectors and Diffusers

Reflectors and diffusers will help the macro photographer manipulate and shape the light, and many of the hand-held varieties are convenient and easy to use.  Reflectors can also be made using cardboard and aluminum foil, and sometimes just a white piece of paper or fabric will suffice.  A light-tent is a type of diffuser that re-directs direct sunlight, and is quite frequently used for shiny objects.

Tripods

A tripod will ensure that your camera stays completely still, which is very important in macro photography due to the increased shutter speeds.


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