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Macro Photography

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Macro photography is the art of capturing small items and/or details in digital format or on film, so that they can be viewed in an up-close manner.  The photo can be of something large, such as the detail on a large flower, or it can be of something extremely small, such as the intricacies of a feather.

Whether a macro photographer is taking a photograph of a detail of a larger object, or whether he or she is photographing something incredibly small to begin with, all macro photography has one thing in common — it allows the viewer of the photograph to see something that would be extremely difficult to view with the human eye.  For example, every time we pour a drink, we are able to see the liquid splash off the ice.  But macro photography allows that image to be frozen in time and studied in more detail.  The photograph will allow us to see things that we wouldn't otherwise be able to see in real time, such as the pattern the liquid makes over the ice, the shapes of the droplets as they hang in the air, or the veins and fissures in the ice cubes themselves.

While two of the most common subjects for macro photographs are insects and flowers, just about anything can be the subject of a macro photograph.  Anything with interesting, up-close texture and shape makes a good candidate.  The options for good macro photography are all around you.

sunflower close-up One thing about macro photography that is very different than traditional photography is how close the photographer must come to his subject.  As a matter of fact, it is not uncommon for the lens of the camera to almost touch its subject.  This can create issues with both focus and depth of field.  That's because the closer you get to the subject you are photographing, the more your depth of field drops off.  The lower your depth of field is, the more challenging it is to ensure that the entire subject of your photograph is in focus.  Rather than use the focusing ring on the camera, macro photographers often manipulate focus by moving closer to, or farther away from, the subject they are photographing.

Because of the close distance between the camera and the subject, the photographer also loses a significant amount of light.  The remedy to this challenge is to use longer shutter times, as well as artificial light, reflectors, and diffusers.  As a general rule of thumb, it's easier to control the outcome of a macro photograph when it's done at a studio, where light can be completely controlled.

What kind of equipment do you need to be a macro photographer?  While you can certainly spend lots of money buying special accessories to hone your craft, all you really need to get started with macro photography is a digital camera with a macro mode.  A digital single lens reflex body (dSLR) will give you even more options when it comes to taking macro photographs.  If your initial goal is to take photographs at half life-size (at a ratio of 1:2), you'll have all the equipment you need.  As you become more involved with macro photography and want to increase magnification, you'll need additional equipment.

For more information, tutorials, courses, and books about macro photography, check out these web page links:

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Macro Photography Equipment and Techniques Guide