I’m sure you’re all looking forward to the new weekly theme, but before we get to it, I wanted to bring everyone’s attention to the winners of last week’s theme. So, without further ado, here are the top three finishers for Weekly Theme 7: Street Photography...
A big round of applause to the winners—remember to head over to their blogs and congratulate them on their winning shots. And, of course, thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s theme—I’m really looking forward to seeing what kind of incredible images you create for the next theme.
Weekly Theme #8: Macro
This week, we’re going to flex our macro photography muscles, and judging by some of the shots I came across while curating images for this post, we’re all in for a treat. I have a good feeling our community members are going to really ace this challenge.
So, let’s see what you got! The rules to enter are the same as always, just create a blog post with your shots and add the tag #weeklytheme8. You can also add a #weeklytheme8 tag to existing posts if you already have some sweet macro shots you want to share.
Here's all the details:
- Deadline: September 26th
- How to submit: Add weeklytheme8 as one of the tags of your post
- How to view submissions: Check the tag weeklytheme8
- How to vote: Like and comment on your favorite macro blog posts
As usual, here’s a few tips to get you started.
When shooting macro, depth of field becomes fairly shallow. In order to get an entire subject in focus, you may need to use a narrow aperture such as f16 or narrower to maximize depth of field. Depending on your subject, even an aperture of f22 can still result in parts of the subject being out of focus. In this case, you can try a focus stacking technique in post production.
However, there’s no rule in macro photography that says you need to shoot on a narrow aperture. The super shallow depth of field that comes with shooting at f8 or wider can make for stunning images as well.
Slow Down The Shutter
If you’re shooting on a narrow aperture, that means there’s less light traveling through the lens. To make sure the image comes out properly exposed, it might be necessary to shoot on a slower shutter speed. If you're using a tripod and your subject is inanimate, there isn’t much concern about shooting with a slow shutter speed.
However, this isn’t always an option when the subject is moving or you are shooting handheld.
Bump Up The ISO
To help you combat camera shake and motion blur, you may need to increase your ISO to achieve faster shutter speeds. Since maxing out the ISO can introduce noise into an image, I like to start out at a low ISO such as 100 and increase it about one stop at a time. Often, I’ll find shooting at ISO 400 to be ideal, but there are many variables that contribute to this including the chosen aperture, shutter speed, and available light.
Another option to try is using a flash...
Flash and Lighting Modifiers
My favorite flash to use for macro is a ring flash that mounts right to the end of my lens. They create a nice, soft light that requires a lot less work than setting up an off camera flash. When you’re shooting moving objects such as insects, you won’t always have time to ensure your flash is in just the right spot. But, when the flash is connected directly to the end of your lens, you’re pretty much ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Off camera flash units are also a suitable way to light your macro shots and can work exceptionally well in a controlled studio environment. If you don't have an off camera flash, you may want to use a reflector to help bounce more light onto your subject. Of course, you may also use a reflector in combination with a flash.
As far as using the flash that is built into your camera, it can be helpful at times, but tends to create shadows and bright spots. Furthermore, if you're using a long lens, it’s almost impossible to avoid a shadow being cast onto your subject in the area where the lens blocks the light from the flash.
Regardless, make sure you take a couple tests shots beforehand to ensure the lighting is just right.
Turn Off Auto Focus
It may sound counterintuitive, but turning off auto focus can save you from a lot of shots with missed focus. Autofocus can be sluggish at times and often struggles when shooting close-ups with a shallow depth of field. It’s usually faster to just dial in the desired focus manually.
You can really fine tune the focal point using manual focus and when the depth of field is as small as a millimeter, it’s crucial to pay extra attention to the precise focal point.
Break Out The Tripod
It almost goes without saying tripods are a good idea for most macro shooting situations. Given the combination of slow shutter speeds and magnified lenses, any way in which we can stabilize our cameras is a good idea.
A great way to determine if you need to use a tripod is by calling on the reciprocal rule which states your shutter speed should be equal to or faster than the focal length of your lens. If it is not, then use a tripod for maximum sharpness.
For example, if you are using a 100mm macro lens on a full frame camera, your shutter speed would need to be at least 1/100th of a second to shoot handheld. (The reciprocal rule holds true for all types of photography, not just macro!)
If you plan on taking macro photography seriously, investing in a nice focusing rail would be a really good idea. A focusing rail attaches to your tripod and you attach your camera to the focusing rail. Once everything is set up, you’ll be able to move your camera around on the rail in multiple directions and in very tiny increments. They’re an extremely handy tool to have and almost essential if you plan on doing focus stacking.
Depth Of Field Preview
A lot of photographers don’t use the depth of field preview button on their DSLRs simply because they don’t know it exists or don’t know how to use it. But, especially when shooting macro photography, knowing how to use this handy feature can really improve your shots.
When you’re looking through the viewfinder of your camera, what you’re seeing is the composition at the lens’s widest aperture—not necessarily the aperture you have dialed in. That makes it difficult to get an accurate sense of the depth of field. By pressing the depth of field preview button, you’ll be able to see exactly how the composition will look at your chosen aperture.
On most DSLR’s, the depth of field preview button is an unassuming button on the front of the camera. Check your camera’s user manual for its exact location. When you’re looking through the viewfinder or are in live mode, depress the preview button and check to make sure you have an adequate depth of field.
Just a heads up, if you’re shooting on a narrow aperture, what you see in the viewfinder will appear darker than it does when the depth of field preview button is not being pressed—no need to be alarmed.
Lastly, Don’t Forget To Check The Background
One last bit of advice before I send you off: don’t forget to check the background. It’s true the majority of the background will fall off into attractive, blurry bokeh, but sharp contrasts between different colors and bright spots can still make for distractions. As you’re setting up your shot, be sure to take a close look for anything that takes away from the main subject.
A solid background can really help make the photo pop. Try repositioning the camera to eliminate any distractions. Or, you can prop up a piece of colored paper or cardboard behind the subject to even out the background.
What’s Your Best Macro Photography Tip?
Do you have a great macro photography tip I didn’t cover here? Feel free to share with us in the comments. And don’t forget to tag your macro shots with the #weeklytheme8 tag to submit them into this week’s theme. Happy shooting, PhotoBloggers!