Have you ever wondered how to photograph tiny details?
These macro photography methods and tips from
acclaimed photographer Steve Gettle will show you how!
Methods in Macro Photography
with Steve Gettle
“I’ve always loved nature. I started taking pictures because I wanted to show people the things that I saw.”
Macro Photography – the Little Things
- A good macro lens should be able to take a full frame picture of a nickel.
105mm, 200mm, *Recommend Sigma 150mm
- Extension tubes – hollow tubes that act as a spacer between your camera and lens and allow you to focus closer.
Created to be lens-specific.
Inexpensive (less than $100)
- Close-up Diopter – like a set of reading glasses for your camera.
Attaches to the front of your lens.
Inexpensive (less than $100)
** Combinations of all three can get you even closer!
- A steady tripod.
- A cable release to reduce camera shake.
- A focusing rail – A mechanical device that mounts to both your tripod and camera to allow micro-precision movement to focus your camera.
A used one may cost $30. A new high-end version may run $200-$300.
** Recommended – Cognisys Stack-Shot – mechanical rail that does all the work for you.
Allows you to program starting and end points as well as the number of images to take in between to create perfect stacked images.
- A reflector to bounce light onto your subject.
- A plamp – a double-ended clamp with an articulated arm. Great for holding stems of plants or your reflector.
- LED Cube – throws more light onto the subject with the ability to dial the brightness up or down.
You don’t want it to look like a flash – strive for natural looking light.
Not recommended for use with dew drops – the reflection of the cube will show in the drops.
“Macro photography is all about showing the beautiful little details. Quiet, soft light really lets the details sing.”
Anything can be a potential subject: flowers (either outside or from a florist!), insects, patterns, the possibilities are endless!
- The best time to shoot insects is in the early morning, especially when it’s below 60 degrees.
At this temperature, the insects are in a state of TORPOR, meaning they are immobilized until their bodies warm up. This allows you to take images with 15-20 second exposures.
- A great meadow for finding dewy insects has a wall of trees on the east side to block out harsh sunlight and plenty of wildflowers to attract the insects.
- Looking for specific insects? Find out what they feed on and look for that.
- Head out into your favorite meadow before sunrise, search for and mark locations where subjects are found. Bring your gear out into the meadow and get set up while you wait for the light.
- Look for a windless, cool morning where the ground is covered with droplets of dew.
- Macro is technical. Using a tripod helps you to slow down, pace yourself and check all the details.
- After you take the picture, check the back of your camera. Zoom in to each part of the image.
- Is everything sharp? – Check the histogram for exposure.
- Is the composition good? – Tweak as needed, the subject is still there!
- Settings for early morning shots – f/16 to f/22, ISO 320-400, 6s-15s exposure time.
- Dew drops will reflect whatever is BEHIND them. Each drop acts like a magnifying lens.
Depth of Field and Focus Stacking
The depth of field for a full frame shot of a nickel (105mm lens, @ f/16) is only 1mm!
Focus stacking – merging a series of images at different focus points along the subject.
Computer programs process and merge the images. (Photoshop, Helicon, Zerene)
Allows you to get the entire head of the dragonfly in focus instead of just part of the eye.
Website for images and workshops: SteveGettle.com
Facebook: Steve Gettle Nature Photography