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Macro Photography

Tutorial to learn how to take macro photographs – “Macro photography.”

Are you passionate about photographing close-ups of flowers, insects, and other objects? In this tutorial, you will learn the different facets of macro photography, and also how to take beautiful macro photos.

Macro photography is a rather complex subject. Before continuing, you need to get the basic idea of exposure. You can learn everything about exposure in the following three free tutorials:

Photo edited in Lightroom.

What is macro photography? 

Macro photography involves shooting extreme close-ups of smaller objects. For shooting macro photographs, the magnification ratio should be at least 1:1. For example, if the size of the subject is one centimeter, then this would be the same size on the camera sensor. Let’s say you’re taking a picture of a spider whose size is 24 mm X 36 mm. It would take up your whole picture (the full frame of the sensor). Some subjects will, therefore, not be able to be photographed in full in macro photography because they are larger than the sensor of the camera (imagine the size of a large butterfly compared to the size of a sensor). If your subject measures less than one mm, that would be micro-photography, but that is another subject.

What equipment is needed for macro photography?

There are five accessories necessary for macro photography:

The close-up lens 

The close-up lens screws onto the front of the lens like a filter. Basically, it acts as a magnifying glass and allows magnification of the image on the sensor. A close-up lens is characterized by its optical power (in diopter) and the diameter of its screw pitch (in mm), so that it corresponds to the diameter of your lens. You can use one or more close-up lenses simultaneously according to your desired result. A close-up lens is not expensive (within $55), but it causes a significant loss of optical quality and chromatic aberration, and increases the chance of vignetting. On the other hand, one of its advantages is that it doesn’t take up much space. The macrophotography close-up lens can easily slip into a photo bag, so you will always have enough tools for taking macro photos.
The close-up lens

The extension tube

The extension tube is usually delivered in sets of three components, and it also has no optical elements. This time, the idea is not to screw something onto the lens, but to insert a tube extension between the case and the lens in order to increase the distance between the lens and the sensor. The extension tube is used to reduce the focal distance, and as a result, it permits higher magnification. Extension tubes have several sizes, and are also stackable in order to reduce the focal distance further. If we do not have an optical element, then we will not lose quality; however, we will significantly lose brightness, especially if we stack several tubes. Therefore, it will be necessary to use an external source, such as a flash, to compensate for this loss. Besides, the extension tube remains an excellent way to begin macro photography with a satisfactory quality rendering for a reasonable price of about $170.
The extension tube 

Reversed lens 

The reversed lens technique is putting a lens on the camera upside down. To emphasize, it means that the front lens will face the camera, and the rear lens will face out. For this purpose, simply use a reversed lens (attached directly to the camera and the lens). Moreover, its cost is relatively low – around $35. The magnification will, of course, be different according to the lens used. There are many possible combinations, but the shorter your focal length, the higher the magnification, and as a result, the closer you are to the subject. For example, with a reversed 24 mm, you will have very high magnification and will be extremely close to the subject (less than five centimeters away). Therefore, you will have to make a compromise between the magnification and the distance from your subject.
Reversed lens 

The macro bellows

The bellows have an operating principle similar to that of the extension tube. They’re inserted between the case and the lens, and their purpose is to reduce the focal distance.

With the advantage of being able to be lengthened or shortened (from 48 mm to 208 mm for some bellows), they allow maximal magnification ratios in macrophotography.

The main advantage of the bellows is that since they can be lengthened or shortened, they act as a concertina to obtain the desired reproduction scale. We can, therefore, vary the magnification with the same lens without having to disassemble it.

The absence of optics does not lead to a loss of quality; however, the bellows do have disadvantages:

macro bellows

The macro lens – “Macro photography”

The macro lens is the best solution for having the right stitch and maintaining impeccable image quality. It will surely become an indispensable lens as it evolves in macro photography.

Many brands produce high-performance macro lenses: Nikon, Canon, Tamron, Sigma, Sony, Pentax, etc., and their prices range from $340 to $1,100 for the longest focal lengths.

Most macro photography lenses have focal lengths between 50 mm and 180 mm. If you want to photograph dangerous subjects, then you should have a lens with a long focal length, which will allow you to stay further from your subject.

Macro photography lenses from 50 mm to 70 mm

These lenses are generally outstanding and versatile. Their prices are not high, but the focal distance is relatively short. You will, therefore, only be a few centimeters away from your subject (less than 10 cm), which could cause shadow problems when you have your back facing the sun.

Macro photography lenses from 90 mm to 105 mm

Excellent in terms of image quality, these intermediate focal lengths are the most versatile, and allow a longer distance between the lens and the subject.

Macro lenses from 150 mm to 180 mm

These represent the high-end macro lenses. Their prices are much higher, but their development distances are ideal for approaching delicate subjects.
The macro lens 

Manual focusing – “Macro photography”

Automatic focusing is not easy to do with an extremely short depth of field, especially when you want to take a picture of a ladybug at only a few millimeters. Autofocus will have trouble finding a catch if you use a macrophotography close-up lens or an extension tube, and it will be impossible to do it with bellows or an inverted lens. Manual focusing is essential for solving this problem. It will provide you with better control of your focus, and also give you an area of sharpness exactly where you want it.

Photo edited in Lightroom.


The depth of field is challenging to manage in macro photography. The higher the magnification, the shorter the depth of field, and the sharpness is often only a few millimeters; therefore, it is difficult to photograph a whole subject that is greater than the depth of field. In addition to this difficulty, imagine a depth of field of one centimeter with a moving subject, such as a ladybug. By the time the focus is set, the ladybug will have covered several centimeters. The goal now is to increase the depth of field to the maximum and close the aperture, which will significantly reduce the brightness. Let’s also add the significant loss of light if you use extension tubes or bellows. We then have to reduce the speed. We are quickly led to working with a tripod, but in nature, the slightest wind will make the subject move, and the photo can become blurred. Thus, the use of a flash becomes mandatory.
105mm macro lens on extension tubes - Glossary of Photography

Conclusion – “Macro photography”

Most of the macro photographs you will find in lightroom photoshop tutorials were captured with the equipment shown in the photo above. You can see the bellows with a reversed 24 mm lens. These two accessories will allow us to have the maximal magnification of x11. However, there is, of course, a price to pay for such magnification.

As you may have understood, the simplest is still a close-up lens.

Let’s take a 105 mm lens as an example. Its magnification will be x1, and you will have a focal distance of about 14 cm from your subject and a depth of field of 7 mm to 8 mm. But, here is an interesting compromise for a satisfying magnification: A 105 mm macro lens on extension tubes (102 mm rings) will give you a magnificationof x2.5 and a focus at 10 cm for a depth of field between 7 mm and 10 mm. But, be careful. In this case, the equipment begins to be heavy, and you must shoot handheld because the camera cannot be fixed on a tripod. Macro photography is an extraordinary world, but also very complicated and challenging, requiring excellent mastery. Feel free to test several techniques and materials, and once you have found what suits you best, then the fabulous world of macro photography will be yours.
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