When dealing with intricate objects like those in Macro shooting, having the Auto Focus setting “ON” on your camera can give you more limitation than good. Your camera's Auto Focus isn't programmed to know your intended point of focus. Switching to Manual Focus on the contrary will allow you to manually choose and shoot your point of interest.
When it comes to shooting macro, it is always advisable to maximize your aperture setting to produce a shallow depth of field. This would help make your object stand out from the surrounding and be in focus.
The golden rule of producing good macro shots is to avoid cluttered backgrounds or those with similar color hues as your object. This would either take the attention off the main object or make your object blend straight into the background! Either way, it's a definite no-no. A simple background or plain background with contrasting color to your object is the best pick, i.e having a lady bird set on a clear white background.
Also, pay as much attention to your light settings as you would on your object because insufficient light could result in a dull and tacky image. Too much light and you'll risk washing out the colors. Being sufficient is bliss.
- Natural Light – It's the best source of light, especially during bright overcast days and when the light is not too harsh or direct.
- Flash – Flash can create harsh brightness and shadows on your object. If you do use a flash, check if you camera allows you to to lower its intensity. Alternatively, use a flash diffuser or point your flash indirectly.
- Reflector – Helps bounce a soft and diffused amount of light to your object.
Enhance your bug/plant shots by spraying water at the surrounding plants or on the object itself. This gives the effect of dew or rain that would produce a fresh, sparkling and reflective effect on your shot. Alternatively, prepare a block of dry ice and you'll have mist and fog instantly!
Dedicated macro lenses are made to help you produce a 1:1 or life-size reproduction. They are prime lenses and they don't allow zoom-ins. You'll need to get as close as possible to your target object manually and as steady as you can. A focal length of 100 to 200 mm from the object would be an ideal distance to be working from.
If you are not using the tripod, be sure to keep your camera really still when you are shooting macro, for the slightest movement could determine another NG shot. Better yet, consider investing in a shutter release cable (available in wireless now!) or learn to use your camera's self-timer mode. Both ways will allow you to take the shot you want without ever causing any movement to your camera and allow you to play around with different settings without losing your composition.
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Focus on the Eyes
It is advised that when you are dealing with Macro insects, the most important point to capture is the subject's eyes. Just like with human or animal photography, our eyes are the actual source of emotions/messages. If the eyes are out of focus, the rest won't matter no more.
A good thing about being in the digital age is that you can fire the shutter all you want. Because we are dealing with macro photography, the slightest detail can determine the success or failure of a shot. Having those extra shots will definitely come in handy. And it does take lots of practice and experimenting to begin with. Try shooting at different aperture setting, different composition and different focus points.
Macro Lens Alternatives
- Reversal Ring - A reversal ring, as the name implies, reverses the lens on your camera body. All you need to do is to buy one that matches your body mount with the lens' filter thread. A reversal ring will produce life-size images which are sharp in the center but soft at the edges. It's as close to macro lens as you can get yet reasonably affordable.
- Extension Tubes – Extension tubes generally comes in a set of 3 - 12mm, 20mm, and 36mm. It's sole purpose is to move the lens farther away from the image. The farther away the lens is, the closer the focus and greater the magnification. However, this also meant that you'll need drop your aperture setting by 2 stops and extend your exposure by 2 stops to counter its lost of light.
The general misconception with macro photography is that it is equivalent to bug photography. But if we only care to look closer, everything is made to be macro-qualified. Nonetheless, when dealing with bugs, kindly keep them alive and well throughout the process.