Hello there, macro photographer!
Welcome to Macro Photography Myths.
Today, we are dispelling some common macro photography myths regarding technical, artistic, and gear-related topics.
Misconceptions can lead the creative inactivity, but these false ideas should not stop you from enjoying your journey to the tiny worlds.
Macro Photography is easy.
Macro photography appears to be simple on the surface. However, as with any art, there are significant challenges and pitfalls to overcome. Most beginners encounter setbacks with either technical topics such as limited depth of field or struggle to get in the proper mindset required to compose at close range.
In addition, organisms of interest to this field of photography are more abundant below human eye level. Thus, less physically prepared macro photographers may experience physical discomfort after frequently kneeling and looking down.
Macro photography is not as easy as it might seem. However, it can be highly gratifying for those willing to endure through the learning curve.
Macros are just Close-ups.
Technically, macros and Close-ups are unrelated concepts.
Macro: Refers to a minimum magnification ratio of 1:1, so the image appears in the camera sensor with the same size as its real-life counterpart.
Close-up: There is no technical definition for the term, but images taken with at least a 1:10 magnification ratio can be referred to as close-up shots.
Of course, photography is mainly about feeling.
In the end, please enjoy whatever looks good to you, be it a proper macro or a close-up shot. Technical definitions can only go so far.
Autofocus is essential.
Macro lenses aren’t best known for their autofocus performance, as this technology
works best with low magnifications.
Focusing at close range produces a narrow depth of field in which most autofocus systems cannot stabilize their scanning.
Autofocus can still be useful in the earliest stages of subject approximation,
but changing to manual focus when at close range is advised
because it allows higher focal precision.
It’s considered more effective to shoot with manual focus set to a fixed
distance and then move the camera back and forward until optimal focus is achieved.
Macro lenses have no other uses.
Macro lenses can provide lovely background blur and exceptionally sharp details, making them equally suitable for portraits, especially headshots.
Portrait photography benefits from low focusing distances, as many portrait photographers demand proximity to convey a story thru someone’s facial expression.
Naturally, macro lenses provide some of the lowest available focusing distances across some of the best portrait focal lengths, including 50mm, 70mm, 100 mm, which are also great for portrait shots.
If you are looking to make great fashion or documentary-like portraits while isolating your subjects from the background, then a macro lens is the one for the job.
Ring Flashes are the best.
Ring flashes are an iconic tool in macro photography, but the light emitted by these units will not benefit every subject or situation.
While ring flashes are softer when compared to on-camera flashes, the light can still be too harsh and industrial-looking. Harsh light has its uses, but soft light is a lot more flattering for living things and overall fauna.
The main reason Ring Flashes are popular has to do with their characteristic circular catchlights, mostly associated with fashion portraits. The same effect can be flattering for certain macro subjects such as the eyes of jumping spiders but, it can also be too distracting, for example, in the wings of a ladybug.
Finally, Ring flashes come with a hefty price tag, which is hard to justify when cheaper non-ring flash alternatives work better for a fraction of the price.
While this idea might be accurate for some photographers, it’s not universally correct.
First, we must understand that working distance and focal length are directly related. A higher focal length (ex: 150 mm) relates to a higher working distance, and a lower focal length( ex: 50 mm) relates to a lower working distance.
Typically, the best working distance is associated with a focal length in which a photographer produces the majority of his work.
As an example, still-life macro photographers might stick to low working distances as their subjects will not react to their presence. On the other hand, wildlife macro photographers might prefer longer focal lengths so that their subjects don´t run away as much.
High shutter speeds are crucial.
Using a high shutter speed is the easiest way to achieve sharp photos. However, there are a few potential creative downsides to this approach.
Before further elaborations, let’s look at this photography guideline:
Shutter speed regulates ambient light. Aperture regulates flash exposure.
In certain circumstances, high shutter speeds will translate into sharp subjects surrounded by extremely dark backgrounds. This effect is not very flattering to the vast majority of macro shots.
So what if we desire an ambient lit background? In these scenarios, using a low shutter speed combined with proper flash compensation is recommended. With this setup, we can assure a sharp subject without losing beautifully lit, bokeh rich backgrounds.
Tripods are mandatory.
In the right circumstances, tripods can be very handy for any photography genre. However, unless you’re a macro photographer with a clear preference for studio work, not owning a tripod should not hold you back too much.
Most macro photographers prefer to work outdoors with living creatures who, naturally, will not wait. After all, setting up a tripod can take time and requires movements and adjustments that can destabilize the environment, leading to the loss of potentially great photos.
Thank you for visiting:
Macro Photography Myths.
See you in the field!