Finding interesting macro subjects isn’t hard & doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. To me, that is one of the most exciting aspects of macro photography. You have to learn how to see things differently. The more experience you have photographing with a real macro lens, the more you understand how it changes everything. It functions differently from other photographic lenses. Many of my macro subjects are ordinary household items that everyone has, but it is the macro lens paired with elements of good visual design, that make them look like something not of this world.
For this shoot all I used was oil & water, a margarita glass, (I recommend that everyone have one of those!) and some colored paper for backgrounds. Having a professional level camera isn’t necessary for someone starting out with macro photography but having a dedicated macro lens is. True macro lenses will focus at a 1:1 reproduction ratio. A macro lens is a fixed focal length. They come in short medium and long focal lengths. My macro lens of choice is the Tamron 90 mm VC USD. I have had three generations of this lens and the new one, as you would expect, is by far the best.
The other important factor in macro photography is of course, good lighting. Focus and sharpness are essential to my macro photography, without proper lighting I reduce the chance that I’m going to get a sharp image that I really like. There is nothing worse then not having adequate light in the studio to help you freeze any moving subject matter like this oil & water combination. I prefer using fixed lights in studio versus strobes because it’s easier for me to see exactly what I’m going to get. This is where the Savage Universal 2000 Watt Location Light Kit comes in handy. It has so much output that I know my images are going to be well exposed. Each 2000 Watt light produces the equivalent of 1000 watts of incandescent light. Without proper lighting I would have to use a slower shutter speed since it’s imperative to keep the ISO very low. The higher the ISO, the more grain in your images. Typically, grain is not something you want in your macro images especially if like me, you shoot almost everything at 2.8. The trade-off is, of course, the lower your ISO, the slower shutter speed you need unless you have a lot of light.
I always shoot macro on a tripod and I recommend you use a strong tripod with an extendable center column. This helps you get your tripod legs away from the table or any other surface in which you have your macro subject set on. Often, just walking on the studio floor will cause camera / surface vibrations so having the tripod legs bang into the table is a deal breaker.
A remote trigger can end up being your best friend in macro land. As you can see in the video it keeps your hands off the camera. With this level of magnification even touching the camera body to make the exposure can cause camera shake and you could end up with a blurry image. I always tell people that if they don’t believe me about how much touching the camera causes sharpness issues, use live view and then touch your camera and you will see that even the slightest tap will cause extreme camera shake not perceptible to your own senses. I use Live view to focus properly as well. My Canon 5D Mark III has two magnification settings so I said it to X 10 so I can really see if I’ve got solid focus. It’s extremely accurate when you see it at that level.
My other recommendation to ensure very sharp high quality images, is that you turn off your mirror lock-up feature. If you do not, when you trip the shutter, even with your remote control, the mirror flips up and crashes closed. This doesn’t seem like a big deal during a portrait session but with macro it’s a huge deal. Enabling mirror lock-up means that when you trip the shutter the first time the mirror raises and then when you trip it again it makes the exposure.
Well it is true that macro photography can be very challenging, I find it one of the most rewarding forms of photography. When people view my imagery it sets a fun conversation in motion that starts with “what the heck is that?” The beauty of photography is how it brings people together.
1/1200 of a sec @ F / 3.2
Canon 5 D mark ii
Tamron 90mm Macro