15 July 2009

Close Ups - Macro Photography

The macro function on your digital camera, denoted by a little flower, allows you to get really close to your subject, showing off all it's details at larger than life size. This can be extremely useful when taking pictures of hand made craft to increase buyer confidence as well as getting some great looking images. I access my macro functions through the menu but many cameras will have it available on a dial or by pressing a button on the rear as it is such a popular function.

A potential buyer should be allowed to clearly see close details, in my case the quality of stitching and fabric but it could easily be the connections on a pair of earrings or an immaculately finished mortis and tenon joint on a wooden stool. Just like when you're in a restaurant that has the kitchen on display they are giving you confidence in their product, you can see it's clean and hygenic. With an online craft store a buyer may not have touched or felt the product but they can rest assured that it looks well made and they will be much more inclined to buy from your shop.

These three shots above, were taken using normal, macro and super macro respectively, showing how close I was able to get to this pretty pink geranium with each setting, while keeping the flower in focus.

The first shot is not close enough and way too busy but of the other two I prefer the 2nd shot. When you are getting in close bear in mind that you will cast shadows over the subject as in the case of my 3rd picture using the super macro.
It was such a bright day that I was struggling to be able to see the results in the lcd display - the whole colour tone of the picture has changed, ideally I should have used the tripod with a macro extension arm to get you right in there with minimum disturbance, but hey who has time for that (not me).

Using the macro function greatly limits the depth of field (see last weeks post), making careful focussing vital. If your camera is struggling, whirring back and forth unable to focus then it may be there is not enough light on the subject, you are too close or that there is insufficient contrast for the camera to be able to find something to focus on. Don't just blindly keep pressing down the shutter as you will end up with lots of very fuzzy images. You need to half depress the shutter, allowing the camera to find it's focus before finally taking the shot, alot of cameras signify that they are happy by a green circle on the lcd and some will not take the picture unless they are able to focus. Check in your cameras instruction manual or find out by searching for your camera model online how close you should be able to get with the macro and super macro functions, some are almost point blank.

I heard once that placing a section of newspaper print into the area to enable the camera to set it's focus more easily while you have the shutter half depressed can help, obviously whipping it away before taking the final shot!

I also use the macro function alot when I am photographing plants and nature. The ability to capture a bee or butterfly or simply a single blossom at it's best before it fades is a real thrill for me.
There are so many subjects available when you start to think in close up, if you can get the focus just right you'll be amazed at some of the stunning pictures you can take, instead of the usual advice to stand back I recommend sticking your nose right in! At the moment I am keen on cabbages for their abstract beauty close up, they taste pretty good too - we ate this one a couple of days ago!

In the next few weeks, I'm going to be looking at light metering, composition and hopefully soon I'll be showing you how I'm creating my own artificially lit light box to allow me to take pictures in the evening, it may only be July but those nights will start drawing in soon!