by Paul Harcourt Davies
Jumping in at the deep end
Perhaps you’ve been producing some nice pictures and honing your photographic skills for a while. Now you find yourself ready to expand into new photographic realms…you’ve seen dramatic close-up shots and want to take your own.
There is no time like the present for a new challenge and with the launch of our new blog Learn Macro, Clay and I will regularly post in a series that will take you through the basics and way beyond. Every now and again, in a world where digital photography changes so rapidly, we all need to reassess what we are doing and we will cover the material as completely and accessibly as we can. We have to battle at things too and are alway learning and experimenting: in this area of photography you never stop and that is one of its big attractions.
When it comes to moving in close, you might be put off by jargon in books and magazines or that other people tell you it is really difficult. Well, don’t believe them. With a bit of patience, a willingness to learn about your subjects and the techniques, you can begin to take pictures that really make people sit up and take notice.
This is the basis for a series of posts on the basics, those nuts and bolts of what people call ‘macro’ …cameras, lenses, techniques and more…We want to help introduce and foster an interest in an area of photography that we have no doubt you will find as fascinating as we do. Our aim is to help you discover and record subjects in ways that deliver new insights into the world that surrounds us all a world that goes largely goes unnoticed.
So what is ‘macro’?
These days ‘macro‘ is a kind of catch-all term for anything up close…Words can change their meaning with use as time passes and newcomers to this field often find the language confusing because terminology is sometimes used sloppily.
Manufacturers began to use the prefix ‘macro’ as a selling point for what were, in fact, just their close-focusing lenses.The ‘macro’ setting on a zoom is really just a close-focus facility, but ‘macro’ sounds better in a sales pitch. Nikon went further, and called their macro lenses ‘micro Nikkors’ – to add to the confusion they also made a series of specialist ‘macro Nikkors” for laboratory use.
Though, the terms ‘close-up’ and ‘macro‘ are often used interchangeably, they refer to separate parts of the magnification range as the image on the sensor gets bigger. To clarify this, we need some way of describing image size and the terms magnification and reproduction ratio are two ways of quantifying this by describing how big the image on the sensor is compared with the subject you are photographing.
For example, if the image is life-size this means it is the same size on the sensor as it is in real life – another way is to say that the magnification is ‘times one’ (or 1x even x1) or again that the reproduction ratio is 1:1.
If an image is one-half life-size, the magnification is 0.5x, and the reproduction ratio is 0.5:1. On the other hand, if the image on the sensor is twice the actual life size of the subject, the magnification is then 2x, and the reproduction ratio is 2:1…
When you buy a ‘macro’ lens of whatever focal length you are paying for a highly-corrected lens that has been designed to give its best performance when used close to a subject. Without accessories you can also get a life size image on the sensor.
As you’ll see in future posts, a wide range of cameras from smart phones through mirrorless to DSLRs can capture images of things at close quarters and there are several ways of doing this. Usually, you find that a zoom on your camera also has a ‘macro’ setting or macro-focus that lets you move in close and learn to handle the camera. If you get keen then the most versatile purchase might be a so-called ‘macro’ lens but you can do a great deal with a whole variety of lenses… from ultra-wide angle to telephoto, as you’ll see.
So, a few terms you’ll come across (and hear misused)
I’ll try to be consistent and use ‘close-up’ whenever a definite, specific application is not implied and macro for what begins where close-up ends at 1:1 There is considerable overlap and many have given up and just use the term ‘macro’ for everything… I find myself doing the same thing.
When you read around you might come across some other terms:
NEXT- what camera to use?
© Paul Harcourt Davies 2014 NB No part of this blog may be used in any way without the express permission of the author concerned: all commercial use of images must be accompanied by a fee (rates on request). Any illegal use will incur a penalty fee in addition to the commercial rate.