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I've always thought that macro photography was something of a misnomer. Macro shooting implies that I'm taking pictures of really big things, but actually it's just the opposite; macro shooting is the process of shooting small things. When you shoot macro images, you're blowing up small details or images of small things to macro size to view them up close. All lenses have a minimum focusing distance; that is, they can only be taken so close to a subject and still be able to achieve focus. Now, most SLR lenses can only get to within roughly a foot or so of a subject and still be able to focus.
If you're a metric shooter, that's about a third of a meter. Depending on the focal length of your lens, that foot may or may not let you get a macro shot of your subject. Technically, a true macro image is one that shows your subject at exact size. We refer to this shooting at one to one. An inch in your image corresponds to an inch in the real world. With the right lens, it's possible to go even closer. In this chapter, we're not going to be that particular about what we consider a macro photograph.
We're simply going to look at any close-up shooting or shooting small objects in details as macro shooting. When you say macro, the first thing that most people think of are pictures of bugs and plants, and those are certainly good types of macro subject matter, but there's lots of other stuff. Just working around your house with a macro lens can be very interesting. Looking at things up close, finding small details can be a fascinating way of seeing the familiar objects in your life in a completely different way. Macro shooting is very often a form of landscape shooting.
When you get in close to stuff, surfaces become terrains that you can explore. Macro is great way of shooting completely abstract images or playing with light in an entirely new way. To shoot macro, you need a macro lens, or you can use your regular lens at its close-up end. A lot of lenses will have an area of focus that says Macro. That won't let you get to a true one to one, but you'll still be able to get very close to stuff. If you really want to dive into serious macro, you're going to want a macro lens like this 100-millimeter macro. This works like a normal 100-millimeter lens that can shoot things that are far away, but it also allows me to focus in at macro distances.
Now, before we dive in, I want to say that this chapter is not meant to be a comprehensive lesson of macro photography. Macro shooting is a big subject that covers a lot of specific practices and a lot of specialized gear. We're working on a macro course right now, and you should see it in the lynda library in 2013. In the meantime, this chapter should help you with the basics of this very popular form of shooting. So I'm standing right now in front of the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco. Inside that building are a lot of amazing plants. The grounds are really beautiful.
I'm really looking forward to see what I can find as I head into it in a macro frame of mind.
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