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Understanding macro basics

From: Foundations of Photography: Specialty Lenses

Video: Understanding macro basics

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.

Understanding macro basics

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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Foundations of Photography: Specialty Lenses

50 video lessons · 17169 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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  1. 4m 10s
    1. Welcome
      1m 46s
    2. Roadmap of the course
      2m 24s
  2. 3m 53s
    1. Words about focal length
      2m 6s
    2. Understanding camera position
      1m 47s
  3. 39m 19s
    1. What filters are for
      2m 37s
    2. Shopping for filters
      3m 55s
    3. Understanding neutral density filters
      4m 53s
    4. Applying neutral density filters
      3m 55s
    5. Polarizing filters
      3m 4s
    6. Some shooting tips for working with a polarizing filter
      2m 32s
    7. Using infrared filters
      9m 15s
    8. Processing the infrared image
      6m 7s
    9. Handling stuck filters
      3m 1s
  4. 38m 37s
    1. Working with ultra-wide lenses
      7m 19s
    2. Using a wide-angle lens
      4m 43s
    3. Understanding fisheye lenses
      4m 2s
    4. Working with fisheye lenses
      3m 59s
    5. Understanding fisheye exposure
      3m 3s
    6. Taking fisheye further
      4m 16s
    7. Processing fisheye and wide-angle images
      7m 38s
    8. Correcting tone in fisheye images
      3m 37s
  5. 35m 37s
    1. Understanding super telephoto
      6m 21s
    2. Shooting distant subjects
      8m 26s
    3. Compressing the sense of depth
      7m 53s
    4. Working with shallow depth of field
      5m 35s
    5. Working with teleconverters
      2m 38s
    6. Editing telephoto images
      4m 44s
  6. 16m 47s
    1. Understanding macro basics
      2m 47s
    2. Shooting close
      4m 52s
    3. Shooting macro
      5m 20s
    4. Working with a point-and-shoot for macro
      1m 58s
    5. Using a two-lens strategy
      1m 50s
  7. 16m 39s
    1. Understanding tilt shift
      3m 37s
    2. Correcting perspective
      4m 29s
    3. Creating the toy effect
      4m 41s
    4. Deepening depth of field
      3m 52s
  8. 32m 39s
    1. Working with specialty lenses
      2m 43s
    2. Using the Lensbaby
      9m 13s
    3. Working with the Lensbaby Macro attachment
      3m 50s
    4. Shooting with a Holga attachment
      3m 4s
    5. Using an alternative mount lens
      2m 18s
    6. Using super-fast lenses
      1m 47s
    7. Correcting Lensbaby images
      9m 44s
  9. 39m 48s
    1. Correcting perspective
      10m 41s
    2. Creating the toy effect
      6m 31s
    3. Getting the lo-fi Holga look
      11m 17s
    4. Reproducing the effect of a Lensbaby
      8m 17s
    5. Cropping and enlarging images
      3m 2s
  10. 2m 47s
    1. Choosing whether to borrow or buy
      2m 0s
    2. Goodbye
      47s

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