Macro Photography by Karen Brammer Photography
I have a real passion for Macro Photography. I have always had a fascination as far back as I can remember growing up in the New Forest and spending time looking at bugs, insects, moss, tree bark, just about anything, using my Nan’s magnifying glass. I would spend hours laying in the stunning meadows round by the River Test, watching for crickets, bees, butterflies and other insects. It was like a whole new world and I would get lost in those moments for hours on end.
As I got older that fascination never lost me and I would often find myself at ground level exploring the flora and fauna below eye level that otherwise would go by unnoticed.
This photo was taken in the Glebe meadows near Arlesey, next to the River Purwell. For this I used a Fujifilm Bridge camera with a 40x optical zoom lens. The photo of the common Daisy above was taken with me laying on my front shooting upwards. The Daisy appears much larger than it is due to the proximity of the lens and the angle at which I am shooting the photo. I guess in lots of ways this is one of the things I really enjoy about Macro Photography.
Macro Photography by definition is is a unique form of photography that involves photographing small objects to make them look life-sized or larger in the photo. Popular subjects as I have mentioned are insects and flowers which we don’t normally get to see up close with the naked eye. I even combine the two, often capturing insects and flowers together.
Throughout the many years that I have been doing Macro Photography, I have used a vast range of different kit, some of my kit has been very cheap and some of it has been incredibly expensive. I have managed to get some beautiful images and have won National Photographic awards with the images I have created as well.
Some of the kit I have used is as follows:
- Macro extension tubes/rings
- Magnifying filters
- Screw on magnifying lenses
- Reversing rings and film lenses
- Dedicated macro lenses
- Lensbaby Lenses
- Ring Flash
- Macro lenses that clip onto phone cameras
Macro Photography Projects
I do a lot of Macro Photography and each year, I take on a project where I document the various types of insects and bugs that visit our garden. We have planted our garden out with a vast variety of different flowers, plants, shrubs, vegetables, herbs and trees to attract a wide range of wildlife into the garden. We have chosen specific plants that we know attract pollinators such as Bees, wasps, butterflies, hover flies, flies, dragon flies, moths, ladybirds, woodlice, ants and so much more.
I typically use a Canon 5D Mark III DSLR digital camera with a Canon 100mm Macro f2.8 L series lens attached. I find I do get really great results from a dedicated Macro lens, especially the Canon L series 100mm f2.8 lens as it has some top quality glass in it and the results are really reliable, time and time again. To the front of the lens I attach a ring flash. The ring flash is an inexpensive one which I bought off Amazon. The ring flash attaches to the filter screw on the front of the lens and then there is a control head unit which connects to the camera’s hot shoe.
I use manual settings predominantly to take macro shots. Using the Canon 100mm Macro f2.8 lens, I tend to use an aperture of between f6 and f11, f8 tends to be the better aperture for the 100mm lens that I use. I set my ISO around about 400 and increase as required and sometimes even set it to auto, I then manually set the shutter speed. The shutter speed that I use ranges from 1/125 and can go up to 1/1000, sometimes higher depending on the subject. If the subject is very fast or erratic moving, then I use a higher shutter speed to get a sharp image so for example a fly or a wasp or a very busy bee. I don’t believe in freezing insects to slow their movements due to having been frozen, as I think it is a cruel method. I do instead spend a lot of time watching an insect and observing how it moves, which enables me to anticipate where they are going to land or move. I usually shoot handheld as well and do not perform any focus stacking.
Things to be aware of when taking Macro photos;
Depth of field is dependent upon three factors: aperture value, focal length and subject distance. When each of the other two variables are fixed, setting a larger F-stop number (which actually means a smaller aperture opening) will result in a larger DOF. Using a longer focal length will result in a smaller DOF. And shooting at a closer subject distance means a smaller DOF.
In macro photography, however, DOF depends primarily on just two factors: aperture value and magnification. At any given aperture value, the higher the magnification ratio, the smaller the DOF. And this explains why DOF is so shallow in macro; the magnifications are simply much larger than in any other type of photography.
Movement is very important so keeping the shutter speed fast enough is essential to create a sharp image. I advise not shooting flowers or insects on a really windy day as that can create blurred images due to movement caused by the wind blowing or if you do bear in mind that you will really need to make sure you have a very quick shutter speed.
ISO levels I tend to shoot with are anything from about 400 upwards depending on the amount of ambient light available. Although the Bee shot above with the very dark background on the Rudbeckia flower was taken with an ISO of 100 and an aperture of f/8. This was taken on a bright day.
Using flash is entirely dependent on what light is available to you. I do not use a traditional flash gun, instead I opt for either a Ring Flash which attaches to the end of the lens or no flash. If I want to create light in certain areas I tend to use the Ring Flash but often just adjust the shutter speed and ISO. I am shooting with a full frame DSLR and increasing the ISO doesn’t create too much noise for me.
Consider the angle and background when shooting your subject, shooting up, under or eye level create great images and engage your audience. The background doesn’t need to be too busy, bokeh or a completely blurred background are ideal as you want the main focus of your image to be the subject so you don’t want to create too many distractions.
I hope that you have enjoyed this insight into Macro Photography, it is something that is worth looking into. I incorporate Mindfulness into Macro Photography and find taking time to compose my shot, or concentrate on how an insect moves, or the colours and detail of a flower up close can really help you focus on the present and keep you in the moment.
Please contact me if you would like to ask me any questions or if you would like to undertake any training in either Photography or Mindfulness.