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Macro – A House Finch and Some Post Processing (Two Photographs)

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This finch has very little to do with macro or close-up but I have used my best hand-holding techniques and image stabilization to ensure stability and the best detail.

More on Macro and close-up photography: I said there were three things that helped get detail: stability, shutter-speed and sharpening in post-processing. There are many views on the best way to sharpen photographs, the best software, the best methodology, the best sequence of noise reduction and sharpening. The important thing about sharpening is to recognize that the sharpening done in camera is minimal and that 99.9% of all photos need some additional help on import into post processing, and on export to the web or print. It’s amazing how much of a difference even default settings will have on a photo. On export where and how the photo will be used makes a difference, sharpening for the web is different than sharpening for a print on the wall. Because most of this depends on the software you use for post-processing I will not get into details here. What I will say is that in addition to the regular sharpening mentioned above its advisable to looking into tonal contrast. Normal sharpening looks at the definition between individual pixels and tonal contrast, the definition between colours. A mixture of the two can bring a soft photo back to life. There also some types of shake reduction software that fix photos taken with a less than stable camera set-up (works some of the time). Learning a bit about the sharpening options available to you is well worth the effort.

Macro: Some Garages – And a Last Tip on Stability (Three Photographs)

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The garages clearly have nothing to do with Macro or close-up photography, they are just a series I wanted to post.

One way I make sure my camera is stable enough to get sharp photos, when hand-held, is that it is firmly held against my glasses. To do this I use an oversize eye cup on my cameras made by Hoodman, (I am sure there are other brands). A firm hold on the camera and well seated on your face with the eye cup, really makes a difference. Also the large cup blocks light and makes it easier to use other camera features.

Macro: Some Butterflies and More on Getting Good Detail: Shutter Speed

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In my post on stability I give a link to an article on properly holding a camera. Photography Life is one of the better photography sites on the web. In that article there was mention of the “rule of reciprocity”. Like all rules there are exceptions and they may be important to know. The rule states that the shutter speed should be the reciprocal of the length of the lens (e.g. 500mm means you should at a minimum shoot at 1/500th of second). Great starting point, but for birds in flight you might want something higher. More importantly, the size of the sensor has an impact, a cropped sensor will need to multiply the crop factor by the length of the lens. For example, a Nikon 7200 has a sensor with a crop factor of 1.5 (this is known as an APC sensor). If you have a full frame camera you need not worry. And there are more exceptions you might want to consider. Blur for artistic reasons is one. Using lenses or cameras with stabilization features probably permit lower shutter speeds. When shooting close up there may be even more need for stability, especially if your subject is very small or moving fast and we have to move with the subject. Shutter speed is not always the solution, just as tripods are not always the solution.  Artificial light (Flash) can stop motion, (more about Flash in a later post).

Macro : Stability and a New Technique (Two Photographs)

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The very subtle change in the green grass between the two photos was necessary in my view if the grass was to look natural. In Photoshop, create a black and white layer and change the layer to luminosity (adjust fill and opacity to taste).

In my last post I said there were three parts to getting good detail: stability, shutter-speed or flash and sharpening in post-processing. Stability is key. Good solid tripods, with professional heads (geared or ball head) are great for things that don’t move, ambush bugs, coins etc. For fine focusing at the macro level  (1:1) or close-up photography, expensive focusing rails help as do plamps. The links are not endorsements merely illustrative of what these things are. Frankly these are specialized and it would be much better to use stabilized lens, and learn the best techniques to hold a camera steady. There are many educational links on the web for this, it also covers a bit about shutter speed. I am using a tripod less and less, when I do it normally involves immovable objects e.g. shooting stationary people, birds nests. Focusing rails and plamps are good for flowers and stationary insects. More on Macro and close-up photography in my coming posts.

Macro: Not Urbex (Three Photographs)

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Urbex photography is photography of the insides of abandoned building and factories, and while these are abandoned buildings, they don’t meet the definition of urbex. Some things that are key to macro/close-up photography apply to all photography. Getting detail in photographs is one of those things. We get detail with a steady camera, appropriate shutter-speed (or artificial light) and sharpening in post-processing. While books have been written on at least two of theses subjects, there are some simple basics I will cover in upcoming posts.

Macro: A Sparrow

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This is close up shot of a sparrow. It was taken with a 200–500 mm lens. Then it was cropped significantly. This cropping is possible because of the high number of megapixels in modern camera sensors (in this case 20 megapixels). So to be very clear, megapixels matter. Cameras in the range of 20 megapixels and up make detailed close up photography easier. Long lenses can get you close to birds and insects assuming your subject is outside the minimum distance permitted by the lens (e.g. some lenses will not focus on anything closer than five feet.) The dragonfly I showed yesterday was taken at 500mm. In short it’s possible to get very close to things without any special macro kit. More in my posts next week.

Macro: A Dragonfly and Some Comments (Two Photographs)

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It always amazes me how different the black and white is from the color version. The lights you see in the dragonfly’s eyes are natural light. The eyes have thousands of diamond-like facets, some catch the light. There are also some highlights from dust/pollen particles. I said I would be writing  more about close-up and macro photography over the next while. My first comment is that macro photography is often mistaken for close-up photography. Macro photography means the subject is the same physical size as the sensor in your camera or smaller. Without very specialized equipment that is hard to do. Close-up photography can be done with any lens if you don’t mind cropping, and with long lenses from a distance with or without a crop. This is the first of  a series of posts that will focus on specifics about close-up and macro photography but many of the issues apply to all photography.