Do you love to take shots of super close-off subjects? Then a macro lens is a must-have for you. But what is a macro lens, and what is this used for? Well, macro lenses are for giving you the best picture for an object that’s very close.
Photographers use these lenses to take pictures of insects, small plants, and other subjects, all from a very close distance. To help you get a better understanding of it, let’s go over everything you need to know about macro lenses down below.
Table of Contents
- 1 Macro vs. Regular Lenses
- 2 Macro Lens Pricing
- 3 Macro Lens Focal Length Options
- 4 Macro Usage Tips
- 5 Camera Shake and Macro
- 6 Pocket Wizards as Shutter Triggers
- 7 Lighting in Macro Photography
- 8 Focusing a Macro Lens
- 9 Magnification Ratio
- 10 Focusing Mechanism
- 11 Conclusion
Macro vs. Regular Lenses
What is different in a macro lens from the regular lenses? To get an answer to that, you first need to get clear on the macro lens definition.
Macro lenses can focus from infinity to an image that is the same size as real life. But only an actual macro lens with a 1:1 ratio can do such a job.
That allows you to get the most sharpness and detail in your pictures. You will not get that kind of depth in quality in regular lenses. The design of the macro lens is for giving the crispest and sharpest image possible.
If you are using a standard 35mm macro lens, you’ll be able to get this magnification from a couple of inches. But if you use premium lenses like the Nikon macro lens 105mm, the distance can even be a couple of feet.
It’s especially useful if you are capturing live insects or such things in your shots. That allows you to take your macro photography experience to a whole new level.
But for a standard lens, you don’t get these features. It’s simply not able to give that kind of zoom and focus. Even with the most premium and expensive lens, you’ll not be able to get pictures as good as a macro lens.
Another thing worth mentioning is that macro lenses can be great for portraits. It’s not going to have the fantastic bokeh like a lens dedicated to portrait photography. But most of the premium portrait lenses are pretty good for capturing portrait shots.
You may also love to read our full guide on how to choose a camera lens for the best output in photography career.
Macro Lens Pricing
There are hundreds of manufacturers producing thousands of macro lenses in the market. All of these have different specs and features. That makes differences in prices.
You’ll find macro lenses that are as inexpensive as 300 dollars. But as you go up higher, you can go more than 1500 dollars on a single macro lens. There are also countless options in between.
You probably won’t need a 1500 dollar macro lens. Spending that much money for a single macro lens might not be that practical of a decision. It’s better to decide on a lens by looking at your camera first.
For a decent macro lens, 500 dollars is going to be enough. Macro lenses in that price range come with everything you need in a good macro lens. Plus, the modern macro lenses offer a lot of additional features that add so much to your photo shooting experience.
Those allow you to get the pure macro shots and magnification even from a few feets distance. Macro lenses with 200mm or better ones are capable of such a job. These top-notch macro lenses will cost you around 1500 dollars or more.
You can certainly go for an affordable option as well. It’s going to cost you around 300 bucks to get a good budget macro lens for your camera. These will typically have the most basic features. But in that price range, you can only ask for so much.
Macro Lens Focal Length Options
You probably have seen a lot of different focal lengths in camera lenses. But what difference does it make on macro lens photography?
Focal length distance determines the distance you are going to work with. Different lenses come with different focal length options. Your preferred type of photography has a huge impact on what’s going to be the best option for you.
Lenses with a 40-60mm focal length are the most basic ones that you’ll find on the market. These are perfect for close-ups such as shots from 6 inches distance. Thus, it can be used to capture subjects that stay still. For instance, they are very suitable for shooting pictures of coins, jewelry, etc.
The lenses between 90-105mm focal length are considered as mid-range lenses. These give the best shots in a foot distance or more depending on your subject. If you are into shooting insects, flowers, or small plants, these lenses are perfect for you.
Finally, the lenses with 150-200mm focal length give you a very large space. You’ll be able to take great detailed pictures of the subject from far away. Some of the subjects get scared away or intimated in close-up shots. These are the most suitable options to go for in those scenarios.
Overall, the 90-105mm lenses are perfect for most types of macro lens camera photography. They are a very popular option as well.
Macro Usage Tips
You can’t just have the best macro lens and don’t know how to use it efficiently. To get the most out of your lens, you must know a few things. Let’s go over them down below.
Practice Makes Progress
For you to get good at shooting macro pictures, you must shoot a lot of photos. The more you practice, the better you are going to be at macro photography.
Just remember, nobody was born a good photographer. It’s a developed skill. And if you practice the right techniques, you’ll get good at it in no time.
Understanding Field Dilemma
The field dilemma destroys the focus of your picture. But there are ways to correct it.
The best way would be to decrease the aperture. That will eliminate the field dilemma from your pictures. But take note that it will make your pictures less radiant.
Using Manual Focus
Automatic focus can’t give you the best shots possible. It’s more like a gamble when it comes to capturing the best image.
The professionals use manual focus over AF. That allows you to have much more control over the focus on your subject. But make sure to keep the camera motionless while using manual focus.
Stabilization is Important
Stabilizing the camera is the most crucial thing to do to maintain a good focus. It allows you to get the most accurate shots and crystal clear images.
Use tripods or any other gear to stabilize the camera. That will help you get so much better macro shots with your DSLR.
Moving the Subject
The professionals move the subject rather than moving the camera. This technique is very important for saving up so much time and energy.
It’s hard to line up the frame, get good lighting, and focus on a subject. If you find the sweet spot where everything is aligned, you should keep the camera in place. Move the subject as needed. It won’t ruin the adjustments.
Trying Out With Different Backgrounds
Different backgrounds will provide you with a unique look every time you change it. You should take advantage of that as you’re capturing the shots with your macro lens.
If you’re shooting outdoors, you won’t be able to change the background. But if you are shooting in a studio, make sure to do so. It might surprise you with the results.
Fine Tuning the Image
Most beginner photographers depend on editing the image afterward. But it’s certainly not the best approach to take.
It’s far more efficient just to fine-tune the composition. It’s better to take the time to do that. It’ll make it so much easier on the post-processing.
Keeping it Tidy
You want to keep the macro shots as clean as possible. To take such tidy pictures, you must clean the macro lens properly.
Anything on your camera lens will show up on the picture. You don’t want this to happen.
Using the Flash Sometimes
Most people are afraid to use flash when it comes to using macro lenses. But a flash can add so much radiance and glow to your macro shots.
You will find many kinds of flashes in the market. Investing a good one is undoubtedly a wise decision to make.
Camera Shake and Macro
One of the most annoying issues that most photographers face is the shake. It destroys the ability to focus properly. If you are not using a tripod and going for handheld photography, it’s going to be a big issue for you as well.
Shakes ruin a perfectly adjusted shot. Just a slight shake can cause a blurry picture. It makes it next to impossible for you to focus on the subject properly.
To counter that, some of the cameras come with image stabilization features. But that feature is not built-in in most DSLRs.Thus, you have to go for a lens that has image stabilization feature included.
This feature eliminates most distortions and other stuff from the picture. That allows you to get the crispiest and clearest picture possible.
You can also go for a cable shutter release. These are pretty cheap and work great as well.
A cable shutter release lets you take a picture without touching the camera. That eliminates all the chances of shaking issues.
Some lenses with advanced drivers come with a self-timer feature. That allows you to get stability as well. Some of the modern models operate via phone or laptop.
Pocket Wizards as Shutter Triggers
You probably can see how beneficial shutter triggers can be in your photography. You can use it in a lot of situations.
You can use pocket wizards and use them as remote shutter releases. Let’s take a look at the method to do that down below.
First of all, you’ll need 2 power wizards. Once you have it, plug them to the same channel. Now you can start with the process.
You would need to attach a remote camera cable to your pocket wizard and your camera. When you are done, just turn on the pocket wizard. And after that, turn on the camera.
And that’s it. You are practically done. Just press the test button and see if the shutter fires. Be sure to keep one pocket wizard on your hand while doing this.
Another thing worth mentioning is that you should always check the focus beforehand. You’ll need to focus on a manual focus mechanism before you press the test button. And if you have an autofocus lens, just wait for a bit to let it focus properly.
It’s that easy to make shutter triggers using pocket wizards. If you are having issues with shakes, then just take a few moments and make a shutter trigger out of pocket wizards. It will serve you a big-time in the future.
Lighting in Macro Photography
Lighting is the most important aspect that you need to take care of for good photography. Especially macro photo shooting requires good lighting to shoot the sharpest and most detailed pictures.
Getting the best lighting isn’t the easiest task in the world. Sometimes the natural light is all you’re going to need. That would be enough for your images. But there will be a time when getting proper lighting on your subject is going to be a challenge. Even with the natural lighting, you might face some lighting issues in your pictures.
A lot of things come to play when you want sufficient lighting in your pictures. Let’s go over a few lighting settings that you can use for macro photography.
If you are looking for an affordable solution to the lighting issues, ring lights are going to be perfect for you. It’s also very simple to use as well.
The LED ring lights are great for a simple fix. You just need to fit those lights on the end of the lens or around it; it’s going to provide so much better lighting. As it’s a very affordable option, it’s great for you if you don’t want to spend too much money on lighting devices.
But remember, it’s not going to be as powerful as a flash. That said, it’s still one of the most popular and effective ways to solve the lighting issues. You’ll get a nice glowing effect on the subjects with it as well.
Some of the high-end lenses in the market feature a built-in LED light. It’s not the most common type of lens, but surely the innovative technology is super useful to help the user in lighting issues.
The lenses with LED light typically use an external USB power source. As it hasn’t gained that much popularity, you might as well go with the other options.
Using a flash for lighting is very commonly used among photographers. You can use a traditional flash either on the camera or by itself.
The flash produces more powerful lighting than most other lighting sources. That helps you to capture most radiant photos of the subject. A flash goes off for a very short period. That allows the camera to take a shot of the illuminated object.
But there are a few drawbacks to using a flash. First of all, most of the flashes available out there are too strong. That takes away from nature, like lighting.
The solution to that issue is to use diffusers. Those help to cut down from the too radiant flash and make it optimal for macro photography.
Also, using a flash off-camera is a much better way to go. That will give you more control and freedom to get the best lighting in your pictures.
You can easily find some good flashes online that you can get for your camera. There are a lot of inexpensive flashes as well. However, it’s better to get a good flash that will help to give you a rich experience in your macro photography.
Focusing a Macro Lens
If you want to take pictures with a macro lens, you must know how to focus it properly. It can be a cheap macro lens for Nikon or a super high-end lens; the focus is equally important for macro photography.
You should opt for the manual focus. That allows you to control where you want to focus your lens. Thus, you’ll get a sharper and crisper shot.
But if you choose to use AF, make sure to give it time to focus properly. Rushing the process will mess up the picture you are trying to take. Especially in macro photography, you must get a good focus before taking the shots.
The magnification ratio represents how much magnification the macro lens can give you. As you probably know, a true macro lens will always give you 1:1 magnification ratio no matter what. That means the image size would be the same as its size in the real-life image.
But a true macro lens is pretty expensive compared to all the other ones. The 2:1 or different ratios give you half the magnification. Thus, they are pretty inexpensive.
If you are someone who considers quality over money, you should undoubtedly go for a 1:1 macro lens. Also, know that Focal Length Image Quality and Sharpness are deeply connected. Having a true macro lens will give you the sharpest image possible.
Make sure to choose the focal length properly as well. That has a huge impact on how the macro lens is going to perform for you. Pick the right focal distance that suits your type of photography for the best results.
There are two types of focus for a macro lens: automatic focus (AF) and Manual. Most of the macro lenses produced nowadays use autofocus on them.
Autofocus takes out all the effort the user had to do for shooting a picture. In an autofocus lens, there are traditional screw-driven type lenses and advanced silent type lenses.
If you are shooting photos of insects that tend to get scared easily, silent lenses are perfect for you. But for other types of macro photo shooting, the traditional screw-driven lenses work just fine.
You have to keep in mind the price of these lenses with two different mechanisms. The silent focus lenses are a bit more expensive. They are pretty popular these days.
But if you are serious about your photography, you should use a manual focus mechanism more often. Manual lenses give you more freedom and control over the subject you are shooting. Thus, you get a better and clearer shot.
As you saw, macro lenses are not that complicated. And you’ve got everything you need to know on what is a macro lens.
A macro lens is a great lens to have besides a regular lens. Especially if you are into close-up photography, you should consider adding a good one to your bag. It’s going to add so much to your photo shooting experience.
Remember, you should always follow your passion no matter what. If photo shooting is something that brings you joy, then why not go all out?
Get the best gears that you need and go out and see what this beautiful world has to offer you.