Haven’t you always been impressed by those photographers who take amazing pictures of a cat’s whisker, or super sharp fur or shiny eye? They get so close that spiders look like super creepy aliens and fur looks like a forest.
Photographers use special equipment called a Macro lens, and you can go macro – or cheat and go almost as good as. Let me show you how.
There are three macro options for the adventurous new photographer that I will tell you about:
- Option one is buying the correct Macro lens for your camera, (or a smartphone macro lens) and what you might want to try.
- The second option is a combination of good zooming, and cropping, so you don’t need a macro lens. Let’s edit.
- The third is investing in a ‘reversal ring’ that means you can have a macro lens without the expense (I include a video for this).
- A cheeky bonus is advising you to use your camera’s own macro setting (the small flower motif) and explore what happens 😉
Macro Camera Lenses
These range in price from about $50.00 to thousands of dollars but they are a great option and worth the money if you intend to ‘go macro’ all the way and do a lot of very close work on, say, cat’s features or jewellery or insects. If you combine cat care with crafting this type of lens could be worth a look too.
The 1:1 designation means that the image of a subject projected onto the sensor (or film) is the same size on the sensor as real life, and is the minimum magnification to classify as a true macro.Stack Exchange
Using a smartphone? You can use a macro lens like the well regarded Xenvo Pro which slips on to your smartphone’s camera ‘eye’. Depending on your camera you can adjust your light settings too.
How to Use a DSLR Macro Lens
Preparation is important to make good use of a real macro lens. You should spend time getting used to your lens and seeing things if a different way through it. Your cat is a great place to start for macro shots but you can get close to the pattern on a ceramic object or the beads on a costume. Take photos of everything.
- While you practice be conscious of your exposure, aperture and your shutter speed.
You may be used to using a DSLR at an ISO of 200 (great for light and colour) but you can go up to 400 or even 800 if it helps enhance your subject. Never be afraid to experiment by changing any of your camera settings.
Think about your aperture. Aperture affects your depth of field and you might find yourself like me, setting yourself an F-stop of F2.8 then finding the camera refuses to focus at all.
F8 is a good place to begin but you can move to F4 and explore what happens. Several photo web sites that I read advise you not to use F11-F22 because everything is sharp which distracts from your focus on your subject.
If you want to chase bees and butterflies around the garden or snap ladybirds in the park, both you and your camera need a bit of speed.
1/125 is a good setting, to begin with but go faster if you are not happy with your results I have just started experimenting with macro style photos and speed is one thing I am changing constantly right now.
Almost a Macro Lens
What? Almost? Let me point out that while you won’t get super amazing macro shots with an ordinary lens you can come close in some of my favourite cat-themed areas. The fun thing to do is to learn about your lenses and discover what they can do. As this means taking more cat photos I don’t think you will mind too much. Just use your lenses, take pictures and see what worked then try it differently!
Experiment. I admit that I am always making mistakes and realising new things my lenses can do. I have taken some super close photos with a kit lens and a telephoto lens as a result so you try it. Don’t judge yourself, have fun, and, inside or outside you will have fun.
A telephoto if you zoom it in, will take a clear and sharp closeup of a cat’s eye or fur, and your versatile kit lens takes really nice photos, especially if you experiment with ‘macro mode’ (the small flower on your camera dial). My 50 mm Lens took a decent shot of Valentine’s Paws, although it did need some editing.
I know that your camera lenses will not be at the 1:1 magnification of a real macro lens, but the quality is outstanding and when you take the final step you get close to the real ‘go macro’ wow quality.
Creating Almost Macro Magic
You will need two things to make your photo into a splendid faux macro shot.
- A good, sharp cat photo
- Photo editing software.
Once you have taken your sharp closeup, import it to Affinity Photo, Corel or Adobe editing software and crop your photo close to your chosen spot. Remember you can undo it if you are not happy with the results the first time. Then crop your photo and you are finished.
What is a Macro Reversal Ring?
A reverse ring allows you to turn around one of your current lenses and use it as a macro lens. To do this you will need to buy a reversal ring for your own brand of camera.
There are a couple of things your camera will not do once the ring is in place, but there are workarounds and I recommend Andres Moline’s video (below) about using the reversal ring. Not only is he a very clear speaker he really brings you up to speed on a piece of equipment that will save you lots of money! WARNING: There is a spider in the video.
Macro Photo Resources and Tips
- A good blog post on fitting a reversal ring
- A comprehensive tutorial of you are keen on macro photography.
- The Importance of lighting. Use nice even lighting – cloudy days are great. Avoid strong sunlight and its dark shadows.
- Give a sense of scale. You will find that a coin is often used to show size. Imagine a silver cat charm, you think it looks cute but how big is it? A coin instantly gives you a sense of how big an item is (and if you want to buy it).
Marjorie is a motorbike riding blogger and award winning cat photographer who believes that everyone can shoot and edit wonderful pictures they love regardless of the camera they use.
She is a Professional member of the Cat Writers Association, Kuykendall Image Award winner and published photographer at the Guardian newspaper.