When you get a DSLR, you may find yourself drawn to different types of photography. It's possible you got your camera to capture moments with your family, but maybe you also really like landscapes. Or you're really drawn to those super close-up, detailed photos of things like insects and flowers.
So, how do you achieve this type of photography? What is it even called?
Close up photography is generally referred to as macro photography. It's a lot of fun; it can even be a little addicting! As a RI family photographer, it's a fun style for me to shoot when I'm not photographing families. There are SO many things around your house and yard that you can take macro photos of.
So what do I need to take macro photos?
There are several ways you can take macro photos. If you're not sure if macro is your thing yet, or you don't want to spend a ton, you can buy macro filters that screw onto a lens you currently have. You can find these in many camera shops, or online in places like Amazon or B&H. They produce fairly good quality for the price.
If you're ready to go all in with macro photography, there are lenses that are specifically for macro photography. They come in various focal lengths, but the most popular ones are in the 90-105mm range. The one I use is the Canon 100mm 2.8 macro (the non-L version). Keep in mind that Nikon calls macro lenses "micro", but they are the same thing.
There are some macro lenses that are made specifically for crop sensor cameras. These will be designated by an EF-S lens type with Canon, or DX with Nikon. They are generally in focal length ranges from 35-60mm. They are fine to use if you have a crop sensor camera right now, but if you are considering upgrading to a full frame at some point, keep in mind you would not be able to use that lens on a full frame camera. EF (Canon) or FX (Nikon) lenses can be used on both crop and full sensor cameras.
Should I get a macro lens with image stabilization?
Many lenses of all types come with a feature that helps counteract camera shake. Different brands call it different things: image stabilization, vibration compensation, vibration reduction, optical stabilization. It's the same thing. This feature can be super handy with macro photography, where you are very close to your subject and any shake or motion will be amplified. That said, lenses with this feature can be more expensive.
Full disclosure, my macro lens does not have stabilization. I'm a pretty stable person. Also, macro photography is not something I do all the time so I decided to get the less expensive lens without the stabilization. You can always use a tripod if you need some help reducing shake but don't want to opt for a stabilized lens.
I have a lens that says "macro" on it. Does that mean I have a macro lens?
A lot of zoom lenses (even some kit lenses) have a macro designation on them. True macro lenses have a 1:1 or greater reproduction rate (meaning the image is reproduced life size or even larger on your camera sensors. Those zoom lenses that say "macro" may have a slightly greater reproduction rate than your average zoom lens, but they are not close to true macro, so if that's what you're wanting, definitely invest in an actual macro lens.
Any suggestions on settings?
Most macro lenses have a fairly wide maximum aperture of 2.8. That said, for most macro photography, I recommend using a narrower aperture (smaller number). Depth of field (the amount of your photo in focus) gets smaller and smaller the closer you get to a subject. It also gets smaller the wider your aperture. You will find that your depth of field is SUPER thin if you shoot macro photos at a wide aperture.
Using a narrower aperture will allow you to get more of your photo in focus. It will also require that you compensate with a slower shutter speed and/or a higher ISO, so keep an eye on your settings and use a tripod if needed to avoid camera shake.
You also may need to use manual focus with macro photography. While nearly all macro lenses allow for autofocus, it can be difficult for the camera to lock on to a specific point when you're so close. Manual focus can be tricky at first, especially when dealing with the narrow depth of field that comes with macro photography. Keep practicing! Using live view (the LCD on the back of your screen) and zooming in to the photo can really help with getting your focus area correct, especially when you're first learning to perfect manual focus.
Overall, have fun! Macro photography is really relaxing, and a great way to get some beautiful printable photos for your wall. Any questions about macro photography? Ask them in the comments!