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Macro help

6 Apr 2014 7:42AM
I'm starting to get into macro photography and have just bought a Nikon 105 to go with my D3200, when the lens is on autofocus do I still need to adjust the focus ring on the lens or is that for when you are using it on manual focus. Also if you get as close as possible to the subject does this mean you will get a bigger magnification or not, would you still get the same magnification if you have to move back a bit, say if you were trying to photograph a insect and you don't want to spook it.
What would be the closest distance and the furthest distance to retain a macro image.
Would I notice a lot of difference in sharpness if I used a tripod? and would you turn of the VR if you were on a tripod.
Sorry to ask so many questions but I am new to macro photography and would really appreciate any help and advice.

Thank you very much


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JonnyNI Plus
6 1.8k
6 Apr 2014 8:37AM
I am also new to macro and I may be wrong but here are my thoughts on your post.

If using auto-focus you don't need to use the focus ring.

The closer you get the larger the subject appears so therefore the greater the magnification (but narrower DOF).

I wouldn't be sure how close you would have to be with your lens to achieve true macro.

A tripod would IMO give better results but I find for insects or anything on the move you could miss more shots trying to get a tripod into position. Great for flowers or the like.
hobbo Plus
7 1.2k 2 England
6 Apr 2014 9:00AM
Having learned and honed the basics of macro photography relatively recently, I may be able to advise.

Most enthusiasts, shoot macro using Manual Focus only, but, instead of winding the focus ring in and out you need to imperceptibly move your body back and forth, only pressing the shutter at the right moment, this takes patience and practice......you can of course, zoom the lens to its potential focus point first.

Also, it depends upon which Macro lens you are using.....if it's a reversed lens or an Auxilliary one like a Raynox then the rocking method is best. If you have a dedicated Macro lens then you can experiment with Auto Focus but be prepared for your lens to spend time ( and noise) hunting for that elusive point of focus.

Personally I use. Dedicated 2.8-100 SONY Macro lens on a SONY A55 camera, sometimes with one to three extension rings added.......the most important point for macro newbies to learn is about the extreme Shallow Depth of Focus caused by macro lenses.......it is best to learn to shoot your tiny subjects side on to get best results, not always easy in practice.

One other important consideration is lighting your subject, flash can be too harsh, so learn to make a DIY Flash Reflector/Diffuser, to take the light right down to the end of your lens......After many experiments, I now use. Lidded plastic pudding basin, quarter lined with foil, with a layer of white tissue inside the lid.......the basin has been cut at the base like a pair of doors to fit tightly over my Speedlight.

With this, or a similar set up, begin by setting your camera to.....A 11 to 16 ........S 160 ..... ISO and Flash power to suit ambient light, this should give excellent results.

Learn to move slowly, learn the habits of your targets, be patient, you will eventually begin to record excellent Macro work.

After all of this, look at YouTube Tutorials on Macro Photography and Focus Stacking.

Have Fun!

Coast 10 1.6k 292 United Kingdom
6 Apr 2014 9:01AM
You don't need to use the focus ring on autofocus. I would advocate you use manual focus to get the focus point exactly where you need it.

The closer you get to your subject the greater the magnification of it. True macro is 1:1 where the subject is actual size on the sensor or film frame. Macro now is a generalist term used to describe close up photography as a whole. So the closest distance for a true macro would be the distance that has the subject or area of subject at life size within the frame. This distance from the subject would vary on the size of the subject and lens focal length. In terms of close up photography I would say as a guide anything under 40-30cm would be deemed as close-up as categorising within the photography genre. Some would argue a frame filling shot of a window on the Empire State Building would be a close up of the building, close up being relative, but I'm sure you understand what I mean in terms of the genre.

On a tripod you must switch off VR as you may get it causing some softness. Some would not advocate a tripod and one technique employed is to use the rocking back and forth to fine tune focus. Mostly I would suggest using a tripod for the best results in sharpness for close up work. I would go further and where possible also use mirror lock up and a remote or wired release. At this magnification the slightest tremor, even the shutter release being gently pressed, can cause camera shake.

I hope that helps.

You may be interested too in the Macro group on EPZ. Found under group chat on the forums. There is a weekly photo challenge too. Just for fun but gets you out trying to make a close up image on whatever theme has been set. The winner each week gets to choose and judge the following weeks theme. Take a look and see what you think. This weeks theme is "something Red" and closing time is 8pm tonight so you have time today to have a go with your lens and upload an image. If you go into the group you will find the sub tags for the forum and photos. Under photos you can see the uploads for the weekly themes.

adrian_w Plus
10 3.7k 4 England
6 Apr 2014 10:24AM
+1 for what Paul has said above.
If you are doing extreme close-up then a tripod is essential as hand holding will never be stable enough.
It costs a bit more but if you are serious about macro then consider buying a focussing rail to fit on the tripod.
This moves the camera back & forwards by fractions of a millimetre and is better for accurate focussing than changing the focus manually. Also very useful if you get into focus stacking techniques for greater depth of field.
MeanGreeny 12 3.7k England
7 Apr 2014 1:09PM

Quote:+1 for what Paul has said above.
If you are doing extreme close-up then a tripod is essential as hand holding will never be stable enough.

Not true.

Look up "LordV" in Google - maybe with "macro" with it.

Brian Valentine uses a [IIRC] bamboo stick - held against the camera with his hand - for support while he gently rocks back and forth to focus

His are some of the finest macro shots you'll ever see - all without a tripod.

He also uses this method to do focus stacking - all hand held.

I suggest you try without a tripod and persevere for a while to see if you can do it - otherwise it will be likely you'll never wean yourself off the use of a tripod 100% of the time.
gaelldew 11 361 United Kingdom
7 Apr 2014 3:08PM
Excellent article well worth bookmarking. Thanks.
LenShepherd 10 3.6k United Kingdom
7 Apr 2014 6:14PM
There are several issues, and perhaps some unfortunate comments from some who seem not to have used modern equipment.
As depth of field is limited in macro it is best to aim the focus point at something slightly behind the point closest to the subject to make better use of what little dof there is. How much behind is a skill best learned by experimenting with with different apertures at different magnifications. This applies to AF and MF.
With modern AF there is no need to "rock back and forward" as modern focus tracking AF (AF-C setting on Nikon) copes well with reasonable subject or photographers movement. If there is a lot of movement outdoors in a strong wind a sharp image is unlikely with AF or MF Sad
In perfect shooting conditions (usually indoors on a tripod) manual focus is great, but outdoors hand holding when a tripod is not very practicable, AF often gets many more subjects in focus.
If you have the VR version of the 105, the VR can help get more depth of field providing a flower is not blowing in the wind.
If there is wind movement, the movement is greatly magnified in macro, and sharp shots are often extremely difficult outdoors. On a detail I find mountain pansies move in even a 4 mpg light breeze making sharp pictures with some subjects very difficult.
Guidance number 1 I suggest is find an outdoor subject sheltered from the breeze and guidance number 2 is find a good specimen with a good background.
brian1208 Plus
14 11.4k 12 United Kingdom
7 Apr 2014 7:12PM

Quote:With modern AF there is no need to "rock back and forward" as modern focus tracking AF (AF-C setting on Nikon) copes well with reasonable subject or photographers movement

Like my namesake I also hand-hold with IBIS enabled and use smallest single point centre focus AF to get fast initial lock then, holding the shutter half-pressed to lock focus, "rock" the camera, not to accommodate movement but to get pin-point placement of the focus point on the eye or whatever point of interest I want to concentrate (I just wish I was good as him at it Grin )

Its not a technique normally recognised as working for macro but on the other hand, I can't get anything worthwhile in the way of action shots of live bugs, bees and other moving subjects using the tripod or monopod

As with most things in life, there isn't one "Right Way" of doing this, its a question of knowing all the options available and finding what works best for you Smile

(I can't get anywhere using CAF either as I want to control where the final focus ends up, rather than the camera)
Glostopcat 12 255 2 England
7 Apr 2014 7:42PM
Ade Osmant epzer "AdeOsman" is the macro expert on here and will give you invaluable advice particularly if you are thinking of photographing insects. Send him a pm and I am sure he will help. He's given me and many other members some sound advice over the years. You never know he may read this and offer some advice on the spot, that is if he isn't too busy sampling the cider in Ashburton!Wink
Ade_Osman 15 4.5k 36 England
7 Apr 2014 8:29PM
Too busy getting drunk Tongue Hic!
Seriously though as Ed says, drop me a pm with your questions and I'll get back to you when I can, but it might take me a day or two as I'm exceptionally busy at the moment with the stresses and strains of what life throws at us all, oh and I'm out with the cameras with every spare moment I have Wink
StrayCat 14 19.1k 3 Canada
8 Apr 2014 3:59AM
Ade, you mentioned somewhere that you were planning a trip to Canada; any idea when, and what parts? If you're in these parts, you could get a macro shot of the Rockies.Wink
Ade_Osman 15 4.5k 36 England
8 Apr 2014 1:19PM

Quote:Ade, you mentioned somewhere that you were planning a trip to Canada; any idea when, and what parts? If you're in these parts, you could get a macro shot of the Rockies

You nut! Tongue

I reckon if if wasn't for the curvature of the Earth, I could screw on my 150mm macro + a X2 Extender and get a shot from here of the Rockies, but would I get them all in? Probably not and what with all this air pollution here at the moment I'd probably struggle to get a shot of the end of our drive Sad

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