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Understanding Macro Lenses – A Great Insight for Photographers

Posted by on August 26, 2021

Macro LensAlthough a macro lens is used when extremely detailed photography is needed, it is incredibly versatile. There is a great range of subjects around to capture in the camera. A macro lens can offer you everything you need while photographing them.

Macro Lens – What is it?

As you know, macro means large. In photography, a macro lens is the one which makes subjects large by bringing them very close, but into sharp focus. Thus a macro lens makes small objects or their parts much larger on the camera sensor.

However, a macro lens can do even more than this. It captures images that are typically shown so as to make the subject above life-size yet charming beyond human eye capability of capturing details.

A standard macro lens has a ‘reproduction’ or ‘magnification ratio’ of 1:1, which means the image on the sensor is of the same size as that of the real object, whereas other lenses capture images on the sensor in a much smaller size than the real object.

capturing details

Some macro lenses have a ratio even more than 1:1, allowing them to capture images on the sensor that are bigger than the object. Examples are photographs of snowflakes, feather, insects’ eyes or wings, and so on.

The minimum focusing distance differs from lens to lens. However it’s typically 12 inches (30 cm) or less; but most macro lenses will stretch to infinity and so are useful for general photography.

Macro lenses for smartphones are also available which can be attached over the phone’s camera’s lens via a clip.

Irix 150mm f/2.8

Applications of a Macro Lens

The real use of a macro lens is for capturing images beyond human vision. For example, it can capture the image of an insect revealing the texture on its back and the glowing colors which cannot be seen in real life.

A macro lens is also great for newborn photography, particularly for capturing tiny details such as fingers, toes or eyelashes of a baby.

It’s also extremely helpful for product photography, particularly if the product is small.

Photographers can also use a macro lens as a portrait lens. It’s in fact quite helpful for portraits because it captures details in an amazing way, enables you to correctly focus even if you’re standing very close to the object, and is available in focal lengths that are perfect for portraits.

Thus macro lenses can be immensely helpful in scientific studies, especially of nature, while capturing images of flowers, butterflies and other insects. They can also be useful for photography for artistic means, like taking close-ups of baby fingers, old people’s hands with wrinkled skin or eyes with reflections.

Check out the Irix 150mm f/2.8 which provides an outstanding compromise for the narrow field of view expected in advertising and portrait photography. Watch this video:

Best Focal Lengths for a Macro Lens

The focal length of a macro lens is something that makes a great difference to the images you capture. Here are various focal lengths of macro lenses among which you can choose that best suits your photography.

40 to 60mm

40-60mm macro lenses are ideal for product photography and also for capturing images of small subjects like small creatures by getting close to them. However, they are not very effective while photographing inanimate objects.

capturing images of small subjects

90 to 105mm

A classic macro focal length is 90-105mm. While thinking of macro photography, the photographer will surely think of small creatures, insects, flowers and plants, and this focal length is ideal for all these small subjects.

With this focal length, you don’t have to get very close to the subject. However, it’s versatile. You can get closer if you want to. This focal length is also a popular choice while taking close-up photos of an eye.

small subjects

150 to 200mm

When you can’t get too close to the subject, the focal length of 150-200mm is perfect. This is when there is a risk of scaring away your subjects like small insects if you get closer to them. In such a case, this focal length will help you out to step back yet taking very detailed photographs that seem to be close to the subject.

How to Make the Most of Macro Lenses

A macro lens is highly useful. But by applying certain tips, you can reap its benefits to a maximum extent. Here are a few.

Make Sure the Light is Right

Just like all other types of photography, macro photography too needs right light. In fact, it needs a lot of light. While shooting macro nature images outside, natural light can give a great effect. However, nature has many other elements that are beyond the control of the photographer. These mainly consist of weather. Time of the day and year also has its own effect. Light is affected by all these regarding its quality and how long it will last.

Photographers can make use of backlighting in macro photos, e.g. shooting at sunset or sunlight filtering through trees can make images look beautiful.

Photographers should be well aware of the lighting they will be shooting in and choose the lighting wisely for achieving the desired results. When needed they should use artificial lights like ring lights. Ring lights can fit on the end of the lens and provide a constant light source. Although they cannot give light as bright as a flash, they can be very effective.

Irix 150mm f/2.8 with 77mm filter

Use Focus Stacking

There is a focus stacking option in many cameras. It was originally introduced by Olympus, but today Canon, Nikon and other brands too offer it.

Photographers can combine various images with different focus distances using automatic focus stacking. They can do this even manually, but find it much easier with a camera. Later they can use Lightroom to combine images while editing. The final result will give a super-sharp, in-focus image.

Take Steady Shots with a Tripod and Remote Triggers

It’s very important to keep your camera steady while taking macro photographs. Since you’re so near your subject, there is no scope for error.

Using a tripod allows you to use remote triggers or timer release to activate your shutter. That way, you don’t have to touch your camera directly while taking images; still it will eliminate any camera shake issues.

Several macro lenses have built-in ‘image stabilization’ or ‘vibration reduction’. If you’ve got such a macro lens, it’s better to turn it off while using a tripod.

nature's images

Use a Macro Lens for Detailed Portraits

You’ll find that a portrait-type focal length (e.g. 90mm) with a macro lens works well for capturing portraits. However, macro lenses themselves are also great for headshots with their abilities of close focusing. Macro lenses are made for offering details and colors beautifully, capturing sharp and detailed images.

Macro Lens for Detailed Portraits

Although the shallow depth of field that other portrait lenses offer may be lost, a macro lens will create exceptionally sharp and crisp portraits that are perfect for printing.

So, are you ready to capture great shots with a macro lens?