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Why Start Macro Photography? - The Photography Express

Why Start Macro Photography?

This is a guest post by Samuel Granger

So what is macro photography? Technically speaking, macro photography is creating a subject of at least 1:1 scale on your camera sensor. This means when the photo off the sensor is scaled up on a computer, it shows incredible details. Here is a quick diagram showing the difference between a normal lens and a macro lens.

normal vs macro lens

Revealing these details that are invisible to the naked eye is fascinating and allows for boring subjects, such as a bottle of fairy liquid for example (below), to become something amazing.

liquid macro

Apart from the fact macro photography provides great eye candy, it also inspires and educates. Seeing things for the first time not only opens your eyes, it also provides you with knowledge and experiences that can be shared with other people. What do I mean by this? Personally for me, when I see something new through a macro lens it not only captivates me, but it also starts a learning process. Why does it look like that? Why is it behaving like that?

fly macro

Take this macro picture of a Fly I took for example. Suddenly it isn’t just a ‘Fly’ anymore, but a fantastic piece of creation and engineering. Look at how the plates fit together. Why do the wings look like that? Every detail of this fly is like that for a reason, for survival, through evolution. It is an almost perfect machine. For me this helps inspire my design work as I can capture these new miniature feats of engineering in incredible detail and translate them though to my design work. I might use it for aesthetic inspiration, or even better, functional inspiration. My point is, you can use macro photography to gain NEW observations that can help build upon important things in your life and if you can share those experiences with other people, even better.

Macro Photography Equipment

The great thing is macro photography does not have to be difficult to learn. You do not need to buy expensive lenses. Most of my macro work is shot using reversed prime lenses off eBay, which cost about £20. Here is a great article on macro shooting using reversed lenses. To be able to begin shooting macro photography, you will need one of the following set-ups:

macro equipment

normal vs macro lens 2

The set-ups above are based around reversed prime lenses. To summarise you will need:

  • An interchangeable lens camera such as a DSLR or compact mirrorless.
  • Reversing adaptor for your camera to M42 thread.
  • Extension tube, optional but will provide closer macro shooting. This threads onto the M42 side of the adaptor.
  • M42 to thread size of desired prime lens adaptor.
  • Prime lens. Make sure you can control aperture and focus manually. This is reversed and treaded onto the previous adaptor.

With reversed lenses the aperture will have to be set manually, so it is always a good idea to buy a prime lens with manual aperture control. Of course you can also shoot with a dedicated macro lens too!

dedicated macro lens

Lets get to grasps with the basics of shooting macro using reversed lenses.

Macro Photography Camera Basics

F Numbers (Aperture)

In macro photography the depth of field is extremely small and it is controlled using the lens aperture. Small F-numbers let more light into the lens so you can use higher shutter speeds, however it also makes the depth of field smaller. See my two examples below:

high fstop macro

High F-number (F16). See how a lot of the insect is in focus, however this was sacrificed for light so a shutter speed of 1/40th was used.


low fstop macro

Low F-number (F2.8). Only the head of the insect is in focus. A lot of light was allowed to enter the lens so a shutter speed of 1/400th was used.

You should use an F-number that is relevant to your subject and shooting conditions. Always try and get as much of a subject in focus as possible, and only start to sacrifice the depth of field if you are shooting free hand with limited light.

ISO setting:

In Macro Photography you should always try and use a low ISO number. When you are magnifying a subject, the noise becomes much more apparent in your photography. Therefore, I would recommend using an ISO no higher than 400. Some cameras can handle noise much better than others, if yours can easily handle 400, you might get away with 800.

Shutter Speed:

Your shutter speed will be closely related to the F-number you have set the camera too. Again, the subject you are shooting and your lighting conditions should judge this. If you have more light, you can begin to use faster shutter speeds, which will reduce any camera shake. When free-hand macro shooting I would advise to use a shutter speed of at least 1/100th of a second, any slower then you are going to need a tripod.

Focal Distance:

The focal distance is the distance between the camera sensor and the subject to get it in focus. This distance depends on the type of lens you have and it can range from a few cm to over a meter. When using reversed lenses, it will typically be within 30cm, but it will depend on the prime lens you are using.

For the lighting, begin by just getting to grips with the camera basics mentioned above, all of which can be done well under direct sunlight. Then once you get confident with the basics, why not give Adaptalux a go. Adaptalux has been designed to make macro photography lighting easy and limitless, allowing you to create fantastic macro photos that stand out.

Please see the macro tutorial I did for shooting a feather a few weeks ago below. You will hear me mention many of the terms above and it should give you a good understanding of how lighting effects a macro photograph too.

leaf macro

Go ahead and try Macro photography, you will be amazed at what you will see. I will be writing another article soon, going through the procedures on how to take a great macro photo.

Macro photography inspires me to innovate through what I see down a macro lens, what will it do for you?

Adaptalux is currently raising funds on Kickstarter, go check it out and support them by pledging or sharing:- https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1447024032/adaptalux-an-adaptable-miniature-lighting-studio

About the author: Sam Granger is the Owner and Product Designer for Adaptalux. Through Adaptalux he is hoping to inspire photographers to engage with macro photography and videography. You can find out more about Adaptalux and macro photography at his website.


About Gary

A passionate photographer with goals to fulfill your photography passion and motivate you to take pictures even when life is busy!


  1. Yes i was wondering can i use any other camera other than a Nikon like maybe a Lumix or any other brand to start off with!

    • I don’t have enough experience about the Lumix system in order to give you the best answer. But I do believe they have macro lenses (or similar) available for you to take macro photography. All the best!

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