Choosing the right kit for close up photography

Macro photography - bee flower

Macro photography

Close up photography of nature is not as easy as it may sound.

Besides the technical challenge of getting sharp pictures at such close range, there’s the fact that many bugs and insects have an annoying habit of flying away when you get up close.

But don’t let that deter you for trying close up photography yourself – equip yourself with the right digital camera equipment, show a bit of perseverance and the results will soon begin to speak for themselves.

What the experts use

Alan McFaden

Alan McFaden

The sight of studio photographer Alan McFaden without a camera is something few souls have witnessed.

When he isn’t doing all our product photography he’s out in all weathers taking pictures, or trawling round boot fairs looking for photographic bits and bobs to play with. Which is how he came to develop a simple set-up and technique which enables him to get shots such as this one with relative ease.

‘I bought a small flashgun for £1 at a boot fair,’ he explains. ‘I attach this to the end of my macro lens with a blob of Blu-Tack, pointed slightly downwards, and plug it into the sync socket.

‘I’ve worked out that I need an aperture of f/32 for a correct exposure. I can then go up to a flower, fine tune the focus and shoot within a second or two. The small aperture ensures adequate depth of field and the flash provides the illumination and freezes any movement.

‘Flashguns like this are common at boot fairs and I think they give a better light than ringflash, because they’re more directional.’

Don’t worry if you’re unable to source a cheap but effective macro flash solution like Alan’s for your close up photography shots. There’s still a wide range of digital camera accessories specifically tailored for close up photography to choose from. Here are some common items to look out for.

Macro accessories

A wide range of accessories is available for the macro photographer. Here is a selection…

50mm Macro lens

50mm Macro lens

1. Macro lens for close up photography

The best option if you can afford it.

They enable you to focus in one continuous movement from infinity down to 1:1 scale lifesize.

All the major manufacturers, and independents such as Tamron and Sigma, produce their own macro lenses.


2. Flash options for close up photography

Macro flash for close up photography

Macro flash

Ringflash is a popular option among macro photographers.

Shaped like a doughnut, it surrounds the lens for soft, all-around illumination.

Macro flashes have separate flashtubes on each side which can be individually adjusted.

Small flashguns can be used too, if they’re placed close to the subject.


3. Tubes, bellows and close-up lenses for close up photography

Extension tubes for macro photography

Extension tubes

There are several ways of modifying an existing lens to achieve closer focusing.

You can increase the distance between lens and body using extension tubes or bellows, or by screw a close-up lens onto the filter thread.

Both solutions are cheaper than a macro lens though not as convenient.