Macro photography is the art of producing quality photographs of small items, in larger than life size. This extreme close-up photography usually focuses on flowers or very small living organisms like insects, in which the size of the subject in the photograph is a lot greater than the real life size.

I have always loved wildlife photography, and it has brought me a lot of happiness to capture animals in their natural state. It has also taught me a lot of patience which I never used to have! I am only starting out now with Macro photography – the art of producing very large, detailed photographs. I’m glad to share some tips and tricks that I have read up on and learnt in the bush so far:

  • Choose the best lens – 50mm/200mm macro lens
  • Always use the correct apertures to control the depth of field
  • A tripod is the most important thing to use in macro photography
  • Make sure to use your point of focus
  • Fine tune macro pattern compositions
  • Shoot at sunset or sunrise for the best lighting

When choosing the best lens always remember that the focal length of macro lenses range from 50mm to 200mm. Although many zoom lenses boast a macro setting, these are usually less than half life size magnification. This is okay to start with (I currently have a zoom lens with a macro function), however true macro starts with 1:1 and nothing less, which will give you far better shots.

You could use a 50/60mm lens for your general macro work, but you will need a minimum of 100mm lens if you want a greater subject-to-lens distance. When you are taking photos of creatures like butterflies or other insects, lens-to-subject distance becomes more important, so focal length needs to be greater. When using the aperture to control the depth of field you must remember that the bigger your aperture is, the more light you will let in and your depth of focus will only concentrate on a piece of the photo. To get the most out of available depth of field, select a smaller aperture like f/16 up to f/22. You will find that at half-life-size the depth of field you can achieve at f22 will only be at around 15mm at best.

A tripod is very important with macro photography because one tends to shake a lot trying to focus on these small items while using a lot of magnification! The tripod will keep the camera still and the lens firmly in place; allowing very little movement, which will give you the ultimate sharp image. Make sure that your point of focus is always on the subject you are capturing. For example, don’t focus on the grass blade in front of the insect’s body – the best rule is always make your focal point on the eye of the subject, this will allow the rest of the body to be in complete focus. Flowers especially, have beautiful patterns, and it’s very easy to crop the photo later using light room or photo shop, but good practice is to fine-tune composition in-camera at the time of shooting as much as possible. Make sure there are no gaps or open edges around your subject or zoom out slightly to show a bit of the background around the plant or flower.

We are in summer now here in South Africa and most of our flowers are blooming and full of life, so this is a great time to get started with macro photography. The best time to take photos is around sunrise or sunset, this is because at these two times of day we have a lovely golden yellow/golden glow and it makes our photos a lot warmer and more detailed. The only thing left is to get your hands on a nice Macro lens and come try it out here with us around Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa or on safari!

Mhondoro Ranger – Marcus Hack

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