macro photography

The Photocritic Holiday Gift Guide: presents for macro photographers

Mulled wine Day Two of the Photocritic Holiday Gift Guide takes us into the world of the the close-up, and macro photography. We've compiled a list of suggestions for people who might be starting out and want to give macro a try, or who've been at it a little while and might need some kit to help them along.



You might be wondering why anyone who already has a tripod might need a macro-specific version. It's not at all compulsory; however, for those photographers who are serious about their macro work, some tripods are preferable compared to others.

Something like a Velbon VS-443 D allows for an inverted centre column that brings the camera close to the ground, for example. Take a look here in the US and here in the UK.


Extension tube

Instead of spending money on a dedicated macro lens, inserting an extension tube between camera and existing lens can have a similar effect. We understand that not everyone wants to have a go at making her or his own extension tube from a Pringles can, but thankfully commercially produced extension tubes are in abundance, manufactured by both the likes of Canon and Nikon as well as third parties.

You can pick them up in a variety of lengths and prices. Take a look.



For anyone who's particularly in love with macro photography, a dedicated macro lens will be high up on her or his wish-list. You can spend anything from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousand. Some are zoom; many are prime. They're produced by both camera and third-party manufacturers. They come both with and without image stabilisation.

I love my Canon 100mm ƒ/2.8L and wouldn't be without it, but if you've not quite that much spend, take a look at these options.



All photography relies on light, but macro photography is especially light-hungry. To help manipulate and direct illumination precisely where it's needed, no macro photographer should be without a reflector. Reflectors come in a variety of sizes and colours, but we've picked out this 5-in-1 reflector that incluces gold, silver, white, and black surfaces as well as a diffuser to help evenly spread light across your subject, too.

In the US it's about $30; a similar reflector in the UK is about £30.


Ring flash

The shadowless light produced by ring flashes makes them ideal for macro photography. They're also relatively simple to use and start out with very reasonable prices, too, which makes them ideal for both beginners or as gifts.

Take a look at this Bower ring flash priced at $70 as a starting point.



One never seems to have sufficient hands when it comes to macro photography. Or flowers have an inconvenient habit of swaying in the breeze creating nothing but blurry images. This is where a plamp comes in handy. Attach one end to your tripod (or anything sturdy and reasonably close) and use the other to secure a plant stem, angle a reflector, or hold a backdrop in place.

Try Wimberley direct in the US to find out where you can buy a plamp, or they're about £40 in the UK.



Haje's excellent Macro Photography Workshop is now only available as an e-book. If you'd rather purchase one of the dead-tree variety, take a look at Digital Macro and Close-up Photography by Ross Hoddinott.


A gingerbread house kit

Tasty and great for macro photography!

Gifts for beginners < < Holiday Shopping with Photocritic > > Gifts for smartphone photographers

What is macro?

The Photography Fundamentals roadshow has reached stop 'M', where we're taking a very brief look at macro. We've kept it brief because otherwise it would become an incredibly detailed exploration of the subject that wouldn't so much be an introduction, which is the guiding principle behind the Photography Fundamentals series, but a tome. Although we think of macro photography as being the art of caprturing tiny things, it's not quite that. It's actually about capturing things very close. When you photograph little things, like ladybirds or lily pollen, you obviously want to get in close to fill your frame and get the best detail. This is probably why we associate 'macro' with 'small'. You could, however, have a macro shot of a skyscraper. It wouldn't be the entire skyscraper, but a very detailed, up-close section of it.

Reversed 28mm lens

Getting this close usually requires a specialist macro lens to achieve a photo, although there are ways around this using extension tubes, bellows, reversing rings, and other bits of kit. As for a macro lens, the technical definition is of a lens that can record an image on a camera's sensor that's the same size as the object being photographed. It has a magnification of factor of 1:1. Similarly, if the image of the subject on the sensor were half the size of the actual subject, the magnification would be 1:2; if the image on the sensor were a quarter of the size of the actual subject, that would be a magnification of 1:4.

That strict definition of what it takes to produce a macro image has loosened over time and lots of people are happy to say that 1:10 magnification counts as macro. Simply: you're really close.

Que? (Macro)

All of that magnification means that macro photographs frequently have very shallow depths of field.


  • Macro photography is extremely close-up photography
  • The strict definition of macro photography is an image with a magnification factor of 1:1 - the subject will be at least the same size in real life as it is recorded on the sensor
  • The looser definition of macro photography is of images with a magnification of 1:10. It's still close!

Leading lines << Photography Fundamentals >> Noise

Macro photography with your mobile phone

In my second round of videos for the Nokia N8 Camera School, I'm getting up close and personal – with some bumble bees. In this video, you’ll see the Nokia N8′s macro mode in action, and the results? Well, let's just say that the compact camera manufactures have plenty to be getting worried about...

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