February 7, 2012

The Lazy Man's Floral Macro Technique ...

Or I guess I should say lazy woman's technique, because this is my "lazy" technique. I say "lazy" in quotes, because, by that, I mean that I'm not hauling out and setting up the tripod, which would be the proper photographer's tool of choice for macro photography. Don't get me wrong: the tripod is wonderful. And in a perfectly fastidious, slow-paced world, I would use it every time. But I don't use it every time; sometimes, I just want to take the picture. Without the extra hassle. And so this is my stand-in-the-gap ["lazy", if you prefer ...] technique for taking macro photos without the tripod.

ISO 800, f/2.8, 1/500sec

The key to the equation is to keep the shutter speed high enough to override the camera/hand shake factor. Because macro is sooooo close up, camera/hand shake is amplified. In each of the following pictures, I bumped my ISO just high enough to buy me a fast enough shutter speed. All pictures were taken with my 100mm macro lens. All images were taken hand held. All images were shot "wide open" (except as noted) at f/2.8 , which also helps to buy me extra shutter speed.

ISO 640, 1/640sec

ISO 640, 1/320 sec

ISO 640, 1/640sec

In the picture below, I wanted a less shallow depth of focus. At the very least, I wanted the entire center of the flower to be in focus (thus, my smaller f/stop of 4.5). Oftentimes macro photography will require small f/stops like f/8, f/11, even f/16. Those small f/stops will NOT work with my technique, as they require a slower shutter speed to let in enough light to compensate for the smaller aperture. But for the picture directly below, I had enough light to use a slightly smaller f/stop while still maintaining a fast enough shutter speed to handhold the camera.

ISO 500, f/4.5, 1/400sec

ISO 400, 1/640sec

ISO 800, 1/250 sec (this is about as slow a shutter speed as I can handhold effectively)

There is an added benefit to my "lazy" technique for outdoor macro photography. If there is any wind at all, a tripod + slow shutter speed combo is going to get you nothing but a blurry-blowing-in-the-breeze flower picture. A fast shutter speed, however, will override not only your shaky-hand-held-camera effect, but also will "freeze" the movement of the flower. Both pictures below were taken, handheld, in breezy conditions...

ISO 400, 1/1000 (fast!)

ISO 640, 1/400sec

FYI, all these flowers, except the last two outdoor ones, are all store-bought bouquets from Trader Joe's. So feel free to go buy yourself some winter cheer and try some macro photography. Oh, and if you don't have a macro lens, experiment with reverse mounting a prime lens you already have ...

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Shawntae said...

Okay, you've convinced me to go out and buy a bouquet! Such gorgeous photos!

Tracy P. said...

I'm super impressed at the clarity of that magenta flower at 1/250! Do you use a short timer on these at all?

All of this deliciousness reminds me that I've been meaning to explore macro photography for a long time. I don't even have a clue what distinguishes a macro lens from any other. Thanks so much for the reverse mounting link--looks like an idea that could well be in my future!

Stacey said...

These are soooooo lovely, Susan.

Tracey said...

oh my Susan...these are stunning! That second one down...my favorite. I have longed for a macro lens bc I often see things in macro and yet my lenses won't let me get close enough. Your images tug at my heart strings!

Anita Johnson said...

Great tips! I have used my poor man's macro (reversing my kit lens) for years and have loved the challenge of it...pretty happy with most of the results. I too, understand the importance of a tripod, but often they are just too cumbersome to use. Like a giraffe in the garden! I so wish we had a Trader Joes here!

Natalie said...

These are beautiful! I just got the 100 mm macro and was eying the bouquets at Trader Joes the other day for this very reason. Now I wish I had grabbed one.

Gerty Mitchell said...

I am going to find me a bunch of flowers to photograph! Thanks for the inspiration.

Naomi said...

Oh my. Gorgeous. Simply gorgeous!

Krystal said...


Blue Eyed Brooke said...

These are spectacular!!! Now I'm dreaming of summer!

Life with Kaishon said...

I am glad you share and help people : )
You are the best.