Up Close and Personal – Beginner’s Macro Photography

When I first started to get into photography last fall, I developed my wishlist of camera gear and equipment that I thought I’d need based on my internet research. This was mostly made up of cheaper items (other than the camera body itself), just one ‘do-it-all’ lens and a small flexible tripod (the type you use for a point and shoot), and a polarizer. What else does a hobby photographer really need? But as the weeks go on and the more I learn and experiment, the more I realize that there really is no such one ‘do-it-all’ lens, that a flexible short tripod won’t cut it, and that there is a whole world of filters, polarizers, and accessories out there that can really bring out the artistry in your photos. More and more that list is becoming a “need” vs. a “wish”!

Now, of course I can get by without most of what’s on that list as I am not a professional photographer, but it can be frustrating when you read about a technique or style that you’d like to try and your equipment just isn’t quite right. So I have splurged a little bit here and there on things like a proper tripod and remote shutter release (both should be arriving soon!), but when it comes to lenses, its not so easy to justify the money. Lenses are arguably the most expensive investment you make in photography. And if you are just a hobby photographer like myself, this really is a large investment. The zoom lens (67mm) that came with my camera set up is great, especially for landscape shots or distance shots, but not so great with portraits or more intimate images that require a shorter depth of field. So a month or two in, I splurged on a 35mm portrait lens which has become my ‘go-to’. It’s light and easy to manage, has a large aperature scale and produces some great shots. It was also about $200.00 cdn on Amazon.ca. So while it didn’t break the bank, it also was more than I had initially intended to spend on what I thought was extra stuff at that time.

The other priority lens I had on my wishlist was a macro lens. This is a lens that I most likely would not use nearly as often as my zoom or portrait lenses, but would be a great option for those once in a while shots. However ranging in price from $200.00 cdn to well over $2000.00 cdn, I’m not so sure Im willing to splurge on this one yet!  So a couple weeks ago I was perusing amazon.ca to scope out new photography gear, and I came across this interesting attachment lens that you see below. It’s not really a lens per say, but an attachment that advertises being able to capture both macro and wide angle photos by connecting it to your existing lenses. With a diameter of 50mm, the only one of my two lenses it would fit was my portrait lens, but at less than $20.00 cdn I figured it was worth a go!

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It has two separate lenses (the macro and the wide angle). Together they take a wide angle macro (if you can call it that),  or you can remove the wide angle portion which sits on top and use just the bottom as a macro lens on it’s own.

Most of the reviews were good, especially for the macro photography buffs so I was excited to finally receive it and try it on for size. Although it did come with a written instruction pamphlet, I didn’t find it that clear so it took a bit of time to figure out how to use it. Both together and the macro alone. Of course you have to remove your hood (if you have one) and your polarizer (if you’re like me and leave them on all the time).

It was timely really, that I ordered it when I did, as the theme for week 14 of our 52 week photo inspiration challenge was “macro”, and having this new toy to experiment with made it a fun challenge! In the spirit of spring, I spent an afternoon baking up some springy-looking treats which made for a great opportunity to try out this macro lens for the first time. Chocolate chip cookie bird nests and carrot cake with buttercream icing! Below you see some of those first shots.

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What I have learned about this macro attachment, or what I think I have figured out, is that the glass on the interior is angled to force a magnified image, however this causes linear blurs on either side of the focused area. I’m not sure if this is the case for all macro lenses, or just an effect from this particular attachment design. It also has a very VERY short depth of field. So while it does work for a macro image, you have to choose your subject and perspective very intentionally. For example, below is the interior of the bloom of an Easter lily we have potted in our kitchen. Depending on where exactly you focus, it can only see either the stamen or the pistil, but never both. Because the background is entirely white, the linear blurs are not as obvious as the ones above. Also, I found the lens produced a clearer image if the item you were focusing on had strong lines and obvious edges. For example, the coconut shred in the cookie photo versus the interior of the carrot cake.

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Not being much of a baker, food photography is not really what I had in mind for my macro photography, so it was exciting to finally have real spring weather that would mean real spring blooms in the garden! So on one of these particularly beautiful days I took to the garden to capture the new bulbs coming up with my new macro set up.

The camera had a hard time focusing in on these bulbs with the macro and wide angle attachments on. It had an easier time with both on but with just the macro, it struggled to find something specific enough to use as the focal point. Like I said above, it worked much better with something with hard lines and obvious edges. I ended up manually focusing the images for the most part as the auto focus often went to the easiest item to focus on, versus what I was aiming for.

DSC_0479DSC_0481 The wide angle attachment, while it prevents the camera from being able to focus in too closely to the subject, adds a bit of blur to the edges of the image. In some shots this really irritated me, but in others like these in the garden, I think it added a softer, gentler effect.DSC_042222396

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So while I think this has been a great start in macro photography, there are still so many areas to work on.  I definitely still have some learning to do!

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2 thoughts on “Up Close and Personal – Beginner’s Macro Photography

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