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Macro Lens Photography – 4 Basics

How to choose a Macro Lens?

Do you want to learn macro lens photography and be able to take beautiful, sharp macro photos? Then you are in the right place! Truly great macro photographs can be accomplished by anyone with the right equipment and knowledge.

How do I Create Stunning Macro Photos?

There are some essential points to learn if you want to photograph insects, macro flower photography, water droplets, and other small subjects. You will see that it only takes knowledge of a few simple principles and the right equipment that we will present here.

4 Basic Principles of Macro Lens Photography

Macro Photography Ideas

What is Macro Photography?

The first step to creating your perfect macro photograph is understanding what makes macro photography different from close-up photography. The prefix “macro” means “large.” In our context here, we can interpret this as photographing small objects to produce images that are life-size or larger.

Close-up photography differs in that it refers to a tightly cropped photograph that shows the subject “up close.” While this may sound similar to macro photography, the critical distinction is that one needs a lens capable of producing images on the camera sensor at a minimum magnification ratio of 1:1.

A lens should not be labeled for macro photography unless it can produce a magnification ratio of 1:1 or higher. Meaning, if we are shooting a 1 cm ladybug, its projection on the sensor measures 1 cm. True macro lenses will produce a 1:1 ratio or higher.

How do I Choose the Best Macro Lens?

To the budding macro photographer, it may sound as though choosing a macro lens might just come down to a choice of brand. However, there are nearly as many options to consider as when selecting a “normal” lens.

Focal length, depth of field, focus, full-frame versus APS-C, and minimal focusing distance are all important factors to consider when selecting your macro lens.

If you are starting in macro photography, you will most likely want a lens with versatility. Our Irix 150mm Macro f/2.8 1:1 Dragonfly lens is a perfect choice, with features that meet the needs of the most discriminating macro photographers at a price that even a hobbyist can afford.

Irix 150mm Macor
Irix 150mm Macro 1:1

Focal Length and Minimum Focusing Distance

Most macro lenses are prime lenses, meaning the focal length is fixed, and there is no zoom capability. Focal length ties closely with minimum focusing distance or the amount of space between the image sensor within your camera and your subject. The longer the focal length, the longer the minimum focusing distance. One benefit is that a longer minimum focusing distance allows you to capture images of tiny living subjects without scaring them off.

Our Irix 150mm Macro f/2.8 1:1 Dragonfly lens has a minimum focusing distance of 13 inches (34cm). Compared to the 7 inches, 16cm, minimum focusing distance of a 40mm lens, a longer focal length puts you at a comfortable distance from your subject. This extra space is especially beneficial if you’re shooting bugs and other small wildlife.

Depth of Field

In simplest terms, depth of field (DoF) is how much of your image is in focus. In macro photography, DoF can be measured in millimeters. A bee with a sharply focused body and a blurry eye is a problem with depth of field. A lower aperture or f-stop is desirable to achieve the best DoF in your macro photos.

The Irix 150mm Macro f/2.8 1:1 Dragonfly lens has a fast f/2.8 aperture rating, allowing you to precisely select what will be in focus.

Full Frame vs. APS-C

Finally, you’ll need to choose between a lens designed for a full-frame camera sensor versus an APS-C (crop) sensor. Crop sensors do essentially that – crop the image creating greater magnification and excluding some image details.

This differentiation matters in macro photography because using a crop lens will magnify the image greater than a 1:1 ratio. Companies manufacture lenses designed specifically for APS-C sensor cameras and lenses designed for full-frame sensor cameras. You may be tempted to buy a lens to match your sensor if you have a crop sensor camera.

You’re better off buying a full-frame lens, even if you have a crop sensor camera. The build quality and optics are better, and in some cases, you can have this quality without spending a lot more.

Irix 150mm macro lens
Irix 150mm Macro 1:1 Full Frame

Full frame lenses, like our Irix 150mm Macro f/2.8 1:1 Dragonfly lens, will work on a crop sensor camera. However, crop sensor lenses will not perform on a full-frame camera, and you will need to buy new lenses if you choose to upgrade.

You’ll Want a Tripod.

Camera stabilization is critical to creating sharp photos. When shooting in nature, you are at the mercy of the terrain, weather, and availability of wildlife. When contending with these unknown factors, it may not always be possible to create a perfectly stable camera hold.

On the other side of the spectrum, if you desire to stage your shot in a studio, you will likely not want any variables to interfere with the sharpness of your photo.

In both cases, it’s best to invest in a quality tripod to ensure you get the sharpest image possible.

Manual Focus is Your Friend

Using a tripod allows you complete control of the sharpness of your image. We discussed the importance of depth of field earlier, and focus is the final component of creating your perfect shot.

Auto-focus is excellent for fast-moving objects or shots that keep the entire frame in focus, such as landscapes. However, when highlighting the details in a droplet of water, for example, a smooth manual focus will allow the photographer the greatest control over the sharpness of the image.

Our Irix 150mm Macro f/2.8 1:1 Dragonfly lens features a wide rubberized focus ring with a notch to ensure smooth and precise focusing with high comfort of use. It offers a focus lock ring that is especially helpful if you’re moving your lens but still want to ensure faithfulness to your selected reproduction ratio.

Understanding these simple concepts and investing in the proper equipment will have you well on your way to creating beautiful macro photographs. What are you waiting for?


Written by Tim Goodman

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