Macro - A Closer Look

The devil is in the details, you guys! And by "devil," I mean "potential for awesomeness." There are scores of big, beautiful things in this world, but I implore you to look closer. Beauty may be hiding in the tiniest, most unsuspecting places. Join me for an enlightening stroll through the macro kingdom, I have just the tool you need to get up close and personal!

Simply put, macro refers to shooting from a very close-up perspective and is often used to describe shooting a very small subject.

Wait a second, doesn't micro usually mean something small? Why isn't shooting a small subject from close up called micro?
Well, the reason is that the subject will actually appear larger on the camera's image sensor than in real life, hence, macro!

Okay, that's cool and all, but how does it work?
Macro lenses have a long barrel for close focusing and are designed for high reproduction ratios, which allows them to achieve a higher magnification than real-life size. To explain the concept of a high reproduction ratio, take for example shooting an insect. Because a macro lens (as classically defined) will reproduce the insect on a camera's image sensor larger than the insect's actual size, it is considered as having a reproduction ratio larger than 1:1. So fear not the bug friend below is a mildly magnified image, your screen is not being subjected to an insect infestation!


(Still image from My Father's Garden by Mirko Faienza)

As video makers, we are constantly searching for new and interesting ways to capture the world around us, and a macro lens is a great tool for adding diversity to your shots. Take a look at how Gustav Johansson uses a macro lens in his video, Karl X Johan - Flames (dir. cut) and pay close attention to the richness of texture and creative use of abstraction made possible with a macro:

Wow! Is there anything I should keep in mind while using a Macro lens?
We're glad you asked, limited depth of field is an important consideration when shooting with a macro lens. This makes it essential to focus critically on the most important part of the subject, as elements that are even a millimeter closer or farther from the focal plane might be noticeably blurred.

Although the goal of macro shooting is to present a subject from close up, different focal lengths can be handy for specific uses:


  • Continuously Variable Focal Length — Suitable for virtually all macro subjects

  • 45–65 mm — Small objects with scenes requiring natural background perspective

  • 90–105 mm — Insects, flowers, and small objects from a comfortable distance

  • 150–200 mm — Other small animals where additional working distance is required


Alas, if only I had a macro lens...
Well, do you have a telephoto lens? Then you are in luck! A telephoto lens' long focal length allows it to magnify an image similarly to a macro lens. Although shooting with a telephoto lens in such a manner is technically considered a 'close up' rather than a true 'macro', it does a great job with capturing subjects close up, like those elusive critters that always flee when you get close!

Bugs are neat and all, but that's not really my bag...
While there are certainly many terrific examples of insects captured with this technique, there is a world of possibility beyond creepy crawlies. Ine van den Nelsent shows us this by documenting the abstract beauty of colored liquids when viewed close up in her video, TWR 72 - Tunnel:

When shooting a subject in macro, you are tapping into a world and perspective that few have experienced. Go forth and wield this mighty power wisely, but basically, just let your curiosity run wild and have have fun with it! Share your macro discoveries with others here in the HD Macro Channel! I leave you now, with a masterfully crafted video by clemento for some macro inspiration. Enjoy!

Category:
DSLR
Gear
Shooting
Difficulty:
Beginner

5 Comments

John G

John G

I'm just getting into video. I found the lesson very good. Very informative and enjoyable too. I'm going out to explore with a new vision and insight now that I've seen this lesson. Great job. Thanks.

Stephen de Vere

Stephen de Vere

Very minimal lesson.
Not even a mention of the basic kit and issues like sensor size, focus racks, extension tubes....

Shiply

Shiply PRO

As far as I'm concerned focal length is most important with macro lenses. There's a reason why the Canon 180mm F/3.5 L USM is expensive when it is very slow and doesn't even have IS.

This conversation is missing your voice. Please join Vimeo or log in.

Lesson Summary

Macro, it's a pretty cool technique for capturing the smaller things in life, but what is it exactly and why is it used? Check out our lesson on macro to learn!

New to Video School? Read our Frequently Asked Questions.

Browse by Category

Related Lessons

Submit Your Tutorial

Most of the video tutorials in our Video School lessons come from Vimeo members. If you have a tutorial you'd like to share, please submit it here.