Essential accessories for macro photography

Macro photography can be an incredibly addictive type of photography. Capturing small objects up close on a high-resolution camera can really show you a whole new world. If you want to take macro photography to the next level, check out our article on 10 ways to improve macro photography. Now, let’s get started! In macro photography, all you really need is a camera and a lens. But if you want to dig deep and create great macro images, there are some great tools that can help. Today we will introduce these accessories that can help you go further in macro photography. These accessories fall into three different categories. Light, optics, and stability. Without further ado, let’s get down to business!

1. The lights

1.1 Off-machine lighting

Having light coming in from outside the camera is a huge advantage. You can set a smooth gradient of light on your subject, provide a backlight to outline your subject, and more. Here are some relatively affordable off-machine light sources that can add this depth to your image.

seedpod of the lotus

(1) LED panel

LED panels are a versatile light source. This is a form of real-time lighting that doesn’t require any connection to the camera. Because the LED panel is always on, what you see in the camera is what you get. Some LED panels come with adjustable color temperatures to match your scene, as well as adjustable brightness levels.

Since macro bodies are usually smaller, you can use smaller LED panels for less money!

(2) Wireless flash

Wireless flash is another good budget option for off-machine macro lighting. A wireless flash usually requires a radio transmitter connected to the camera and a flash with a paired radio receiver. The advantage of using a flash is that you can get more intense bursts of light than an LED panel can provide. This lets you lower the ISO and close more shutters. Of course, it’s just a flash, so the light lasts only a fraction of a second. Until you take a picture, you won’t know if your light positioning and level are correct.

1.2 Reflector

Anyone who has dabbled in portrait photography or even product photography knows that reflectors can be very useful. Reflectors can help illuminate shadows by adding supplementary light in the opposite direction from the light source. There are also many reflectors to choose from. The reflectors come in pure white, silver, or even gold. Pure white can be used for matching color and standard reflection intensity. Silver provides a harder reflection, like a diffuse mirror. This is useful if you really want to get rid of shadows and don’t mind a little harsh light. Gold helps to introduce a warmer reflection to your subject.

Usually, all three reflectors can be found in one product! Although macro photography is small-scale, larger reflectors can be used as large reflection sources. Large reflective sources can wrap around the curves of the subject and provide a more cohesive light source.

botany

1.3 Ring lights

When you are so close to your subject, it is difficult to use ambient light because your lens will block out too much. Using artificial light can also be difficult, as your lens will still get in the way! This is where the macro loop lamp becomes useful. Ring lights are mainly used as front lights, so if you find the image too flat, be sure to introduce other sources of light. Macro ring lights wrap around the lens to ensure you can get as close to your subject as possible and get even lighting.

1.4 Light diffuser

(1) Airborne diffuser

If your camera has a pop-up flash, you might think it’s useless for macro photography. But think again! Even if your pop-up flash is much taller than the subject in the macro, you can still use this light. All you need to do is diffuse this light to lower levels.

(2) Off-machine diffuser

Many reflectors on the market also come with differences. Diffusers are ideal for absorbing any harsh light source and making it soft and widely disseminated. Differences allow you to create beautiful gradients with very uniform lighting. Don’t feel like you have to go out and buy something special for photography to diffuse the light. Wax paper, translucent poster boards, and even white cloth can be used as diffusers. Test out household items before you spend that money, you’ll be surprised at what works here!

1.5 Color gel

If you have an artificial light source, the flash gel can help. Not all light sources have adjustable color temperatures. When using one of these light sources, it is important to be able to adjust the temperature of the light source to match the ambient light for the most natural appearance. Color gels can add more yellow or blue to make your light source warmer or colder. Matching the color temperature of your light source makes your images more cohesive and less patchwork.

A macro photograph of a bee

At the other end of the spectrum, you can also use color gels to add very vibrant and striking colors to the image. If you prefer abstraction and avoid a natural look, color gels can make your images very “sci-fi”. Crazy combinations like purple background and blue foreground can use color gel on your light source.

2. Magnification and optics

2.1 Close-up filter

If you don’t want to shell out for an expensive macro lens, a close-up filter, also known as a close-up lens, is a handy accessory. The close-up filter is fixed at the front of the lens, just like any other filter, to reduce your minimum focus distance. The strength of the close-up filter is measured in units of “diopter”. Common strengths include +1, +2, +4, and they can even reach +10 diopter! Be careful here. Too strong a filter will degrade the optical quality of the image.

The cost of these filters is relatively low, but they have many advantages. Because this is a spiral filter, your autofocus system doesn’t change and you can still do full lens controls, such as image stabilization and aperture.

2.2 Macro extension tube

The macro extension tube was my first tool in macro photography. The macro extension tube is essentially a hollow spacer placed between the camera body and lens. Keeping the lens away from the camera body will shorten your minimum focus distance.

Macro photography of flowers

Some macro extension tubes are very minimalist and are actually metal gaskets without an electrical connection. These are all fine, but the electrical connection of your lens allows you to use autofocus and aperture. If you’re going to use an extension tube, I highly recommend the autofocus version, even though it costs more.

2.3 Dedicated macro lens

The king of optics has to be a dedicated macro lens. Dedicated lenses do not handle add-ons or adapters of any kind. These lenses were made with macro photography in mind only. This means that the optics you get are designed from the top down to better fit your subject.

3. Stability and control

The last category is a very important one. Macro images work best when they are the sharpest. Shooting stability has a big impact here. Especially since we don’t always have enough light, and our shutter speed has to compensate. Here are the items that are critical to your stability when shooting a macro.

3.1 Low-profile tripod

With macro photography, any random tripod will limit you. We recommend using a tripod that is as close to the ground as possible. This is usually the position of our subject in macro photography.

In tripod lingo, a horizontal or 90-degree center column is a feature that allows the tripod to be really close to the ground. This is achieved by allowing the center column to move away from the base of the tripod, which would otherwise restrict the minimum tripod height. In addition to its transverse mid-post ability, a tripod that can spread its legs nearly 90 degrees is an advantage.

Macro photography of matchstick Man

3.2 Mini tripod

These are also handy if you’d like to have a mini tripod in addition to your omnidirectional tripod. I still recommend a tripod that can be more low-key than a mini tripod. That’s because I’ll always choose a tripod that can do more than one job. If you find yourself shooting with a mini tripod and want to change your composition to a top-down view, it may not be tall enough. A flexible full-size tripod will be able to perform both low and high tasks and is well worth the investment.

That being said, tabletop tripods are more affordable.

3.3 Bean Bag Supports

Sometimes it helps to be low to the ground and not have to work around a cumbersome tripod. Bean bag supports are great for when you don’t have to be perfectly still, but only need a little more stabilization for that crisp shot. Due to the nature of bean bags, you are naturally low to the ground. You simply rest your camera on the bean bag for stabilization. Because bean bags can form into pretty much any shape, they are great for supporting a camera lens in position. This can easily allow you to reduce your shutter speed by a couple of stops compared to handheld shooting.

3.4 Macro slider

If you use the macro for any precise focus, you’ll find the macro slider a lot of help. The macro slider is the precise converter that moves your camera towards or away from your subject. If you’re shooting with manual focus, the macro slider helps you focus without touching the lens. Some lenses are too sensitive to focus rings to operate in small increments. Sliders allow you to slowly move the entire camera.

Macro photography of flowers

The macro slider is also useful for shooting at the minimum focus distance of the lens. MFD shooting with a lens allows you to get as close to your subject as possible, which translates into more detail in the image. You simply set the lens to manual focus and then move the focus ring to the nearest focus distance. You will now use the macro slider to move the entire camera towards or away from the subject. This helps you determine the focus and make sure the camera is as close as possible.

4. Conclusion

If you are looking to buy macro photography accessories, I hope this article will help you. If you already have these accessories and want to improve your macro photography skills, read about 10 ways to improve macro photography!

FAQ:

What type of specialist equipment is used for effective macro photography?

Close-up and macro photography is often regarded as a specialist area, requiring a dedicated and pricey kit. To some extent, this is true. The best option for shooting close-ups is a dedicated macro lens – a lens with corrected optics, designed specifically for close focusing. They are convenient and easy to use.

What is the best lighting for macro photography?

Use natural light. Outdoors, the best light for macro photography is a bright, overcast sky where the thin cloud diffuses sunlight and acts as a giant softbox. This provides an even, gentle light that brings out texture and detail and renders color beautifully.

What makes a good macro lens?

A macro lens is a special type of camera lens that has the ability to work with very short focusing distances, taking sharp images of very small subjects. A true macro lens has a magnification ratio of 1:1 (or greater), and a minimum focusing distance of around 30cm.

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