Quick tip: macro pictures without a macro lens?

With the proliferation of scene modes on compact cameras and smartphones enabling ultra-close focusing, “macro” has gone from a specialized form of photography to a household word. Not everyone realizes what the technical term means, however (unless they’ve taken one of our macro workshops, of course). For example, which of the following photos do you think follows the strict definition?

It’s a trick question: none of them!

“True” macro photography involves projecting an image on the sensor or film that is the same size (or larger) as the item in real life. Successful macro photography requires large sensors and extremely close-focusing lenses, which can be an expensive proposition. While the optical capabilities of a 1:1 magnification lens are amazing, the truly cool thing about macro photography is the way it lets you into a secret world of tiny details. So, how do you achieve the same effect without a specialized lens?

One easy way: use a telephoto lens—the longer the better! There’s something about adjusting your brain to zooming waaaay in that makes those tiny, oft-missed details just as palpable as using a close-focusing macro lens would. This is especially true when using a newer camera with very high resolution; all those extra megapixels don’t just mean that you can print stunning wall art, but also that you can crop heavily (for a faux-1:1 look) and still have a quality image.

Have fun out there getting up close and pseudo-macro, and if you’d like to learn more about macro photography (true and approximated), you’re in luck: there’s still time to sign up for our three-part workshop next week! We’ll cover lighting, lens technology, composition and more in a classroom setting Wednesday evening. Properly prepped, we’ll reconvene at Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms on the morning of Sunday the 22nd for an instructional on-site shoot. The following Thursday, we’ll conclude with the ever-popular class gallery showing and critique back at the Mike’s Camera in Lone Tree. Click here to register before our last spots fill up!

Header photo by Scott Dougherty.

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