Use a Macro Lens

You can up the ante and the budget by shooting with a real macro lens. Traditional lenses are optimized for focus at infinity not close-up but the best macro lenses let you focus to life-size (1:1) magnification while some only achieve 1:2, where the image on the film is one-half the size of the object being photographed. Best of all, a macro (Nikon calls’em “micro) lens can be used at infinity. The typical macro lens has a 50-60mm focal length but some have what might be considered a portrait focal length around 100mm or slightly longer and I often use my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro lens for portraiture.

Tip: If you use a macro lens for portraiture, make sure your subject can handle extreme sharpness that will show every skin defect or just use any of the soft focus and diffusion software tools available. The big advantage of using a longer focal length macro lens for close-up work is that the longer focal length provides extra working space and you won’t shadow or startle the subject. Canon, Nikon, Sigma, and Tamron offer macro lenses in longer focal lengths such as 180-200mm that serious nature photographers will find handy.

Canon’s EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens add Image Stabilization to its optics that allows life-size close-up capabilities without an adapter. The lens uses Hybrid Image Stabilization Technology to compensate for both angular and shift camera shake during close-up shooting.

To give this flower a studio look, I photographed it in my kitchen using the window as a background.

I used a Canon EOS 20D and an EF 50mm f1.8 lens and the camera was mounted on Adorama Macro Focusing Rail (more later) attached to a Manfrotto tripod. Exposure at ISO 200 in Aperture priority mode was 2.5 seconds at f/22 to maximize depth-of-field. © 2010 Joe Farace

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Caption: Canon’s 60mm EF-S macro lens produces 1:1 reproduction and other than swapping the 50mm f1.8 normal lens for this close-focusing lens the set-up was identical as the normal lens shot. Because depth-of-field at this distance becomes microscopic I stopped the lens down to f/32 and that produced a six second exposure. © 2011 Joe Farace

Author: Joe Farace

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