Macro lenses are the up close and personal tools of the photography world. Mere close-ups aren't good enough: Macro lenses let us take extremeclose-ups of subjects while keeping a photograph in tight focus. Macro lenses bring the focal point of a camera closer by extending the amount of space between the camera sensor and the lens aperture. This means shooting with a macro lens requires setting up as close to a subject as possible. That can be difficult with insects or other subjects that tend to move around, but plants are usually pretty good about staying put.
Macro lenses provide magnification that you can't get with a telephoto or wide angle lens. Technically, real macro lenses are able to reproduce a subject at a 1:1 ratio or better on the camera's image sensor. The lenses are commonly used to produce those sometimes creepy, sometimes amazing close-ups of insects. Using a macro lens in flower photography allows photographers to fill the entire frame and reveal details we'd never notice with the naked eye.
To get an amazing macro photograph, you'll have to be ready to buy an expensive macro lens. If you're not ready to commit $500 or $1000 to a lens for your flower shots, there are some cheaper alternatives. Macro extension tubes sit between the lens and the camera, and close-up lens filters screw onto the end of a camera lens. Both can help bring the camera's focal distance closer to the lens to allow for macro-style photographs.
Since I've previously written about macro photography for HowStuffWorks, revisiting the subject to talk about plant photography was fun. I learned more about the advantages of shooting on cloudy days -- light diffusion is important, since a camera can't handle the same dynamic range as our eyes on a sunny day. Best of all, I had an excuse to look at a whole lot of photographs. Macro shots are cool, but my favorites are wide shots bursting with color and flowers in silhouette.
- Bynum, Sarah. "Flower Photography." (March 24, 2012) http://www.life123.com/hobbies/photography/great-photographs/flower-photography.shtml
- Howell, Tony. "Flower Photo Tips." (March 24, 2012) http://www.tonyhowell.co.uk/flowerphototips.htm
- Kennard, Dave. "Flower Photography - How to Take Good Natural Photos (Pt 2)." (March 26, 2012) http://ezinearticles.com/?Flower-Photography---How-To-Take-Good-Natural-Flower-Photos-(Pt-2)&id=5678161
- Moats, Mike. "How to build my wind box for flower photography." March 30, 2011. (March 25, 2012) http://tinylanscapes.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/video-how-to-build-my-wind-box-for-flower-photography/
- Rowse, Darren. "Introduction to Aperture in Digital Photography." (March 25, 2012) http://www.digital-photography-school.com/aperture
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