Autumn photography is full of wonderful colors and textures, and one way to emphasize them in stunning detail is to shoot them close-up. In this tutorial we show you how to shoot amazing macro pictures of autumn.
As autumn sets in, the cool colors of summer foliage are replaced with eye-catching yellows, reds and russet tones. Morning dew coats everything in fine droplets that sparkle in the early sunlight. Insects become lethargic and easier to approach, and late-flowering plants display their blooms.
In northern climes, the first frosts add another layer of interest to leaves and berries, while in woodlands weirdly shaped fungi are emerging. There’s no better time to delve into the miniature world, so arm yourself with these core skills and start exploring.
To get started, you’ll need the right tools for the job. Many zoom lenses boast a macro setting, which is useful, but these are usually less than half life-size magnification.
For true autumn macro photography – sometimes referred to as 1:1 or life-size – there are two main options: a dedicated macro lens in the range of 50 to 200mm or extension tubes, inexpensive glassless rings that fit between the camera and lens to allow closer focusing. If you don’t already own a macro lens, extension tubes are a cheap and effective way to get into close-ups.
A longer focal-length lens – either a dedicated macro or telephoto plus extension tubes – enables you to isolate the subject from its surroundings by setting a wide aperture to create a diffused background.
This helps to remove competing elements in the frame, and focus attention where you want it most. A longer lens also has advantages when tackling skittish insects such as butterflies and dragonflies: it means you can obtain frame-filling shots from further away.
An issue for some macro work is getting the entire subject in sharp focus. The answer lies partly in the correct positioning of the camera. The idea here is to align the camera so the sensor and the subject are parallel, and therefore in the same plane of focus.
A tripod is essential to allow small adjustments to be made and to focus accurately. Obviously this relies on having a static subject, but this is usually the case for most macro work.
The other principal factor that effects image sharpness is the aperture setting. As the f/stop number increases, the lens opening (aperture) decreases, which has the effect of increasing depth of field.
This is great for increasing the amount of the subject that comes into focus, but it will also make the background more defined. This can be helpful when you want everything in the frame to be as sharp as possible.
But in other cases, where you are trying to isolate the subject, it can lead to a distracting background. Experiment with different aperture settings, and check the results back home to see what gives the best results.
An alternative approach is to deliberately shoot at wide apertures to minimize depth of field and create a softer look to your images. By selectively focusing on just one element within the picture, the viewer’s eye will naturally be drawn to this main focal point of the shot.
Set the lens to its maximum aperture, such as f/4, and focus on a specific part of the subject with everything else blurred. It helps to manually focus the lens for greater control and to avoid the lens from hunting (searching for focus), which can be a problem when using autofocus for macro work.
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