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Using A Macro Lens

Using A Macro Lens

Using a macro lens can be tricky, but with some simple and easy ways to understand it, it can become one of the most enjoyable things in your photography equipment.  Using a macro lens requires some understanding of what results you want to achieve first. Then and only then, can you get truly stunning macro images.

Macro photography is the art of shooting a subject to make its size as true to life, or a little larger. For example, a grasshopper may be 2 cm long, so it becomes important to enhance as much of your grasshopper as possible to give it as much real life detail as possible. In other words, make your grasshopper seem as large and as life size as possible.

So, that brings us to using a macro lens. How do we do it? First of all let’s look at what a macro lens actually is. Specialised camera lenses that are designed for macro photography are set to be at their best, most sharp at very close distances.

Using a macro lens is like any other digital camera lens on first glance, but because these lenses are especially made specifically close ups work. They are actually quite long (for sharp focusing close up).

Using a macro lens gives you much satisfaction and sharp results at a magnification of 1:1. Like other photography lenses, you can have different types of macro lenses that sit at different focal lengths.

Using a macro lens around the 50-60mm mark will give you details in household items and smaller objects, like, for example pencil sharpeners and ornaments.

Using a macro lens that has a focal length of around 90-105mm will give you excellent close ups of flowers, bugs and even smaller objects such as pencil tips.

Using a macro lens of around 150-200mm is very close indeed. This lens is perfect for insect macro photography.


Using a macro lens is not the same as using close up filters or putting your camera on macro mode. The reason is because the lens is an extension of what the camera sees. The lens can bring us that much closer than your normal camera lens or close up filters can.

When I first started using a macro lens for the very first time it took me a little getting used to the sharp zoom capabilities, the clear focus and the sensitivity of the lens itself. In my experience with using a macro lens, it was time and patience that got me to where I am today. They are great lenses and I have taught many others to start being comfortable with using a macro lens to be able to get closer and more powerful images.

One of my students began using a macro lens just after he was unable to get into the other extreme- Astro photography. He made many attempts at shooting the stars and had some great photos. However, he soon grew tired of waiting before he had the right telescope, so in the meantime he turned to macro photography.

On his first attempt at using a macro lens for the first time, he emailed me with some focusing problems. They were not major problems, but nevertheless he was experiencing some focus and sharpness problems. His macro photographs just weren’t as tack sharp as what he’d hoped for.

I knew what the problem was before I’d even finished reading his email. In using a macro lens initially he was still used to shooting with a standard lens. He was treating the macro shot like a standard shot. That never works well.

He complained about a lack of lighting too. I replied to him that in using a macro lens for the very first time, you need to realise that using a tripod, getting more light onto your scene and using manual focus were all necessary things to get started in macro photography, and, would produce better macro photography images.

Using a macro lens is not the same as using a standard or telephoto lens. And, using a macro lens requires more lighting and knowledge of some sharp focusing techniques. I found that when you have less light in macro photography, you will need to increase your light source, or, slow sown your shutter speed, or, open up your aperture a lot more. You can increase your ISO if you want, at the risk of getting some pretty heavy noise, or you can use a tripod, a shutter release cable and slow that shutter and open that aperture wider.

In using a macro lens this way, you decrease the chance of blur, noise or the image just not being as sharp as you want. Remember, they are the similar to a standard lens, but macro photography is very different to standard photography. That’s what macro lenses provide you- the opportunity to break out of standard photograph and into the small world.

When using a macro lens for the time, do your research on what you specifically need it for. Think about what focal length you will need and work from that point on.

About the Author

Amy is an multi-award winning photographer from Australia. She teaches enthusiast photographers how to take beautiful, professional photos in easy, plain English. She has a monthly photography emagazine and ebooks to help you create stunning images every time. DigitalPhotographySuccess.com

Comments (12)

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  1. Bob Johnson says:

    A great piece – thank you so much for posting it. I would definitely recommend thet every one else should have a look at it.

  2. Great article! I believe a camera that has a base that you can add additional lenses is a great investment to anyone who is really interested in taking pictures. Many sites online are looking for great shots, and if you stay with small subjects, you can usually find great interest in your photos and your digital stills. A great subject is something that is often available to you in your local area, but a subject that may not be easy to capture. You can sell a lot of photos of that type of subject!

  3. Marc says:

    I love how the principles of macro photography are so straight forward and logical.

  4. Julie Conner says:

    Amy, can you buy macro lenses from any camera store? Or do you have to go directly to the manufacturer?

    • Hi Julie, yes I beleive you can. They may have to order it in for you and sometimes that can take a few weeks, so you may have to prepare for a bit of a wait. But this is not gospel, sometimes they have them right there inthe store, it depends on the store.

  5. Mike says:

    Amy,
    Impressive results on your example shots here in the article. My daughter has been getting immersed in photography – she got a new camera a couple of months ago and has been taking some classes.
    I’m not sure how much macro lens work she does, but I’ll mention your site to her.

    Great explanation about how to use the lenses – seems easy when I’m reading it!

  6. Gerek Allen says:

    Very good article. I really did learn a lot from it. Thanks for the information and please keep them coming.

  7. [...] goes on to say that there is expected to be many lens releases and updates over the next 24 months. Canon Rumors is reporting that there may be some new Canon Lens announcements, the site is saying t… reporting that there may be some new Canon Lens announcements, the site is saying this rumor could [...]

  8. Bette says:

    Wow, thank you for a fascinating website!

  9. Laura says:

    Thanks for some awesome stuff Amy! I bought your ezines and am very happy with the content.

  10. Jean says:

    Thanks for the great article Amy.

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