Macro Photography

by William Lulow

I have done some interesting close-up images lately and have noticed several things about the digital camera’s response to these photographs. In the “old days,” we shot close-ups with a view camera that enables almost continuous focus by a combination of the camera’s “swings & tilts” as well as the small lens apertures. And, since view cameras were almost always mounted on a tripod, really sharp images were no problem.

These days, making a good, crisp close-up is not always as simple. First of all, without the ability to adjust the film plane vis-à-vis the lens, infinite focus is not always attainable. Second, most photographers hesitate to use the smallest possible aperture for various reasons, including the fact that they don’t use tripods. Using really small apertures usually necessitates the use of very long shutter speeds. Because of this, a tripod is a must.

One other fact bears repeating. Sometimes, the smallest aperture is not the sharpest for a given lens. Lenses have optimal apertures at which they usually perform at their sharpest rendition. So, I have found that it often takes some experimentation to determine under which apertures and shutter speeds a particular lens will be its sharpest.FenderGuitar_6-Edit_2WEBThis image was made with a Canon 60D and a Canon 60mm macro lens. The settings were: ISO 100, f/32 @ 8 seconds. Camera was on a tripod and the point of focus was roughly 1/3 of the way from front to rear. Lighting was provided by a single 250watt bulb. All settings were made in MANUAL mode. Even with these settings, the front screws were a little soft. I tried it at f/22 as well and the difference was minimal.