Macro Photography Equipment

The Essential Macro Photography Equipment

What Macro photography equipment do you need? Photographing macro subjects presents different challenges to other wildlife. You are often working with low light and a shallow depth of field.

Let’s look at some useful stuff for close up shots.

Demented Bagpipes!

What on earth have demented bagpipes got to do with macro photography equipment? Well, that’s the affectionate name given to tripods such as the Benbo. Each leg and the central column is capable of 360 degree movement getting the camera into virtually any position needed.

This flexibility comes at a cost for some. Positioning three legs with a mind of their own is a bit of an art form! I have a tripod based on this design. It’s heavy making it harder to carry but very stable. It only reaches chest height unless some stability is sacrificed by extending the centre column. This makes this tripod a piece of specialist macro photography equipment and perhaps not the best for other uses.

In fairness, they only become tricky if you’re trying to get into positions that other tripods can’t reach anyway. Photographers either love them or hate them but personally I don’t think they are demented bagpipes!

If you prefer a more conventional, all rounder sort of tripod then look for a low minimum height when the legs are splayed out. Don’t forget that what seems stable when trying out indoors may not be so rigid when being buffeted in the open winds.

Don’t forget a bean bag can be more useful for supporting the camera for right down to the ground level shots. Fill it with bird seed and you have some bait to attract wildlife as well.

Macro In A Flash

Macro flash serves two purposes:

  • you will often struggle to get a fast shutter speed in macro photography so a burst of flash can help freeze the movement of insects
  • natural light is low at macro range so the scene will need extra lighting

The main consideration is to get the flash off camera because otherwise at macro level the flash won’t reach past your lens barrel. There are a few ways of getting off camera flash and I use a macro flash bracket.

To reflect the natural light onto your subject and fill in some detail use a reflector. It’s easy to make your own by sticking some silver foil onto a piece of card.

Save Your Neck and Backache!

It can be uncomfortable if not impossible to get into a position where you can look through the viewfinder and still get down to the subject’s level.

An angle finder is a useful inexpensive piece of macro photography equipment. Attach it to the eyepiece of your camera and it serves two purposes:

  • a more comfortable viewing angle when photographing in low or awkward positions.
  • precise manual focusing (which is what you’ll mostly us in macro) with its 2.5x magnification switch.

DSLRs are starting to include live view as a feature, which can be useful for the same thing. Live view transmits a preview to the lcd screen on the camera just like on a compact camera. This preview can be zoomed in for precise manual focusing and pressing the shutter takes the image shown on the preview screen. Again useful for awkward angles where you can’t comfortably get your eye looking through the usual eyepiece.

Blowin’ In The Wind

The slightest breeze can register as a gale at macro size. A plamp can stabilise moving flowers stems against the leg of your tripod. You can also use it to hold away vegetation that may be an obstruction in the frame. A plamp can also hold a reflector in position to reflect natural light onto the subject.

You Don’t Always Need A Macro Lens

You can still get great macro shots without a dedicated macro lens. Extension tubes increase the distance between the lens and camera body enabling closer focusing. A small but useful item of macro photography equipment is a close up filter. It can be screwed on to the front of a telephoto lens to get close up shots.

Normally my 70-200mm lens can only focus beyond 1.5m. by screwing a close up filter onto the front of the lens and resting on a bean bag I was able to get within inches of a toad and achieve frame filling shots. Not bad for an accessory that is so easy to fit into even the most crammed camera bag.