The other day I was asked to take some pictures of snails which got me thinking about the perils of close-up photography in general.
The first problem we need to look at is, how close the lens will focus. Lenses have a minimum focus distance which varies considerably from lens to lens, some longer zoom lenses have a 'macro' setting and will focus quite close but most lenses will not focus close enough to take the picture on the right.
If the lens you are using will not focus close enough there are a couple of ways to make it do so. If the lens is detachable from the camera, you can use 'extension tubes'. These usually come in a set of three which can be used separately or together. They fit between the lens and the camera body and, as the name suggests, there is no glass in them, they merely serve to move the lens further away from the film plane (or CCD on a digital camera). The lens will now focus on closer objects than it would before but will no longer focus on infinity.
Extension tubes are a good solution as you are still using the quality lens that you paid so much money for and so the picture quality will be the same as for any other shot. The downside (there's always a downside, you never get anything for nothing) is that you need more light (the inverse square law works just as well behind the lens as it does in front), either a longer shutter time or a wider aperture. Your meter will automatically compensate for this but it can lead to severe depth of field problems which we will discuss in a couple of paragraphs.
Close-up lenses are a bit like reading glasses, they are attached to the front of the lens and their strength is measured in diopters. So a +2 diopter lens will focus closer than a +1 etc. Using close-up lenses solves the problem of needing extra light but now you have something on the front of your lens. The front element of your lens and the beautiful multi coating on it, that you paid a fortune for and have lovingly looked after, are not being used. The quality of your photo is now, to some extent at least, in the hands of your close-up lens. So make sure you buy a decent make, they are not expensive so there is no need to buy the cheapest.
A few tips for the budding wildlife photographer.
Lighting and perspective.
What you need and what to watch out for.
All the settings you need.
Photograph flowers like a professional, what you need to know.
For when you need extra depth of field.
How to get those ultra close-ups in focus.
Shooting a panned sequence of shots and stitching them together to make a panorama.
Techniques to help you capture those golden moments.
Getting the exposure right in all that white.
Tips on how to capture fast action.
Take better holiday photos without losing your sanity.
A complete 'how to' for weddings, with an accent on crowd control.
Bribing people to sit for you.
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