Macro & Close-ups

Extreme macro: shooting techniques

Written by Bob Frank

Proper focus and lighting are key to capturing outstanding Extreme Macro photos.

The FZ30 has two ways to view focus, the LCD screen and the electronic viewfinder.  I prefer using the electronic viewfinder, since the LCD is difficult to use to critically focus due to reflections and distractions.

Proper focus is critical

flys eyeI concentrate on getting the eyes of a subject in sharp focus. When the subject is cooperative subject, I shoot many exposures constantly changing the focus by moving the camera slightly back and forth on the monopod. I also vary angles.

Close up front views of a subject can be very dramatic; side views will have better depth of field. I try to position the camera parallel to the insect’s body to get the entire length sharp.

If possible, try to shoot at the subject’s eye level. Lower than eye level can be very dramatic also.

The magnification level can be changed by the power of the zoom. The FZ30’s 12x zoom lens combined with the Raynox DCR-250 always focuses around four inches, the DCR150 focuses at 8 inches no matter what the zoom level. This works to a great advantage when trying to locate very small subjects. You can zoom out to a lower magnification to locate the subject and then zoom in to the required magnification without hardly moving the camera. This is real handy when photographing flying insects: zoom out to locate them, zoom in to shoot.

Monopod aids in focusing

When shooting in the field, I sometimes place the camera on a small monopod to help stabilize the camera. This aids in critical focusing as I move the camera back and forth very slightly on the monopod.

A monopod sets up quickly and enables me to change positions rapidly since my subjects frequently move. The camera doesn’t have to be rock solid since the shutterspeed and flash stop camera movement. A tripod would take too long to set up and my subjects would be gone by time I got the camera in position.

Lighting for extreme macro photography

The Sunpak 383 flash unit has five output levels. I adjust the flash output and monitor the camera’s histogram for proper exposure. Since this setup always focuses between four and eight inches from subject, there is room to bounce light into the subject.

The angle of the flash head and the bend in the bounce card is changed as needed. I watch for distracting backgrounds and try to position the camera with sky or sunlit foliage behind the subject.

This technique yields the most detailed live insect macro photography.

Since this entire compact set up weighs less then five pounds, it fits in a medium size hip pack, a real advantage when hiking in the field.

About the author

Bob Frank

Bob Frank is considered one of the top nature photographers in the Dallas, Texas area. He has numerous awards including winning the Popular Photography International Picture Contest. Bob is a popular guest speaker and conducts workshops to camera clubs and nature organizations. He has been published in Nature Photographer Magazine where he is a field contributor. His work has been praised by Ted Yoshida, founder of Raynox Yoshida and developer of the DCR-150 and DCR-250.

3 Comments

  • Hi Steve & Martin,
    Thanks for your nice comments!
    I really appreciate it.

    If you have any questions I’d be happy to answer them.

    Thanks,
    Bob Frank

  • Hi Bob,
    I’ve just got a Raynox 150 and have been struggling a bit with settings etc. which has disheartened me a bit. But having just gone through your articles, I can see where I’ve been going wrong and look forward to a lot more experimentation in the future!
    Many thanks

  • Bob,

    Thanks so much for sharing this.  You say a lot in few words and answered some questions that have been bothering me for a while.  And your work is truly accomplished!