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How to Use Macro Lenses in Your Photography

Even if you are at the very beginning of your photography hobby or career, you’ve probably seen and heard a lot about macro photography. That’s no surprise since the genre does stand out among other photography genres, both visually and technically. To shoot macro, you need a macro lens. However, it might be confusing for a beginner to understand how macro lenses work. This article is an essential guide for any beginner who is interested in macro lenses and macro photography.

What is a macro lens?

A macro lens is a special lens designed exactly for shooting objects really close. It has a very short focusing distance, which means you can get close to a thing you shoot to take a picture and be able to focus. While macro lenses often have focusing distances of 20 to 50 centimeters, they also come with a 1:1 magnification ratio. This allows you to capture a subject at least in its life-size, but often even bigger. You’ve probably seen macro images of insects taken with macro lenses. what are macro lenses used for

Macro lenses and focal length

Macro lenses are zoom lenses, which allow you to zoom in and out, making an image smaller or bigger (there are also prime or fixed lenses that don’t support zooming). Any lens has its focal length, a distance between the optical center of a lens and a sensor of a camera, measured in millimeters. The focal length is an important property of a lens since it influences the field of view (how much of a scene will be captured) and magnification. Macro lenses stand out among other zoom lenses due to their magnification ability (how big objects look in a shot). They also come in different focal lengths.
  • 45-65 mm macro lenses are perfect for still life and product shots when you can get really close to a subject without messing up with it.
  • 90-105 mm macro lenses are the most universal choice for photographers since they let you shoot subjects from a comfortable distance. If you want to practice some flower photography or shoot insects that are not so easily distracted, this is the preferred focal length.
  • 150-200 mm macro lenses let you shoot animals, birds, and bigger (or scarier) insects when you can’t get very close to a subject. If you are into wildlife photography, consider purchasing a macro lens with a bigger focal length so that you can shoot from further away. 
Today, there are also contemporary macro lenses with variable focal lengths that can be used for any subgenre of macro photography. how to use macro lenses

Technical difficulties with macro lenses

Remember that if the focal length of your lens is long, you will have to move further away from a subject than with a shorter focal length. This happens because focal length influences the minimum focus distance which allows you to focus on a subject. Don’t get too close if you have a 100 mm macro lens as you won’t be able to focus after a certain distance. Shooting something so close as in macro photography often messes up the depth of field, making it too shallow. Background blur is something that you need in your macro shots for visual contrast, but it can get more complicated. You might accidentally blur parts of your subject or receive unfocused images in general. To avoid this, try shooting with a narrow aperture (high f-number) and compensate exposure with slower shutter speed and higher ISO.

Where to use a macro lens

Macro lenses are widely used in nature photography when photographers shoot plants, animals, insects, and even fish really close. However, it might be not so obvious, but macro lenses are also popular among portrait photographers. They allow them to capture some important details and quickly start shooting portraits without changing a lens. What’s more, macro lenses are a must for fashion, commercial, and advertising photography. Very often, these genres require close shots of products and details.

An afterthought 

For a beginner or an enthusiast, it is okay not to get everything about photography straight away. As you practice, you will learn everything firsthand. Meanwhile, you can read up on our guide on focal length and different types of lenses.