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How to take Macro pictures - like flowers to start

Ken Wang , Jan 06, 2011; 11:42 a.m.

I just don't know how to handle my new macro lens Nikon f2.8 60mm that I received in Xmas as a present.
I am using Nikon D40 camera body.
I have no problem with the original lens that comes with Nikon D40. I could use f5.6 to take a lot of close up (flowers , butterflies etc) and produce nice pictures.
But with this Macro lens, maybe I just don't know how to maneuver . I tried to take close ups of small flowers and the pictures came out not sharp (not focused).
Can any one give me some simple steps how to take close up pictures with this Macro lens?
Do I have to change in the camera - focus mode , AF-area mode, shooting mode?
If I have 3 flowers in the picture, should I focus on the middle one. How close should I put the camera? etc.
I tried to search some articles on this subject and did not get much help that can explain why I have such difficulties.

Large photo attachment:
(macro -- 1540 x 2399 photo)

Responses


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Stephen Lewis , Jan 06, 2011; 12:00 p.m.

If you have more than one object, or objects at differing distances from the film plane, you will need to pay particular attention to using the greatest depth of field you can (without introducing diffraction). You should also consider using a tripod with a focusing stage/rail to minimize shake, and/or using flash or a macro light. I personally prefer hand held, but over time I'm finding in spite of lots of good muscular control, age is beginning to take its toll and I'm having to gracefully accept tools to improve my focus and sharpness. Another thing to consider is a cable release....using it means just one less source of vibration. Lastly, consider turning off everything auto (auto focus, auto exposure, etc.) and learning how to do things manually where you have complete control over the processes. Take a read in the learning tab at the top of the page under the macro section for more hints and reference sources.

Leigh B. , Jan 06, 2011; 12:06 p.m.

Some lenses have a switch that limits the range of focus. Make sure the macro mode is enabled.

The easiest way to become familiar with macro work is to back away from the subject, as though you were using a normal lens, and take a photo. Then move a bit closer and take another. Keep going closer until you reach the focus limit of the lens.

Your sample photo looks fine to me. One characteristic of macro work is very shallow depth of field (DoF). This can only be improved by using a smaller aperture (larger f/number), which requires a slower shutter speed. In many situations this will require use of a tripod.

A general comment on DoF:
The area of acceptable focus extends from half the focus distance to twice the focus distance. For example, if you focus at 12 inches, objects from 6 inches to 24 inches will be "in focus", while objects outside that range will be less sharp.

What lens are you using?

- Leigh

Juri Vosu , Jan 06, 2011; 12:07 p.m.

If you real are interested in geating the most C of C (DOF) check out the Helicon Focus software at http://www.heliconsoft.com/heliconfocus.html. They offer a free 30 day trail. The results from this software are amazing! Happy Microing!

Peter Eisenburger , Jan 06, 2011; 12:15 p.m.

The 60 mm / 2.8 AF D doesn't autofocus on the Nikon D40 - at least that's what I read. You have to focus manually. Turn on M on the lens _and!_ turn on the switch of the D40 to M. (My D90 manual says you can ruin the lens if you don't turn both switches to M).
Macro lenses have a very shallow depth of field. It will maybe surprise you. You can enlarge it a bit with a smaller aperture if you have enough light, but don't go to far because of diffraction.
It's my favourite lens. Nearly all the macros in my gallery were done with it.
You can read useful things at Ken Rockwell's site about this lens. PN forbids to post links to Ken.

Juri Vosu , Jan 06, 2011; 12:16 p.m.

Forgot to add this image:

Edward Ingold , Jan 06, 2011; 12:21 p.m.

The example you posted looks good to me, on a technical level. The three blossoms are in decent focus.

The DOF is very shallow greater the magnification of the subject. DOF is the same at a given f/stop and magnification, regardless of focal length. To increase DOF, you must use a smaller aperture. This means slower shutter speed which increases the effects of motion blur and camera shake. Using a flash not only allows smaller apertures, but allows you to use faster shutter speeds, but makes the background darker (not necessarily good or bad). DOF is never very good, so try to use a point of view in which the main objects of the subject are in a plane parallel to the camera.

It's always best to use a tripod, if time permits. A tripod not only controls camera shake, but fore-aft motions which affect the focal plane.

"Closeups in Nature" by John Shaw is a classic book with much information about tools and techniques.

Scott Ditzel , Jan 06, 2011; 12:26 p.m.

Practice will improve your images...We can tell you tips to try, but the best teacher is practice. Like Stephen, I use a speedlight much more often than I do a tripod...Tripods are great fro static subjects, but suffer with mobile subjects like many insects...As said above, shoot in manual mode as AF becomes useless the closer to get to life size magnification...Nikon's literature that comes with the lens even suggests not using AF in this situation.

Juri Vosu , Jan 06, 2011; 12:30 p.m.

Sorry but having trouble posting images (still learning)


Crayola Crayons

Peter Eisenburger , Jan 06, 2011; 12:56 p.m.

Juri, that's focus stacking, something I just learned about a minute ago (thank you, Roberta!). That would be the third step before the first.


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