To conquer frustration, one must remain intensely focused on the outcome, not the obstacles. ~T.F. Hodge
"I should really use my macro lens more." That's what I think to myself any time I read one of Terri's posts about her love for macro photography. But rather than feeling delighted and inspired, shooting with my macro lens often leaves me feeling annoyed and frustrated. And my frustration is due to the fact that I have a very difficult time getting tack-sharp focus where I want it.
My biggest problem is camera shake. (Well there is also the spring wind in Oklahoma, but that's probably another blog post for another day.) Anyway, over the past couple of weeks, I've been forcing myself to practice with my macro lens more (on non-windy days of course). And, as with any kind of regular practice, I've sort of found my groove if you will. So today I thought I would share with you some tips that have really helped me with regards to the sharpness in my macro photography.
- Become a human tripod: Swinging and swaying are fine when you're listening to music, but they are no help for creating tack-sharp images. I have a terrible time with this (especially in the morning after having a cup or three of coffee), so I always try to either a) bolster myself against a wall or b) keep one knee and/or elbow anchored on the ground. It also helps to keep your arms pulled in tight next to your body.
- Back-Button Focus (BBF): I have been utilizing this feature for a few years now, and it made a big improvement in the sharpness of my overall photography. I find that it is even more beneficial in macro photography. There is a great article at Clicking Moms that explains BBF in further detail, but simply put, BBF separates the shutter and focus functions of your camera. It's ideal for moving subjects which is why it helps me with my macro photography. Keeping one finger on the BBF, I can press the shutter button whenever my subject comes into focus.
- Decrease aperture: Because macro lenses allow you to get so much closer to the subject, shooting with a very wide aperture setting creates an even more shallow DOF than with a wider-angle lens. By decreasing the aperture size (larger f/stop), more of the subject comes into focus and I find that my camera will lock onto to my focal point and focus more quickly.
- Increase ISO: Related to aperture, since I know that camera shake is an issue, I find that having a shutter speed of at least 1/125th is crucial. Often times, that means I will need an ISO setting of 800 - 1600 to properly expose my images.
Beyond these tips, I find that shooting with a macro lens requires two things that are not always in my wheelhouse in the course of my regular days...stillness and patience. Thinking about the dinner I need to cook or the laundry that needs to be folded is not conducive to sharp, macro images.
It turns out that breathing and mindfulness seem to be the very best tools at my disposal.
It's always a good thing to be reminded how much there is to learn...both in photography and in life.
At any rate, if you have any other good tips for getting sharp focus, please share them in the comments. We so appreciate your feedback!
Until next time,