Instructables

How To Take Great Close-Up Photos

FeaturedContest Winner
Taking great close-up photos is much easier than you think. Based on the multitude of blurry detail pictures I've seen on ebay and craigslist, it must be a skill many don't possess. With these skills I've become that guyat work they come to when someone needs a good picture.

(This is an entry in the photo contest, so please vote if you like it!)

Note (10/29/09) - Thanks to everyone who voted for this!  Your participation is appreciated.

 
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Step 1: Executive Summary

I'm going to start with the executive summary instructions for those who don't want a big explanation, then go into the how and why of it all for those who do.

Set the focus to macro mode, turn off the flash, and set the timer.
Set up the camera on a tripod, or on a table so it won't move.
Place the object to be photographed in front of it.
Press the shutter button and take your hand off the camera.

That's all there is to it. If you want more of an explanation, read on, if not I hope this helps you.

Step 2: What You Need

A camera with a macro setting. (I wasn't going to put this as it seems way too obvious, but if I didn't I'd probably get a comment about it.)

Optional items include a small tripod and some way of holding the item you want to photograph. Modeling clay or some push pins or anything like that usually works well for holding coins or irregular shaped objects. There are a few instructables on making tripods out of tennis balls and the like. Give it a search when you're done here. Sometimes you can get away with propping the camera up on something to get the correct angle.
Kalabi-Yao4 years ago
You can use the narrow depth of focus to your advantage. Pair it with close cropping to create layered, dynamic compositions. :)
HiTex-web.jpg
I always wanted to know this simple trick :). Thank you for sharing your awesomeness :)
dana-dxb11 months ago
can i use the same trick with my smartphone?
bloomautomatic (author)  dana-dxb11 months ago
Yes, to a limited extent. My phone (iphone 4) can't focus closer than about 4" away, and even then it can be kind of grainy compared with a the regular camera. However, the same basic principles apply. Keep everything still, minimize camera movement and good lighting.

Also, most phones have tiny lenses and sensors compared with almost all point n shoot cameras. There are macro and zoom lenses you can get for smart phones that range from cases with built-in lenses to ones held on with rubber bands. I've never tried either so I can't say.

That said, you would be the best person to answer this question! Try the process with your phone and see how the pictures turn out!

Good luck..
thanxa bunch really its the quickest and deatailed answer ill try it out and let every one know
Thank you! I have been using the same camera while traveling, and it's been hard to take good pictures of stuff up close. This is soooo helpful!
thank you this was very helpful :)
maximzodal1 year ago
Thank you! I've learned something I didn't know and have needed!
I think for macro photos that small fruit like blueberries and strawberries work and they look cool. If you decide to do this, I recommend using a background of the same or similar color, and bright lighting. It turns out really neat!
I also forgot to mention that your coin idea is awesome and I'm going to try it at home!
Farash1 year ago
how do you make the coin stand ?
bloomautomatic (author)  Farash1 year ago
In that picture i used a push pin into the corkboard. Look close and you'll see the yellow pin behind it.
The Rambler2 years ago
This instructable changed my photo taking life. It's all so incredibly simple, but something I just didn't previously understand. Thank you.
pavangadu2 years ago
great dude....its much helpful.....thanks a lot...@@@
lov2bead533 years ago
I am learning how to take images of the jewelry I make; which can be rather small. Great details. I would like more details from AMmunish4u911ex if he gets the chance.

Some jewelry makers pay a pro to take their photos but I want to do that myself.
Lighting is very important with jewelry, if the light is too "yellow" silver pieces look like gold in the shots. I had an older friend who owned his own knife shop and had a forge and a bunch of other gear and made his own damascus style steel for his blades that he sold to tourists coming through Juneau, Alaska. The trick was he also included a small brochure about the process and a website address where he sold his knives, I was kind of amazed at the number of people who buy knives for their loved ones for birthdays and holidays. Anyways, it took us a while to find "white" lights that didn't color the photos in weird ways.

Also get yourself a light box or build one yourself on the cheap. You need soft lighting for shiny objects so you don't get hotspots on them from your lighting. It's fun though, once you get everything you need some of the macro shots we took came out looking amazing.
EvilMarker3 years ago
http://oi55.tinypic.com/zxv7fq.jpg
EvilMarker3 years ago
point and shoot awesomeness
Wher has that keyboard been?
bloomautomatic (author)  marienkie19953 years ago
it's been EVERYWHERE!!!!

That's a very old microsoft "natural elite" keyboard that's curved and split in the middle. It has outlasted It's great if you know how to type the "correct" way. If you hunt n peck, it's not for you. i work in a shop, so my hands get greasy. that's genuine shop grease, not human filth.

vince

estrelita3 years ago
Thanks. This simple instructables has changed my closeup photos . I never took a picture before that was suitable for an instructable.
ALadyDragon3 years ago
Thanks for the tips,
I felt like a little play with the camera today.
I thought i would post the image . fingers crossed it will upload.

Rated 5, Cheers.
P1010040.JPG
Check out my new instructable:
http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-a-DIY-tattoo-machine-for-less-than-2-/
dark sponge3 years ago
Great Instructable, I'll use this method when taking pics for my next project! 5/5 stars!

But... Eww! Your keyboard makes me want to throw up!
Woah! After I rated, the rating went up to 5.00 stars! I didn't know that was possible on Instructables!
Actually I think it's just a change in the rating system; I've noticed a lot of Instructables with unusually high ratings by the old standard.
bloomautomatic (author)  dark sponge3 years ago
Thanks for the rating.

That is a very well used keyboard. Many, many years of shop grime and grease on that. I'm a hands on person and it shows there! The palm rest area is polished to a high sheen compared with the matte finish on the rest of it.

Vince
Oh, okay, knowing that that's shop grime makes me feel better. One of the keyboards in the library of my school likes like that, and it's disgusting knowing that the only source of filth there is the people's hands...
I don't think that would work, looks like he needs a Magic Eraser!
T_T_ Kasm2793 years ago
what works really well is to take off all the keys the put them in a bowl of soapy water and rub the dirt off each one. as for the board you can just spray it down with a hose, but you have to make sure it dries COMPLETELY before you use it, a week or so should be enough.
fearme364 years ago
I once had the same camera. But then i got the great idea to film my brother riding his scooter down a hill by following him using my old "heelys" (shoes with wheels in the heel) and filming at the same time. Needless to say the lens was all bent up, and it was totalled. The best part was that it filmed the crash, and I managed to get it on the computer.

I regret nothing.
Where can i see that video???
srsantafe3 years ago
Thanks for your instructable, looks cool
manumanu7643 years ago
Nice heavy-duty tool...
I wonder what and how many things I could make a hole on...
static4 years ago
Evidently the SD card in may camera was bad, took it out, and the camera no functions as it should. Fist attempt as using the macro function free hand with flash of that removed SD card, second of a minimag belt holster.
macro exp0.JPGmacro exp2.JPG
Kasm279 static3 years ago
Minimags ftw :D
rbstimers4 years ago
I think he took a photograph of a picture of his camera.
and thank you fro a real answer! You win sir
juliemosaic3 years ago
Thanks for this great Instructable! Well written, thanks again, very useful.
hg3413 years ago
i love the powershot line i do this all the time with them(i have a 720 is)
ill post some of my nicer ones when i can find them
Thumb tacks, awesome idea!
Hadn't thought of that!
Thanks bud :)
Damian844 years ago
and here is my try: www.makroshots.com :) photos taken with sony ericsson C902 + dvd lens..
matnook4 years ago
scan and crop the pics from the camera box or phamlets or from internet of course.
You dont need no expensive cameras!!! just have a look at the pics I took with my sony ericsson k310i camera (VGA!) & using a tiny lens from a laser pointer:

http://picasaweb.google.co.in/munish4u911ex/MyMicroscope
Do you have an instructable to show us the lens and setup?

Awesome photos!
Hi rustygray, thanks for watching the pics. Unfortunately I do not have a instructable for it now, since it was not really some special setup but i accidentally fitted the lens on the K310i. But now I'm thinking to write one!

The lens was around 5 or 6 mm in width & fits almost nicely on the phone. The K310i's camera is a little deeper than the rest of the body so it provides the space for the lens to fit. I took it out from an old, 3button cell run, laser pointer. I think it's focal length might be 4 or 5 mm. It has both sides convex, but one side has a little more curvature. Only from one side the pics look uniform, if you try to see through the other side, image is somewhat blurred at the periphery (the 'zoom into' effect)

For now, I have lost the lens somewhere... But I'll do more experiments on this concept & will surely post an instructable. Might have to buy a new laser pointer :P
TaterSalad4 years ago
Thanks for putting in step 2.  I would not have commented if you had omitted it, but since you did I will.  Nice detail  --- very impressive work.
Ninzerbean4 years ago
I have noticed that we are fascinated with things larger than they are. It doesn't work in reverse because we are used to things appearing smaller than they are, as in whenever they are at a distance. I think it is something about our brains that they just can't compute so they send us signals to be in awe, I too love capitalizing on this. GREAT 'ible, now can you get people to use both hands when taking a regular normal shot, what is with the new phenomena of using one hand to not only hold the camera but push the button also?
iectyx3c4 years ago
Easy to understand and nicely photographed. You are a good teacher.
lukeyj154 years ago
Cool, I've got a Canon PowerShot A460
flaco14 years ago
Great pics! Even better tips. I will definitely use these tips for my next "ible"
static4 years ago
great photos, thanks for the tips. Grabbed my camera to see what can do, but it started acting flaky. always wanting to format the sd card after it reports formatting done, and the status light blinking like a fool. Can't find in the manual if there is is a power on microprocessor reset function. So I'll pull the battery for a few days, and try again later.
Bloomautomatic, Very nice Instructable. Well done. Thank you. Looking forward to see your microscope one. Good luck.
Whales4 years ago
I interesting question is how'd he get the pics of the camera?(I realize the bvious answer, but think about some complex answer, then try it, if it works you have just complemented yourself.)
bloomautomatic (author)  Whales4 years ago
I set the camera in place, then moving faster than the speed of light, grabbed it and took a picture before the light reflected from the original setup reached it, thus taking the picture of the camera with the same camera. Or...the coin is actually a highly polished mirror which reflects to another mirror out of frame taking the picture of the camera. ...and then there's the obvious answer, but who wants that?
i already know the 'obvious' answer to that, you used another camera to take picture of the buttons on the other camera. speaking of the other camera, is that one a Cybershot? just curious, but pretty cool how good the pic is.
bloomautomatic (author)  SMHLonWlf4 years ago
Nope. Other camera was a Casio Exilim EX-F1. Very nice camera that has the ability to take video at 300, 600, or 1200 frames/second. Vince
I also thought mirrors. If you can get what I'm saying.
heres the obvious answer. he's got an SD card slot slot in his ear and his right is acts as a camera. Or maybe, since he's a photographer, he has another, nicer, SLR cam.
jdhood4 years ago
OMG! That keyboard looks like it was removed from a smuggler's colon!
LOL XD
Punkguyta4 years ago
My 5.2 fujifilm takes clearer macros than that.
Tinderbox4 years ago
"...others use some Skynet artificial intelligence to guess what's the item of interest and focus on that." Comic genius mate. Nice one. :)
doug-O!4 years ago
poor man's close-up for 35mm SLR (remember them?) Remove lens, turn it around, hand-hold for amazing close-ups!
Vyger doug-O!4 years ago
Something that works even better is to take the front lens off of a pair of binoculars and put that in front of your lens. There used to be an instructable about it about 2 years ago, it might still be up. I used the technique for taking pictures of microchips. http://www.instructables.com/id/Getting-In-Touch-With-Your-Inner-Chip/. Its amazing what you can do with it.
Works for any SLR (not only 35mm, like the crop-sensor SLR-cameras that are so popular today). I have heard, that the sensor of a DSLR accumulates a static charge during the exposure, so watch out for dust!
skylane4 years ago
The Panamanian Quarter caught my attention.... Nice Instructable!
peterthehun4 years ago
I have a few suggestions about these techniques, just based on what I like to do: 1) Macro is good but manual focus is much better - of course as long as it allows you access down to the macro point of the lens positions (which canons certainly do) 2) I think you are mistaken about noise and shutter times. In fact, longer exposure times with decreased sensor sensitivity give you the same exposure while averaging away more of the random sensor noise. Lastly, you can maximize your depth of focus by minimizing the aperture size. This also leads to longer exposure of course, so stabilization is the key! I hope these are good suggestions for someone. Your opinions welcome!
bloomautomatic (author)  peterthehun4 years ago
1. Sadly, the Canon A560 does NOT have a manual focus. CHDK is supposed to add that capability, but I haven't messed with it enough to find it. 2. I could be mistaken on that. It just always seemed like the longer the exposure time, the grainier the picture.
WOW Thank you soooo much! I have that SAME EXACT CAMERA and this helps me a lot because now i know that without macro mode close ups are really bad.
Annon2014 years ago
Install CHKD on your camera, it gives you control of the DOF down to the mm, its great.
http://photos-d.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-snc1/v1961/125/109/501707626/n501707626_1864979_2178.jpg - the flowers were only a few mm across.
http://photos-e.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-snc1/v1961/125/109/501707626/n501707626_1864996_7473.jpg - some normal sized ants, on a concrete wall.
http://photos-g.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-snc1/v1961/125/109/501707626/n501707626_1864990_8137.jpg - A grasshopper (dead - stationary targets are much better to get close ups of ;)
http://photos-f.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-snc1/v1961/125/109/501707626/n501707626_1864981_3342.jpg - A little LED light, in the full rez picture you can see the inperfections on the diode itself, as well as the texture of the plastic casing (which you cant see looking at the object directly)

All pics taken on a Canon Ixus 50 w/ CHKD, and they have been scaled down from their original size by facebook.
http://photos-g.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-snc1/v1961/125/109/501707626/n501707626_1864998_8190.jpg - oh, and this one, a fly on a nettle leaf, it was a dark muggy day, and setting the exposure any higher would make it too hard to hold the camera, so its a pretty dark picture.
caityjay4 years ago
Thanks so much for this 'ible- I've always been far too lazy to figure out things like this for myself (read the manual, what?), and this has offered a great solution to my macro problems! Thanks for making a simple, concise tutorial.
Greatpix4 years ago
Also, cleaning off dust and gunk from the object you're going to photograph saves you from having to retouch it out later.
Greatpix4 years ago
Looking at your EXIF data (for the coin shot) you might have been better off to go with aperture preferred automatic or manual and stopped down for more depth of field. Another option is to take several shots, varying your focus point, then combining them using Photoshop or other image editor with an intelligent merge function and have the entire object, such as the drill bit, in focus.
artis10054 years ago
Great Tutorial! I'll use those tips for sure. FYI: The correct grammar is "impatient people like me." "Myself" is incorrect in that case.
bluebird4 years ago
Great Instructable.....just the facts. EZ read, very understandable...Thanks
dokcal4 years ago
Since we're talking about precision here, let me be totally anal and say that the depth of focus is actually the area where the image stays in acceptable focus behind the lens, at the film plane (or, I suppose, the "sensor plane" on a digital camera!). What you're referring to is depth of field. The two are related, but not interchangeable... and you don't want to look like a doof when you're talking to some snotty guy at the camera store!
If you can adjust the aperture (f-stop) of your camera you can adjust the depth of field and avoid this unless it is the effect you are going for. Basically the larger the aperture (lower F#), the shorter the depth of field (more things out of focus around the perimeter) and the smaller the aperture (bigger F#) the longer the depth of field (more of the picture is in focus).
To add to this, you can achieve a smaller aperture by having more light. The camera will close the aperture by nature when there is more light to keep the frame from over-exposing.
Taking a picture of your camea, Nar, Must have been done with smoke and mirrors. I have an old Kodak EasyShare C643 (6.1Mp), and never realised the 'flower' setting actually inferred macro, it just says 'Close Up: For subjects closer than 28 inches (70 cm)' I've noticed it's impossible to get in as close as I would like, so I pull back the camera until will auto focus, then zoom in as far as I can, until just before it can't hold focus. Nice tips thanks for the instructable.
antiLorna4 years ago
endolith4 years ago
Put the object on top of white paper, and put white paper around the back standing up to reflect the light onto the back of the object. This will diffuse the shadows and make it a lot less harsh.
and-reas4 years ago
nice tips about the thumbstickstuff! I have myself a Ricoh Caplio R5, with 1 cm macro, I had once a lego brick against the lens and it was still sharp. gotta love macro for sure
Too bad there's no macro setting on my camera phone! I'll have to try this next time I borrow a digital camera. Thanks!
pjennelle4 years ago
Wow. I use the macro setting often because I love the limited depth of field you were talking about, but I never understood how the timer function could help. Thank you so much for your great explanation and a very practical instructible! I'm looking forward to sharing some photos that are not fuzzy all the way through. :-)
okiesound4 years ago
Nice! Possibly the most helpful instructable for me so far! Thanks...
jridley4 years ago
Thanks for posting this. I'm constantly amazed by people who don't have any idea how to run their cameras. A couple of times I've seen people trying to take pictures of stuff close up and they were just getting huge blurs. I said "excuse me, can I make a suggestion?" Pushed the macro button, and they were amazed at the result. Seriously, read the manual, people.
sugaree164 years ago
thanks so much for posting this! i never knew what that little flower on my camera meant and i suppose i was too lazy to look it up in the manual :) this was really informative, and i'll surely be using it in the future.
sdpaez4 years ago
he must have lots of cameras...
SeaLion sdpaez4 years ago
I was about to say that too...but I guess when I get rich I'll buy a camera upgrade...
IT IS BETTER TO GO OUT AND BUY A CAMERA WITH A GOOD MACRO MODE ! 2 MACRO MODES IS BETTER YET ! FUJI FINEPIX S700......CHECK IT OUT !!
abbtech4 years ago
Great information. One additional thing that can be done to bring you even closer than super macro is to use super macro and a loupe magnifier. Have a look at the last picture on this page for an example.
http://hackedgadgets.com/2009/04/20/vhs-tape-storage-drive/5/
n0ukf abbtech4 years ago
The barrel of a loupe may clip corners. You can also use some of those dollar store reading glasses.
adder304 years ago
great! I've played around with macro before (I'm a mad scientist too) but never even thought of using the timer to reduce vibration.
Marylutn4 years ago
THANK YOU!!!!
When the camera is in Macro mode, the zoom function is often (always?) used to focus on objects, and the normal manual focus (if it has one) won't work.
bloomautomatic (author)  jac_goudsmit4 years ago
The camera I used for this doesn't have a manual mode, but the zoom function still works as it should. However, if you zoom too much in macro mode, it won't focus at all. since this camera is a point & shoot, it's probably doing what you described internally. vince
blfr4 years ago
This is excellent! You need to have your own page on ebay that people are required to read before they post pictures of stuff they're trying to sell. Haha. It's definitely good knowledge for your typical point-and-shoot photography.
Human Being4 years ago
what exactly is a macro?
bloomautomatic (author)  Human Being4 years ago
In photography it's generally referred to as a function to get the camera to focus a very short distance from the lens. Macro is the prefix for macroscopic, meaning visible with the naked eye, as opposed to microscopic meaning not visible with the naked eye.

Wikipedia has some more wordy explanations.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macro_photography
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macroscopic_scale

Vince
You have the EXACT same camera as I do!!!! Great instructable!!!
Epeoples4 years ago
Good job, not-so-old chap!!! No, really, great ible!
This is really good. I think it is instructables like this that can ensure instructables remains a community with content of superior quality.
rathinagiri4 years ago
Nice and important step. :)
Stew24 years ago
Your pictures are awesome! I am so trying this out. Thank you kindly for the tips. I always wondered how to use the macro without just ending up with fuzzy grainy pictures and now I can see what I was doing wrong, excellent ible!
Whales4 years ago
I've seen the powershot in a few places? is it worth the money? Also does this work well with point and shoots?
bloomautomatic (author)  Whales4 years ago
I have a Powershot A560 at work and an A530 at home, I'm very pleased with both of them. The 530 I've had since 2006 and I've taken well over 10,000 pictures with it. The 530 has more functionality than the 560. I think they started to cut features they figure most folks don't use. There's a great firmware hack for the Powershot series called CHDK. It goes on the memory card and is not permanent. It gives you more functions than the factory did. www.chdk.wikia.com. These cameras can still be found for $100-$150. Not sure about any of the newer models, but I've been pleased with every Canon product I've owned. Vince
thank you for that CHDK link - that looks brilliant!
I second the CHDK. If your adventurous, the scripting feature adds almost limitless flexibility. You can do motion detection and time lapse work real easily. And being able to shoot in the RAW format is also a nice perk. Definitely worth a look.
kissiltur4 years ago
very nicely explained. I also use macro for outdoor shots which aren't all that close but where I want to be sure of a sharp subject and blurry background.
nolte9194 years ago
Great tips. I've always wondered what that 2 second timer was for. I couldn't imagine how someone could have time to get settled in front of a camera in 2 seconds.
cx420ns4 years ago
ahhh thank you!!!!!! i've been trying to figure out how to get good close ups with my camera, i knew it -could- do it, just didn't know how. watch out tiny things, here i come!
Good 'stable! The Canon PowerShot cameras seem to be particularly well-suited for macro photography, as good as it can be for low-budget cameras. I have my second one now, using it frequently for food close-ups, and it works great.
Kaelessin4 years ago
for particularly tiny things a magnifying lens can help immensely! Cool shots btw
Rob K4 years ago
This is as close as I can get with my camera on super macro. The resister guy was almost touching the lens. (Canon SX1 IS)
IMG_1080.JPG
Rob K Rob K4 years ago
For super big version.

Emsaid4 years ago
Wow! these are probably the best pictures in this contest so far
bloomautomatic (author)  Emsaid4 years ago
Thanks!
Kiteman4 years ago
That's good, except you need to edit out the "" symbols (they happen when you pre-prepare your text in other software and then copy-paste it over).
bloomautomatic (author)  Kiteman4 years ago
Yep, I wrote it in word, then pasted it in. Saw those symbols, but figured they'd revert back to apostrophes in the final product. Edited them out, should be ok now. Thanks for the heads up. Vince
Any time.
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