Introduction: Macro Photography: an Essential Skill for Good Instructables
Macro photography is the key to good Instructables that deal with anything close-up. Although this skill should be known to every Instructabler out there, it seems like few actually do know it. Learning how to take good macro photos is learning how to make a better Instructable.
Step 1: Cameras
A good camera is the key to good photos. Here is a brief list of types of cameras and how well they do in terms of close-ups:
Cell Phone Camera: Most people have these. Unfortunately, though, they take cruddy macros. They're good for normal photos, like you and your friends, but for anything closer than a foot away, they generally stink.
Webcam: Due to the manual focus ring, these types of cameras can sometimes take excellent close-ups. The problem with these is that the resolution of photos is quite small, and the quality is usually quite low. Good macros, bad photos.
Normal Camera: These cameras are, of course, the best at macro photography. That's one of the things they were made for. A good camera can cost a little over $200, but you could probably get away with one that's a little cheaper.
In this Instructable we'll be using a normal camera.
Step 2: The Magical Flower Button
This amazing so-called "flower button" is what puts your camera in macro mode. It's essential to know how to use it in order to take good macro photos.
On most cameras, there is a button with a flower by it, or the selector wheel has a flower on it. This is what puts your camera in macro mode, which allows it to focus on very close objects. This is to ensure your photos don't come out blurry.
When you want to take a close-up picture, press the macro button or turn the dial to the flower.
If your camera doesn't support macro, you may still be in luck. As long as it has zooming capabilities, you can take macros of sorts.
How to take good pictures while in macro mode is discussed in the next step, while taking macros with zoom is explained in the step after that.
Step 3: Taking Macros
For our example subject, we'll be using a green LED.
Taking a picture in macro mode is just like taking a picture in normal mode. Just get real close, hold the button down halfway to focus, then press it all the way to take the picture. If you're too close, the camera won't be able to focus. These are cameras, not microscopes!
You can tell when it focuses because the camera will make a small sound, and there will be a green box on the screen.
Now onto taking GOOD macro pictures. The first image is an ideal shot. The lighting is just right and it's not blurred.
Here are a couple pointers that you should remember when taking macro pictures:
1. Have good external lighting. There should not be too much light, but there shouldn't be not enough. Picture two shows too much light. The camera tries to auto-adjust to that, thus skewing the colors. The picture after shows an exaggerated version of not enough light. Obviously, you can't really see much.
The fourth picture shows using the flash in a dark environment. It's way too bright, especially in close-up situations.
2. Try not to move the camera when taking a picture. This will result with something like photo five. Blurry pictures do not look good, and if it's trying to show something like a label, you wouldn't even be able to read it. To make sure you don't move the camera when taking the pictures, hold your breath while you take the shot. Also, try to prop your hands on something, to make sure they don't move. Don't hold your arms out in midair, or they'll be shaking too much to take a decent picture.
Pictures six and seven show attempts to take photos while in normal mode. They are ridiculously blurry, and not very good to look at. In the last photo, you can see how the camera tries to focus on things more than a couple feet from the camera, which is why the pen is in focus and the LED is not.
3. Don't take only one shot! You probably won't get the perfect shot on the first try! Keep taking pictures until you get a good one. This is a digital camera, remember? You're not wasting film! :P
Good lighting and steady hands are the key to good macro photography. Keep taking pictures until you get just the right one. The next step explains how to take close-up pictures by zooming in from a distance.
Step 4: Close-Ups by Zooming
If your camera doesn't have a macro feature, or the macro doesn't work well, you can still take close-up photos with zoom capabilities.
A tripod really helps with this method. When you're zoomed in, a small shake of the hand means a lot of motion blur.
Mount the camera on your tripod. Place it a reasonable distance from your subject, and zoom in to it. Focus the camera, and take the picture. The second picture was taken at 7.2x zoom.
Unfortunately, this method is hard to get just right. You need to constantly move the camera to find just the right distance in order to focus the photo properly. But if you can master this skill, it can be just as effective as macro.
Step 5: Take Better Pictures!
You should now be on your way to taking better macro photos! Better photos = Better Instructables! Thanks for reading, and please remember to comment!