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Lesson 5 from: Macro Photography: Insects and Plant Life

Chris McGinnis

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Lesson Info

5. Gear

Lesson Info


Now Lets Talk About Macro Gear. First, we need a camera. I shoot with the Olympus OMD EM1 Mark II, and this is a great camera for Macro, not just because of the awesome image quality, but it's also really small and portable which allows me to get into places where I might not be able to get with bigger gear. Also because its so light, I can shoot all day and not be tired. Attached to my camera, I have my macro lens. This is the Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm f2.8 Macro. As you can see this is also really small. This lens has a 1 to 1 magnification which on my micro four thirds sensor, effectively gives me 2x magnification. This lens also features the focus limiter. The focus limiter allows you to adjust the range that your camera will focus for subjects that are close up to your camera, or maybe a few inches away, or subjects that are a little bit further away. For instance, the first setting is for point one nine meters to point four meters. That's for insects, super close up magnification. Nex...

t we have point one nine meters to infinity. Those are things that are just a little bit further away from your camera, all the way to infinity. And then for subjects that are even further away, you would set to point four meters, out to infinity. The final great feature of this combination of macro lens and camera is both this lens and the camera are completely weather sealed. When I am out shooting, I never have to worry about the weather. If it downpours on me, I get wet my camera gets wet but we can both keep working. Next up is my light source. I like to use the Olympus FL-700WR which is a flash that I can mount to my hot shoe, or fire remotely with a trigger. As you can see, I have some velcro attached to my flash and I have an elastic band. I'll use that to attach a soft box diffuser which I'll get to in a minute. Next, batteries. It's always important to have a few spare charged batteries. So these are the Olympus BLH-1's which work in my OMD EM1 Mark II and they also work in the EM1 X. Here we have the Olympus FL-LM3, and this handy little flash can be used as a flash on the camera or as an option to trigger an external flash like the FL-700WR. Next, a telephoto lens. When you think of macro you might not think telephoto, but I like to use the M.Zuiko 40-150 F2.8 Pro which has up to a 300 millimeter equivalent in full frame terms. To get close to subjects that don't really want me to get close to them. I also have the 1.4 teleconverter attached to my 40 to 150 Pro. And this lets me get even closer or greater magnification. What's great about this lens it has a relatively short working distance and I can focus on a subject as close as 27 inches from my subject to my camera sensor. And don't forget batteries for your flash. I use Panasonic Eneloop Pro AA batteries. These are rechargeable's. And in addition I always have a hand full of spare AA's on hand. When you go out to shoot macro subjects you'll want to bring along something to diffuse your light source. I use this DIY, home-made, soft box diffuser that fits on the end of my flash. As I mentioned before, there is velcro on my flash, that velcro matches up to the velcro on the inside of my soft box. I made this soft box myself after research, experimentation. It's made of cardboard. Velcro, as I mentioned, a bunch of gaff tape around it, and has a reflective inside. On the front is white, non-woven fabric. Now, there are tons of DIY options and store bought options for diffusion. And I encourage you to try them. Experiment, see what works for you. After that first layer of diffusion, I add this packing foam which I can wrap around my subject when I get in close and this just uses a piece of elastic to attach the end of my lens. If you're not into experimentation and making your own, you can simply buy a diffuser. There's tons of options on the market. Here's a secondary diffuser. This is a Pop up diffuser that folds up nice, can go in your bag or in your pocket. And this just slips on virtually any lens. There are also options on the market similar to my soft box that I've made and some of them also fold up to go into your bag to be nice and portable. Don't forget, memory cards. It's always a good idea to have some spare memory cards with you. I have this case to keep my memory cards safe. And you never want to get caught with a full memory card and a subject before you and you can't shoot it because your memory is full. Always charge your batteries beforehand and keep the charger with you if you need to charge in between days or during a break in your shoot. If you are looking for even more magnification, than your lens gives you, I like to reach for one of two things. One, is a super macro lens adaptor like the Raynox DCR-250. This can screw or clip on to the end of any lens, including my 60 millimeter macro to get me even greater magnification. But you should be warned that when using a super macro converter like this, things get a little bit harder to shoot. Your depth of field decreases, your vibrations and movement increase, and it can become even more challenging. So, I don't recommend starting with the extreme magnification if you're just starting out. But once you get comfortable with your macro lens and you do feel like you need that extra magnification, add something like this. Similarly, we can reach for extension tubes. So these extension tubes are 10 millimeter and 16 millimeter and can be used together or separately or you could even add more extension tubes. The way that extension tubes work is they move your lens further away from your sensor. And when the lens moves further away from your sensor, magnification increases. The great thing about extension tubes is there's no optical change because the extension tubes are hollow. There is no interference with the quality of the optics. When working with extension tubes, you still have to be cautious of your working distance and your movement. Your movements are going to be amplified and your working distance will decrease. So when you put on the Raynox adaptor or extension tubes be aware of the change in working distance so you can appropriately adjust as you're manually focusing on your subject. Beyond the basics that I have with me when I go out shooting, you might want to consider some additional gear. For instance, a twin flash set up like the Olympus STF-8 twin flash system. This system allows you to adjust the location of individual light sources, it allows you to change the power of individual light sources, you can even disconnect and hold a light source in your hand, away from the camera over your subject or wherever you like. There's a ton of flexibility here. Also, the STF-8 includes the snap on diffusers so your light isn't too harsh on your subject. Finally, this flash is completely weather sealed. So when coupled with an OMD-EM1 Mark II or EM1 X, an M.Zuiko 60mm Macro. This entire system is ready for any weather. If you're looking for even more options when it comes to flash, consider adding a second flash to your system. If you add in a second FL-700WR, you can control it with your first FL-700R, or with a controller like the FC-WR. If you're using an older flash you can use an accessory like the Olympus FR-WR to convert that older flash to radio controlled. If you are looking for another flash option I recommend the GODOX flash point TT350O. This is specifically designed to work with Olympus cameras. Last we have a couple of more options for Macro Lenses. We have the Olympus 30mm F3.5 Macro. This is a great option for getting started with macro photography. As you can see, super small, really easy to use. You won't get the advanced features of the 60 Macro, like the focus limiter and weather sealing but you'll still be able to capture great macro images. This lens features really nice magnification at 1.25x. If you don't want to invest in a macro lens and you're just thinking about getting into it, I recommend going with a macro converter. I've already mentioned the Raynox DCR-250. Olympus also offers this macro converter, the MCON-P02. This converter lens screws right onto the filter thread of a variety of Olympus lenses. Although I typically shoot handheld when I'm shooting macro, I like to have a small tripod near by. This comes in really handy when you're shooting things, like water droplets or small inanimate objects, and you want to make sure that your camera is dead steady. Image stabilization and my OMD EM1 Mark II helps, but when the shutter speed is a little bit too long for me to hold steady or I need that extra stabilization, I can reach for something like this. And the last item I like to have on hand is a neck strap. Although, most of the time when I am shooting, I have the camera right in my hand attached with my wrist strap. I like to have a neck strap like the peak design slide light, because I might be hiking a bit. I might be walking for an extended period of time, and when I'm doing that it's more comfortable to have the camera around my neck. The last item I recommend having around is a pop-up diffuser. This is a large diffuser, they're inexpensive, they pack up nice and tight. This is great when you're shooting longer range shoots of insects. If you're taking photos of dragon flies or butterflies, the sun can be your enemy. I shoot these subjects with natural light but you don't want to get really hot spots on their eyes, so it's great to have a friend hold up the diffuser to block the sun. In addition to your camera gear, it's a great idea to bring a few additional items with you when you go out to shoot macro. For instance, a first aid kit. Having a first aid kit near by is great for the occasional scrape, or bee sting or insect bite. It's always good to be prepared. On a similar topic, it's a great idea to have bug spray with you. It sounds a little bit counterintuitive that we're going out looking for bugs and we're trying to defend ourselves against bugs. We want to take photos of the bugs, we don't need them biting us. I also like to have a towel. With macro photography, some of the best shots are taken from on the ground. And when you're laying in the dirt or the mud, or crawling around in the grass, it's nice to have a little barrier of protection. On the topic of protection, it's always a good idea to have an umbrella. Weather can change quickly and you should be ready for it. All of this photo gear needs to go somewhere. When you're walking around in the field, it's important to be comfortable. I like Peak Design Everyday Backpack. This is the twenty liter version. They also have a 30 liter version. What's awesome about this bag, is it's completely weather sealed just like my gear. I can wear it on my back all day and I have everything I need, when I need it. Now that you've seen all my gear, from both my field pack and additional options, you have everything you need to get started.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

10 Tips for Getting Started
Mobile Apps for Macro Photography
Settings for Macro Photography

Free Bonus Materials

E-M1 Mark II Macro Settings
E-M1X Macro Settings
Chris McGinnis Olympus Camera Settings

Ratings and Reviews

Andrew Lamberson

I found the class both very informative and very motivational to get started in Macro photography. It is an entry-level class but it explains what you really need to know to be successful. I especially found the information on the value of using flash and how to modify your flash for it to be more effective especially helpful. I am an experienced wildlife photographer and have done some "Macro" with my telephoto lens, but this class motivated me to purchase a dedicated lens. I am really looking forward to spring and finding some good bugs!

Chris Baudec

Great presentation and great motivation in the post processing. I do wish that the would have been made available. After all, this is a Olympus sponsored event, and Oly settings are always welcomed.... and a tad difficult on the learning curve.

Gary Hook

Chris does a commendable job of explaining his techniques, reasons and potential pitfalls to avoid. Very thorough and much more enthusiastic about little bugs than I will ever be :-) but at the end one has a good concept on how to approach the task at hand. Nice closing with his practical examples of 'post' shoot production. One suggestion for inclusion would be some operating tips/techniques with a tripod/macro rail slider. His Olympus is way smaller/lighter than my Canon 5D so my hand holding will be at a minimum. Well done. Thank you

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