One or two things I wish I had known before starting macro photography

A friend of mine and me recently got ourselves a Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens. We thought we’d easily do plenty of good looking macro images, but not quite so. It turns out that macro photography is a pretty hard exercise, no matter what gear you have, and for some reason I haven’t seen too many resources discussing the difficulties.

It boils down to one thing : you’ll need light. Lots of it, a lot more than you’d expect, actually. And a tripod, because at 100mm, when closing in on the subject (around 30-40 cm), camera shake becomes a serious problem. Ah, but this lens has a 2.8 aperture, you say, surely light can’t be a problem. Well, it still is. The reason is that at 2.8, with a 100mm focal length, your depth of field becomes paper-thin as you close in on a subject. At minimum range, you can’t shoot a frickin’ ant without having, say, it’s head sharp and rest of the body blurry.

That’s why this lens also makes very nice portraits (although it still doesn’t beat the 70-200 f2.8 as far as I’m concerned). But the point is, at 2.8 the lens is hardly usable at close range so in most cases you’ll need to close down to 5.6 for a typical subject (a flower for instance). Now factor in the camera shake, and there’s your light problem, and why a tripod can really be a necessity, even though you’d think you have great light conditions.

Anyway, here are the results.

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