Macro photography

With the rise of start-up businesses managed from the comfort of the home, budget cutting techniques are increasingly utilised to gain competitive advantage over larger businesses. We kick off our series on product photography with a background on macro photography.

By Zafar Jamati

Get up close and personal
From handmade jewellery to etsy-based arts and crafts ventures, product photography is fast becoming pivotal to the success or failure of small businesses. Because customers cannot physically see or touch a product, buying decisions can often be made based on the quality and appeal generated by a picture.

It's true that 'a picture speaks a thousand words', and so it's important for business owners to communicate the right balance of technical information such as usage context, specification and ergonomics, whilst evoking inspirational feelings of ownership.

Macro photography is a discipline which aims to take close up pictures of a subject. These larger than life photos try to show the finer details which our eyes simply cannot see. In this way, we expose a whole world, previously unexplored.

When the macro technique is used in product photography, care must be taken to compliment macro with other zoom levels to ensure that a wide selection of near and far, well lit photographs, provide a gallery of images that really exemplify the product in question. So here are my tips for those who want to try their hand at marco photography:

Using a DSLR

The ideal setup for macro requires the use of a DSLR camera, which means that special macro lenses can be used. Macro lenses differ in their optical setup, offering lower minimum focusing distances. The other great benefit of a DSLR is the ability for full manual control.

Manual control in a digital world

Even if you don't have a DSLR, compact digital point-and-shoot cameras are increasingly offering manual controls. The key manual controls needed for product and macro include:
  • The ability to change aperture, thus altering the amount of light entering the lens, allows you to use a high F/stop and take sharper pictures, closer. Although this often requires a lower shutter speed for long exposure, and a tripod to reduce image blur.
  • Focus manually (or selectively): Some fixed lenses include a manual focus ring, which allows you to alter minute focus for fine details. Even a millimetre at macro can drastically alter the image feel. If you don't have a focus ring, the in-built LCD can often allow you to select a focus point.
  • Light and flash control: this is the key to not only good product shots, but all photography in general. Use flash wisely, try to shoot at times of the day when natural ambient light is softer, such as at dawn or dusk. If you do modify the light, use a foil reflector to angle the light, to fill in unnecessary shadows, or a diffuser on a flash to soften the harsh light.
Getting started with macro may be daunting at first, but as with anything, practice makes perfect. Start experimenting with close up shots now to be ready for our next tutorial, which will discuss product photography home-studio setups for professional results.

If you would like to leave it to the professionals however, get in touch with our friendly team at Stone Junction. We work with both words and pictures!

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Zafar Jamati

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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