Depth of Field in Macro Photography

One of the greatest challenges for macro photographers is achieving sharp focus for all of the scene's important elements. In this image the wings of only one of this pair of caper whites are in focus.

The defining characteristic of macro photography is of course that subjects are shot at close distances. While this close camera-to-subject proximity can lead to visually arresting images captured from an intimate perspective, this sort of photography presents unique technical challenges as well.

In this article I'll address one of the most significant of these challenges - controlling depth of field (DOF). The term depth of field refers to the area in front of and behind the point on which focus is set that can be rendered in sharp focus. As we'll explore throughout this article, DOF control plays a very prominent role in macro photography.

The cute creature in the image below is a cicada nymph, by definition the larval or sub-adult stage of an insect with partial metamorphosis. For me, this image is a failure. Why? Almost all the interesting parts and features of the nymph are are out of focus - its abdomen, wing buds, legs, even the front of its head.

In this image of cicada nymph , satisfyingly little of the subject is rendered in sharp focus.

Why are so many of the image elements blurred? It's not due to poor focusing technique. If you look carefully, you’ll see that I placed focus on the cicada's eye, always a good choice whether photographing people or insects. The lack of sharp detail results from insufficient DOF. That is, the range of objects in front of and behind my point of focus that can be simultaneously rendered in sharp focus is extremely shallow. The result? We see sharp detail in just a tiny portion of the whole image.

Here's another example of shallow DOF. When focus is placed on the mantis’ eye, the rest of its body is out of focus. As you can see, the problem isn't solved simply by focusing on another area. If I place focus on the rest of the head area, the is eye then out of focus.

Understanding depth-of-field

Before we can begin to figure out how to better control DOF, we must first understand the factors that make it so problematic in macro photography. Depth of field is dependent upon three factors: aperture value, focal length and subject distance. When each of the other two variables are fixed, setting a larger F-stop number (which actually means a smaller aperture opening) will result in a larger DOF. Using a longer focal length will result in a smaller DOF. And shooting at a closer subject distance means a smaller DOF.

In macro photography, however, DOF depends primarily on just two factors: aperture value and magnification. At any given aperture value, the higher the magnification ratio, the smaller the DOF. And this explains why DOF is so shallow in macro;  the magnifications are simply much larger than in any other type of photography.

With this in mind, let's go back to the cicada image that began this discussion. When photographers see such a shallow DOF, they instinctively think the aperture was set very wide (a small F-stop number). But this shot was made at f/9.0 which, outside of macro photography, is considered to be a narrow aperture. That leaves magnification as the main contributor to shallow DOF. This nymph is only 2 or 3mm in length, and since I wanted to photograph it filling a large portion of the frame, I had to use an extreme magnification ratio – in this case, of 5:1, meaning that the cicada's projection on the sensor was 5 times its actual size! Extreme indeed, and so DOF is extremely shallow, at only a fraction of a millimeter.

One might think that a too-shallow DOF appears only in extreme macro. This is
not true: even in this image of a devil’s horse nymph, shot using a magnification
much lower than 1:1, a larger DOF would definitely be welcome.

Since DOF is affected by aperture and magnification, let's see what happens when we alter them. First - aperture value. The robber fly below was shot using a very small aperture: f/16. In fact, this aperture is so small that is causes a significant loss of sharpness due to diffraction. And it still doesn’t help this image much; the DOF is too shallow with most of the subject out of focus.

Here, even a very small aperture couldn’t help making the DOF large
enough to have the whole subject in focus.

The second thing that can be done is to lessen the magnification by stepping back from the subject and making it take up less space in the frame. This most certainly works to increase DOF. Yet I have two major problems with this 'solution'. Having the subject fill a smaller part of the frame than intended forces you to crop the image in post processing. And while a large  crop may make the subject appear as if you shot it at closer range, you end up with less detail, eliminating one of the most appealing aspects of macro photography.

Furthermore, as a wildlife photographer I always wish to capture my scene in as close a state as possible to the final image. Using a small magnification and then making a significant crop collides with this ideal and personally I avoid this unless there is simply no other choice.

 So what can be done? On the next page I'll show you two different ways to tackle the problem.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.

Comments

Total comments: 158
12
Debankur Mukherjee
By Debankur Mukherjee (Feb 16, 2012)

Nice writing !!

1 upvote
kff
By kff (Feb 16, 2012)

combining the images above via focus - it would do camera these days by a special function moving AF point (I say "AF macro bracketing":) and a final composition of result picture in the camera (or in the computer) ... I think, it is a simply software function :)

For it is better camera (tablet with camera module like GXR) with min.10'' display, for better select of AF point etc.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 7 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Karl Gnter Wnsch
By Karl Gnter Wnsch (Feb 16, 2012)

You are quite wrong. Focus stacking is a highly processor intensive business and most of the time you not only have to stack two or three images, I have seen stacks of several hundered images and myself have shot series of up to 50 images to be combined into a single image with this technique.
The problem most of the time when refocusing a lens is that all lenses in closeup photography change not only focus distance but focal length as well (a 180mm macro lens can be just a 100mm lens when focused at 1:1). This focus breathing (which is more developed in zoom lenses) makes stacking a much more tedious process as you have to deal with artifacts due to the change in focal length.

3 upvotes
trungthu
By trungthu (Feb 16, 2012)

""" Depth of field is dependent upon three factors: aperture value, focal length and subject distance. """
I think, there's one more factor relates to the DOF, that's the sensor's dimension. The more of the sensor's dimension, the less of the depth of field.
Because the "normal lens" is equal to the diagonal of the image sensor, and the smaller of the sonsor, the shorter of the focal, and so the wider of the DOF.

0 upvotes
Blue439
By Blue439 (Jun 10, 2012)

And to be really accurate, focal length has nothing to do with DoF. It's the magnification factor that has a direct influence on DoF. I'm surprised Erez made the mistake/confusion.

And he forgot to mention the size of the imager, as you were quite right to point out.

0 upvotes
Turbguy1
By Turbguy1 (Feb 16, 2012)

I get good results on a Nikon D300 using PB4 bellows unit (never been topped) and enlarging lenses, which are available for a song these days on eBay.

1 upvote
Lng0004
By Lng0004 (Feb 16, 2012)

I have a question with focus stacking. Do I have to move the camera accordingly (like on rail) if the lens focuses by extension?

0 upvotes
Karl Gnter Wnsch
By Karl Gnter Wnsch (Feb 16, 2012)

In my experience it is better to keep the focus of the lens fixed and indeed move the camera via an external focusing rail. It makes life easier for both helicon focus as well as CombineZM - which are the two most popular choices of focus stacking software...

0 upvotes
_sem_
By _sem_ (Feb 16, 2012)

Both is possible; some prefer rails, others macro lenses with a long focus throw. Depends also on the lens (some extend others not, some focus-breathe a lot others not).

0 upvotes
brliv
By brliv (Feb 27, 2012)

Either way. Results are good both ways, but may differ in appearance. If you have a lens with a long focus throw, you can achieve results with either method. A lens with short throw needs a rail.

0 upvotes
Gary Leland
By Gary Leland (Feb 16, 2012)

Erez
This was very helpful. Looking forward to learning more. My wife and I really enjoy macro photography but our macro's are nowhere near your level. I am camera shopping though. :) I'll be eager to try some of what you have taught me.
Thanks,
Gary

2 upvotes
IcyVeins
By IcyVeins (Feb 16, 2012)

The problem most people have with too-shallow depth of field is not easy to fix - they actually think it looks GOOD. Way too many people who post images on here seem to think that using very shallow depth of field makes their images look "professional" and most of the time they're dead wrong.

3 upvotes
bobbarber
By bobbarber (Feb 16, 2012)

Exactly, and it's not only macro. Everybody wants to own a FF camera and shoot f1.4. I mean, it does look cool once in a while, but it turns into an affectation after a while. People are not isolating the background from the subject, they are isolating the subject from itself.

I have m43, and often f2.8, 4, 5.6, or even 8 does not given me enough DOF, depending on the lens and depending on what I'm doing.

1 upvote
Jack Wood
By Jack Wood (Feb 16, 2012)

How about a future lensbaby macro to increase DOF?!?

0 upvotes
brliv
By brliv (Feb 27, 2012)

And how would a Lensbaby achieve increase in DOF in more than one plane?

0 upvotes
M1963
By M1963 (Feb 16, 2012)

THIS is the kind of educating article I'd like to read more often here at dpreview. It is so much more interesting than dull discussions on sensor sizes or OVF vs EVF. I'm still learning about macro, so it was incredibly useful to me. Thank you, Erez.

4 upvotes
michaelfromoz
By michaelfromoz (Feb 15, 2012)

Can't wait for the next installment.

2 upvotes
Elle77
By Elle77 (Mar 25, 2012)

It is amazing. I want to learn that thing. I am just a beginner photographer.

0 upvotes
Mike Griffin
By Mike Griffin (Feb 15, 2012)

It is my experience that small sensor cameras give superior depth of field for macro photography. I don't buy the diffraction argument. You may have to stop down to f:16 and beyond to get acceptable depth of field with a DSLR and suffer from diffraction limitations but a compact that is diffraction limited at f:4 has great depth of field at f:2.8.
This article explores the argument further.
http://www.eos-magazine-forum.com/showthread.php?4538-Small-sensor-macro

2 upvotes
Dan Tong
By Dan Tong (Feb 15, 2012)

Lucky for you you don't have to "buy" the diffraction argument.
It's completely free! As in no charge.

2 upvotes
bed bug
By bed bug (Feb 16, 2012)

Yes and no. Smaller sensors do have greater DOF at the cost of increased noise and many bridge cameras have various de-noise algorithms which degrade the image. This often results in a water colour painted look that is not very pleasing to the eye. If you took a shot of an insect that was the same size on the sensor with a FF, a crop camera and a bridge, then there would be no difference in DOF. Of course this would defeat the purpose in having a FF camera!

My choice is a crop DSLR (the 7D); the DOF is greater than say a 5DII (I have both) but the 7D is not subject to the noise of a bridge camera. Despite the increased noise with the 7D over the 5DII, noise reduction software can reduce the noise without substantial image degradation; this can not be done with smaller sensor.

Regards
Stephen

0 upvotes
Hobbit13
By Hobbit13 (Feb 16, 2012)

At low iso's the better small sensor camera's are virtually noise free. And they have raw support as well.

0 upvotes
Karl Gnter Wnsch
By Karl Gnter Wnsch (Feb 16, 2012)

The problem of small sensor cameras is that there are no viable choices for macro lenses and that the gift of higher DOF comes at quite a price because the background usually will be unappealing cluttered and busy...

2 upvotes
_sem_
By _sem_ (Feb 16, 2012)

@Mike: Indeed, diffraction is free ;)

@bed bug: Indeed, the small sensors are mure likely to be useful at base ISO with comparable apertures in the same ambient light. Large sensors gain when light is not limited.

@Karl: Check Pentax Q with cine macro lenses.

0 upvotes
Dan Tong
By Dan Tong (Feb 15, 2012)

Another wonderful installment in these excellent Macro Photography articles, accompanied, as always, by stunning images.

I'm eagerly awaiting the discussion of hardware, specifically the discussion of special macro lenses vs bellows vs extension tubes vs reversed lenses vs add-on close up lenses. These 3 methods to focus closer are listed in order of most costly to least costly and almost certainly in order of overall effectiveness, but I would very much like to know more about the pros and cons of each from an expert.

Thanks,

Dan

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
Weegee
By Weegee (Feb 15, 2012)

I have to photograph tiny micro chips 1sq.millimeter. I am using a Nikon D200 with Nikon PB-4 bellows ( shift ) and reversed 60mm micro Nikkor. The image doesn't look sharp at f/5.6 so I have to go to F/22 or sometime f/32. Then I get diffraction problems. Seems like I can't win! Should I go to stacking? If so, do I focus using the focusing ring or moving the camera back and forth?

Sometimes I feel like I'm shooting with a 5000mm lens!

Any ideas, comments? Thanks.
Weegee ( sure is a change from my 4 x 5 Graflex)

0 upvotes
Rubenski
By Rubenski (Feb 15, 2012)

Dear Weegee, simply use your lens' sharpest aperture and manually focus on the first part you want to be in focus and from there move on to all the other points you want to have in focus. Then use focus stacking software and you'll have a image that's in focus from your first point ot your last. Good luck with it.

0 upvotes
tonywong
By tonywong (Feb 15, 2012)

I'm not a macro expert by any stretch, but moving the camera using a rail is probably your best bet.

The rail is more precise and has less risk of torquing your camera which could leading to alignment issues with your focus stack.

Also, this won't affect your prime, but focus breathing can happen as well.

0 upvotes
Dan Tong
By Dan Tong (Feb 15, 2012)

Stacking should work for you even better than for "wild life photography" since your objects do not move, nor do you need to worry about wind moving your object (assuming you are indoors). Hence you can take as much time as you like between each racking focus exposure.

You should use whichever focusing method is the most precise and convenient.

Photoshop CS5 has the stacking capability.

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
wotevah
By wotevah (Feb 16, 2012)

The microchips are flat so maybe you're having issues with focus or field curvature. Focus by moving the camera, either on rail or by hand. Shoot burst and with remote or timer, do not use the shutter button - the greatest cause of blur. If your camera has eletronic first shutter, use it.

You're probably better off looking for a microscope objective, like a Nikon CF infinity plan 4x objective, and use it with an adapter on your camera+lens. These things are designed to produce a flat image from very small things.

Another option might be a stereo microscope with a camera attachment. They magnify to 30x easily so it could project a 30mm image straight on your sensor from your chip.

Check out the photomacrography.net forums, you will find a lot of useful ideas there.

Comment edited 39 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
KitHB
By KitHB (Feb 16, 2012)

Ought not to be field curvature problem on that scale on a reversed lens. They were designed to cope with the slight flex and varying thicknesses of 35mm films.
Are there any sources of low-frequency vibrations where you live (passing trucks, trains, heating or aircon fans or pumps, etc) ? Does your setup have the stage holding the chips firmly fastened to the bellows unit?
Is your PB4 absolutely straight? As I recall it's the one mounted on parallel tubes rather than on a girder rail (PB6). If it's mounted vertically is there any backlash at all in the mechanism as you tighten each end? Does it help if you focus it by moving each end upwards (against gravity) instead of downwards so the cogs can't shift as you tighten it up and then let go of it. Otherwise it might be time to look for a PB6E, the extended non-shift Nikon bellows. I'm a big fan of the PB4 bellows though, brilliant design for macro with tilt and shift.

0 upvotes
_sem_
By _sem_ (Feb 16, 2012)

You can also try with a short lens if you hate stacking. Nikkor AI-s 20mm/3.5 for example; a reversed kit lens @18mm may work for a feasibility check. Notice there will be no more DoF, just the out-of-focus area should be less blurred.

0 upvotes
Daniel Lowe
By Daniel Lowe (Feb 15, 2012)

I have had excellent results from bridge cameras, specifically the Fuji HS20 superzoom. The manual lens on this camera enables fine zoom control like a DSLR and is capable of fantastic tele macro results with nice blurred backgrounds.

Others have mentioned cameras like the Panasonic LX5 (which I also own) but I don't find this anywhere near as good as the HS20. With a close up lens the results become quite spectacular for a small sensor camera.

Others have mentioned diffraction problems with small sensor cameras but this is rarely a problem because you don't have to use apertures where diffraction issues start to materialise.

0 upvotes
Rubenski
By Rubenski (Feb 15, 2012)

fixed lens cameras always have a much bigger field of depth and are therefore well suited for macro shots. If you use f/5.6 on a HS20 it's the same as using f/22 on a 7D. F/8 becomes f/32. But, as always, the quality of the pictures are way behind if you don''t use a tripod, cable release, mirror lock up and the lowest iso possible.

0 upvotes
Karl Gnter Wnsch
By Karl Gnter Wnsch (Feb 16, 2012)

The problem with small sensor cameras is that the background is much much harder to control. In fact you have much too much DOF in this regard even with the lens wide open.

0 upvotes
_sem_
By _sem_ (Feb 16, 2012)

@Daniel: Small sensors and large sensors fare just about the same regarding diffraction. One just has to compare apertures scaled by the crop factor.

@Karl: You mostly don't have too much DoF even with small sensors! But you have a large portion of the background that looks relatively less blurred. The apparent depth is tue to lower relative background blur, not due to more DoF.

0 upvotes
Karl Gnter Wnsch
By Karl Gnter Wnsch (Feb 17, 2012)

@_sem_: You have no way of separating the subject from the background - which ruins 99.999% of small camera macro shots! I used to think the same way (more DOF and thus easier) until I switched to a DSLR - the macro capabilities of small sensor cameras are rubbish in comparison, the drawbacks far far far outweigh the perceived minute advantage.

0 upvotes
_sem_
By _sem_ (Feb 17, 2012)

@Karl: short-FL macro works either if you /want/ to show the object together with the background or if you clean up the background (jewelery in studio etc).
But you can do longer-FL macro with some compacts too, by using a close-up diopter in the tele range. Best done with some beefy bridge cameras with long zooms that maintain a relatively wide aperture around 200mm equiv or so. Or perhaps one might find a suitable cine lens and attach it to the Pentax Q.

0 upvotes
dsvilko
By dsvilko (Feb 27, 2012)

@Karl: when we are talking about true macro (1:1 and above), the DoF you get with even the small sensor is more than enough to give you a nice subject separation. We are talking about maybe a 1mm DoF as opposed to 0.1mm I am currently getting with my dSLR macro setup. Some of my best macro shots I have made with a tiny Canon A75 (3mp) and a 50mm f/2.8 lens as a high quality diopter. Macro is possibly the easiest type of photography for people on a tight budget as there is a huge number of ways you can get a high magnification, most of them quite cheap.

0 upvotes
bobbarber
By bobbarber (Feb 15, 2012)

I think he missed the easiest step to take,which is to use an enthusiast compact camera. The small sensor gives huge depth of field, and the images are high quality. I'm talking about something like an XZ-1 or an LX5 or TL500, etc.

3 upvotes
Lee Jay
By Lee Jay (Feb 15, 2012)

No, that's not an option. The diffraction-limited depth-of-field is format-independent. You might get the same DOF at f/2.8 on a compact as you'd get on a full-frame dSLR at f/16, but so what? You'll also get about the same impact of diffraction. So any additional DOF you get from stopping the compact down further, you can also get by stopping down the dSLR as well.

1 upvote
bobbarber
By bobbarber (Feb 15, 2012)

I know that's the theory, but it hasn't worked out in practice like that for me. At the very least, you get the benefits of higher shutter speed on the compact, which makes hand-held macro an option. I would venture to guess that if you shot a compact hand-held, and a tripod with a DSLR in a field, and raced to see who get more keeper insect photos in a day, the compact wins.

1 upvote
gigabloke
By gigabloke (Feb 15, 2012)

My own understanding is that bobbarber's comment is correct.
See here: http://www.digicamhelp.com/learn/macro-close/extreme-macro-photography/

And examples from the same guy here: http://bugmacros.com/
One could argue that most of these are not EXTREME macros though. Still, one can achieve a lot with a small sensor camera + flash

Comment edited 6 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Lee Jay
By Lee Jay (Feb 15, 2012)

No, you don't get that benefit either, as you can shoot the larger sensor at higher ISOs by exactly the same amount as the f-stop difference. I routinely shoot macros with sensors ranging in size from full-frame to 1/2.3". There's little difference in performance except that the larger sensor camera performs better in other ways (better low-ISO image quality, better focusing, better viewfinder, faster, etc.).

0 upvotes
chrswggl
By chrswggl (Feb 15, 2012)

I think if you were to use an enthusiast compact camera, you'd want to use something with a long zoom. The XZ-1, LX5, etc.. focus closest at the wide end, which will most likely scare away insects and probably block light. If you shoot with a bridge camera with close focus filters, however, you'll be able to obtain similar results with more depth of field.

1 upvote
Lee Jay
By Lee Jay (Feb 15, 2012)

"My own understanding is that bobbarber's comment is correct. "

Nope.

Perhaps that guy isn't doing the math right (and I'm not either in this comment set since I didn't include the bellows effect in the math) or using the right tools. You can definitely do just as well with large sensors as with small.

0 upvotes
JohnFredC
By JohnFredC (Feb 15, 2012)

It depends on the resolution one finds acceptable and the "circle of confusion" tolerance. In my experience, the little Sony T-series cameras (4.8mm lens at the wide setting) can make very satisfactory macro images of many small subjects. Certainly more satisfactory than much I have seen from larger format equipment where the depth of field is more severely limited by the physics.

I talked with a pro photographer last weekend who was exhibiting large-scale closeups of sea-surf. The depth of field in the prints was horrendously narrow for such a topic, and it turns out the extraordinarily smooth images were from an Hasselblad. His statement was that the tiny area of sharpness (in the midst of the huge expanses of smooth bokeh) was his aesthetic. To each his own...

0 upvotes
WD
By WD (Feb 15, 2012)

I have many Nikon cameras & lenses, some Canon compacts and an old Olympus E100RS 1.5mp(?) 10x zoom with macro capability. I took macro shots of the same subject with numerous combinations and printed them 8x10 and asked friends and wife to pick the picture they liked the best. Each one chose the Oly shot!! One CAN get excellent macro shots with a small sensor camera, and with the newest ones more easily and with DOF superior to DSLs.

0 upvotes
Bottom
By Bottom (Feb 15, 2012)

I use the Sony DSC-H5 with the VCL-M3358 close-up lens. The lens has no effect at wide angle. As the cameral is zoomed in, the effect increases to a maximum t full telephoto. Unfortunately at full telephoto the depth of field goes bye-bye

0 upvotes
Bottom
By Bottom (Feb 15, 2012)

I clicked on edit, and after adding the fantastic reply which follows, I received the message that it was too late to edit the reply. So here we go with a second reply.
I have three cameras which I use for photographing wildflowers in an area which is usually windy. The first is a Sony DSC P-200 which has a 1/1.7 sensor and will focus to 10cm. I also have the Sony DSC H-5 with a 1/2.5 sensor which will focus to 1 cm. Finally I have an Olympus E-620 equipped with the 50mm f2.0 Macro lens. The DOF for this lens is 1mm at f2.0 and 3mm at f11. All three cameras went with me on a trip to a lake and for every flower I encountered I took pictures with all three. I discarded all of the close-up photos taken with the Olympus. My preference is for the P-200 except when I need the close-focusing ability of the H-5. Pictures taken at a distance are another thing with the E-620 winning out. The Oly XZ-1 is in the mail.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
DGMU
By DGMU (Feb 15, 2012)

I agree. The depth of field is proportional to the aperture used and inversely proportional to the focal length of the lens squared. Just read the small focal length of a point and shoot camera lens and do the arithmetic - you will have over 10 times the depth of field of an APS-C DSLR at the same aperture. I carry a point and shoot camera instead of a macro lens - cheaper, smaller and lighter!

0 upvotes
DGMU
By DGMU (Feb 15, 2012)

I agree. Depth of field is proportional to lens aperture and inversely proportional to the lens focal length squared. Just use the small focal length of a point and shoot camera lens and do the arithmetic. You will have over 10 times the depth of field compared to an APS-C DSLR. I carry a point and shoot camera instead of a macro lens - cheaper, smaller and lighter!

0 upvotes
bobbarber
By bobbarber (Feb 15, 2012)

Like another poster here, I have the Oly 50mm 2.0 macro, and an Oly C7070. The Oly C7070 takes better macro pictures in my opinion, although the 50mm 2.0 macro is a superior lens and I have other uses for it.

0 upvotes
Peter Hayward
By Peter Hayward (Feb 15, 2012)

A well written and presented article. Nice to confirm options I thought I had available to me.

3 upvotes
_sem_
By _sem_ (Feb 15, 2012)

No it is not so well written, just take a look at the exchange above ;)
It does not explain the role of the relative blur which makes the appearance of deeper sharpness at shorter focal length despite no more DoF. Short FL is what makes compact macro modes appear to have more depth, not the small sensor. You can make the same look on DSLR with a wide-angle lens, stopped down a lot, on a very short extension tube.
ljfinger explained it. I think the one thing little sensors have is shorter exposures (with similar framing; short FL, aperture and ISO adjusted considering the crop factor), so more useful for shooting handheld in ambient light.
@chrswggl: the vast majority of compacts have macro magnifications at the wide end, magnify less at tele. But the longer zooms are useful with diopters, if the aperture is large enough (all in diffraction otherwise). Long zoom + diopter makes longer effective FL and DSLR macro look - more working distance, less "depth", more background blur.

0 upvotes
michaelfromoz
By michaelfromoz (Feb 15, 2012)

I am not doubting your accuracy, but unfortunately had this article been written to include your explanation, I doubt anyone would have continued to read it, whether it was correct or not.

0 upvotes
_sem_
By _sem_ (Feb 16, 2012)

Michael, I agree that this is a tough subject and difficult to explain in a few sentences, with all the rooted misconceptions, even among macro masters that have made many great images.
I think the author does write nicely and puts good work for samples. Except that so far he has avoided the confusing bits that are an obvious source of confusion in the macro audience. I do hope he tackles this tricky part one day.
I got convinced by comparison samples folks have posted somewhere, and later by trying things out myself. I don't remember a specific link to a good comparison. But you can take a look at my DSLR closeup samples that closely resemble macro-mode-closeups made with compacts. These are made with D90, with the 18-200VR @18mm or with the AI-s 20/3.5, both stopped down all the way or almost, both on the 5.6mm K1 extension tube:
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1030&message=38923775
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1030&message=39021378

0 upvotes
Lee Jay
By Lee Jay (Feb 15, 2012)

"The defining characteristic of macro photography is of course that subjects are shot at close distances."

"And this explains why DOF is so shallow in macro; the magnifications are simply much larger than in any other type of photography."

The second statement is correct (magnification defines macro), the first is not. You can shoot macro from long distances given enough focal length.

1 upvote
airdima
By airdima (Feb 15, 2012)

The definition of "Macro photography" is anything shot between 1:2 and 10:1 magnification rate. few lenses can achieve such magnification without specialized accessories. Shooting a butterfly with 300mm lens set at MFD, doesn't make it a macro shot, but merely a close up. and there's a huge difference between these two.

3 upvotes
Dan Tong
By Dan Tong (Feb 15, 2012)

Of course you are technically correct, but here is another point of view, which in my opinion makes the author's statement right.

Long distances (2-5 feet?) for macro photos are only RELATIVELY long in the context of macro photography. In the context of photography in general (portrait and landscape, and excluding macro) these "long distances" are pretty much "close distances".

Therefore the author's rather general statement which explains the most defining characteristic of macro (vs genera) photography, the explanation is perfectly sensible. People also use the general term "extreme closeup photography" which just about everyone understands right away.

Sadly most people fail to understand "relativity" :)

Comment edited 4 times, last edit 11 minutes after posting
1 upvote
KentG
By KentG (Feb 16, 2012)

Good article. Too bad his entomology is not as good as his macro-photography. The insect he calls a Devil's Horse Nymph (a species of grasshopper) is actually one of 12 members of the mantis family Empusa, likely Empusa pennata, called the conehead mantis in English or mantis palo in Spanish.
Other than that the articel is very informative.

1 upvote
viking5
By viking5 (Feb 15, 2012)

Very interesting article. Thanks a lot!

1 upvote
jgriep
By jgriep (Feb 17, 2012)

Good article. DOF depends on 1. Image size and 2. actual aperture size;[not f stop] as each increases DOF decreases. That's why the P&Ss have good DOF. and full frame such narrow

I wonder if a mirror up multiple exposure mode with focus stepping or in lens image stabilization focus stepping might not give a one shot focus stack. or again a mirror up multiframe coupled to a motorized focusing rail

0 upvotes
phipop
By phipop (Feb 20, 2012)

hello,
fantastic pictures!!
here is a modest one on phipop

http://www.phipop.com/photo/nature/foto/foto38.jpg

deep of field was my problem until i start to use manual focus,
phipop

0 upvotes
phipop
By phipop (Feb 20, 2012)

http://www.phipop.com/photo/nature/photo/foto38.html
sorry

0 upvotes
Keith Hatfull
By Keith Hatfull (Jul 27, 2012)

I think there are two different concepts at work here...

DOF, which has been explained well here in the article and the comments, and which is dependent on aperture, focal length, and magnification.

The other is POF - plane of focus. While it is necessary to have sufficient DOF to keep the subject or desired parts of the subject in focus, excess DOF may be necessary if the POF is ignored or mismanaged.

The need for excess DOF because of mismanaged POF results in longer shutter speeds, higher ISO settings, and/or smaller than necessary apertures...all of which work against you.

While the two are related, they are also two very different things to manage and get right in the composition of a quality macro photograph.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 158
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