Reading Ed’s post about obtaining top shelf macro shots with bottom drawer photo equipment reminded me of another way to gain decent results without the deeper investment of macro lenses for DSLR or interchangeable lens cameras. Almost all of us own or have easy access to cheap point and shoot digital cameras… and the vast majority of those cameras contain a close focusing or macro mode.
All of the photos in this post were taken with various low-end (i.e., inexpensive) point and shoot compact cameras, most without advanced shooting modes and capabilities.
On these types of cameras, there is typically a button (or in rare cases, such as on some Panasonics, a lens switch) depicting a silk screened or etched flower. That marking is the macro mode. In reality, true macro photography is where the subject is captured on the image sensor at life size with a 1 to 1 ratio. On compact cameras, this isn’t typically the case, so close up photography is a more accurate descriptor. I’ll use the terms interchangeably here.
Some important pointers:
Lighting is important. Serious shooters with serious gear will use ring lights or studio set-ups to gain optimal results. Because we’re working with point and shoot cameras here, however, we’ll have to rely on decent available light. In some cases, the on-board flash can be used, but learning how to dial down the brightness (if available) will most likely be important so that you don’t wash out your subject.
It’s tempting on a point and shoot camera to just point and shoot. But obtaining focus in precisely the spot you intend is even more critical in close up photography. Master the placement of the autofocus point or, even better, switch to manual focusing mode (increasingly available on all but the most basic compact cameras).
Also, be certain of your aperture when the point and shoot camera allows for modification of this setting. Sometimes in close up photography, you’ll want to broaden the depth of field and so a smaller aperture (higher F stop number) will be required. Alternatively, isolating the subject and throwing the background and/or foreground out of focus will require a shallower depth of field (and smaller F stop). If this is something that you can change on your camera, be mindful of the aperture before shooting.
Most typically, dedicated close focusing macro lenses for a DSLR will be required for maximum image quality. But, it’s entirely possible to utilize the cheap point and shoot camera you already have to achieve interesting and compelling macro shots.
Posted by Rey
I agree that you can get a lot of good close-up shots with a P&S:-) Add a flip LCD, and the world opens up even more. I’ve seen some amazing DSLR macro shots, but out in the field, literally, the P&S can work magic too.
Maryann – agree. When I’ve shot with a recent Canon Powershot G Series (with the flip screen), I have more easily been able to capture macros. Beats lying on the ground.