Macro Week: Wide-Angle Close-Ups

May 7, 2010

Photo Tips

[Editors Note: This week is Macro week here on DPE with Rob Sheppard. We’ll be having a macro tip every day, make to sure to check them all out!]

Last time we looked at telephoto lenses. With all the advantages to them, you might wonder why I would even consider wide-angle lenses up close — especially when you know some of the problems that wide-angle to have up close: you have to get really close to your subject, your shadow often gets in the picture because you’re so close to your subject, it is easy to scare insects or other critters, and it is easy to bump into things near your subject as you move into focus.

However, I really enjoy working a close-up wide-angle shot. It might have its challenges but it gives a perspective and feeling of space that is not possible in any other way. Here are some advantages of shooting with a wide-angle lens up close:

  1. Deep depth of field so that more things are recognizable in the picture.
  2. A perspective change that makes the background look smaller and farther away – this can really give your subject a feeling of setting and place.
  3. A detailed background – this can also be a disadvantage because that detail in the background can be distracting. But when you want to give context to your subject so that a viewer knows a little more about it, this will definitely give context.
  4. You get a very unusual look at insects and other small critters. Even macro lenses put you at a little distance from such subjects and give less context. The sweeping perspective that you get from a wide-angle lens up close can be striking even if it is hard to get so close to an insect.

These are such cool effects that I use wide angles often. Since extension tubes don’t work very well for wide-angle lenses, I will look for wide angles that do allow me to focus close (and some focus within inches – I have a full-frame fisheye for my Olympus equipment that focuses down to an inch or two). In addition, I like using achromatic close-up lenses. You need to get one that is big enough for your wide-angle lens and will not cause vignetting. The Canon 500D comes as large as 77mm which will fit many lenses and allow them to focus closer.

When you get really close with a wide-angle, you can see the subject as if you are shooting with a macro, yet you also see its environment, which is a very cool effect.

For a continuing look at lens focal lengths and how they affect photos, you’ll find a section about this in my latest book, The Magic of Digital Landscape Photography.


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This post was written by:

- who has written 27 posts on The Digital Photo Experience.

Rob Sheppard is the author/photographer of over 30 books, the editor-at-large for Outdoor Photographer magazine, and a nationally known presenter and workshop leader. His specialities are nature photography and helping photographers with digital technologies from getting the most from small sensors to Lightroom to Photoshop. Check out Rob's websites at http://www.robsheppardphoto.com and http://www.natureandphotography.com

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3 Responses to “Macro Week: Wide-Angle Close-Ups”

  1. Francie Says:

    This has been a wonderful series! Our yard is a dedicated butterfly and bird sanctuary. I have long wanted to learn how to capture the magical process that takes place from the laying of a tiny egg on a parsley or dill plant to the emergence of a beautiful black swallowtail butterfly, or fritillaries on passion vine, and monarchs on milkweed.
    I now have a much better idea of where to start and what to do. Thank you very much for so generously sharing your knowledge and passion!

    Reply

  2. jose Says:

    Thanks for the series. For taking pictures of small scale figures and scenery would you recommend going macro or regular lens? I am refering to taking pictures of model railroads which tend to be pretty neatly done and when photographed properly they look like the real deal. I have made some test shots but not sure which is the correct way to go on this.

    Thanks,
    Jose

    Reply

  3. Bin Says:

    This has been a wonderful series! Our yard is a dedicated butterfly and bird sanctuary. I have long wanted to learn how to capture the magical process that takes place from the laying of a tiny egg on a parsley or dill plant to the emergence of a beautiful black swallowtail butterfly, or fritillaries on passion vine, and monarchs on milkweed.I now have a much better idea of where to start and what to do. Thank you very much for so generously sharing your knowledge and passion!

    Reply


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