Close-Up Magic

What happens when your lens doesn’t get as close as you want? Sure you can run out and by a more powerful lens, but that gets pretty expensive. There are cheaper ways to get close. The most obvious
is getting a close-up filter set, this set will have a 1x, 2x, 4x, and in some cases even a 10x filter
included which you add on to the end of your lens. These filters do get you dramatically closer but
also cut some of the light getting into the camera. Not as commonly known is what is called an
extension tube. An extension tube actually goes between the camera body and the lens itself. This
will allow you to get extremely close shots (fill the picture frame with a bee for example), however
it does cut down on the available light even more so than filters. It is a good idea when using either
one or both of these to also be using a tripod.

The third way is the least expensive and surprisingly the least used. If you have a digital camera,
this is where having one that uses high “Mega Pixels” comes in handy. Set your camera to its highest resolution, shoot as close as you dare, and then request that your photo lab crops the image tighter. Think about it. If you have say a 6 “Mega Pixel” camera that means you can make prints up to 18×24 inches or bigger. If you only want a really nice 5×7 or 8×10 print you have a lot of leeway. Not all
photo labs have the ability to enlarge images very much, but ask your photo lab where they send
things to, to get really big prints made. If a place can make a good 18 x 24 print, the odds are in
your favor that they can do great at making 8 x 10 prints as well.

If you are thinking that you still have to have that super powerful lens, be aware of one thing. Macro
and Close-Up is not the same thing. Some camera manufactures use the phrase “Macro” when in
reality they should be saying “Close-Up.” As a general rule Close-up lens (at their best) can focus
down to 18 inches, but a true macro lens on the other hand will focus at about 2 inches or less. A
close-up lens will take a photo of a butterfly; a macro lens will take a photo of a close-up of the
detail on a butterfly’s wing.

Other factors to remember when shooting close-up include the lighting. Most on board flashes, where
not designed to be used on really close shots. If you have a separate flash that allows you to use say
1/2, 1/4, or 1/8 power, now is the time to play with those settings. If on board flash is all you have,
or if your separate flash doesn’t allow those kinds of adjustments, think about how you can defuse
the light so it doesn’t blow your image away. If your flash head tilts, try bouncing it off another surface.
If it does not, try covering the flash itself with something like tissue paper. Whatever paper you use it
has to let enough light through or it’s just like having no flash at all. A single ply of Kleenex does nicely, but may get strange looks from others.

Remember that being close does not give you an excuse to ignore all the other rules you’ve learned.
Still be aware of leading lines, shape, texture and the rule of thirds. To me, someone who takes a shot
so close of an orange pealing that you have no idea what the subject even is . . . that person is NOT a great photographer. On the other hand; if a person shoots body parts so closely that they almost looks like a mountain range, that person may be a good photographer if . . . they use good composition and
the elements of design. In other words; shooting close just because you can, doesn’t automatically
make it a great image. Your work still has to tell a story; it has to have a reason for being, and use
good composition. All photos must be photographically worthy of your time and effort to qualify as a
great photo.