TheTlady's picture

Need advice!

Well, it's been like the Shell Guide to Everything in my garden this afternoon, and I took dozens of shots, especially of insects on the water mint. I'm highly frustrated that I don't have a single sharp shot amongst them, despite using a macro settings and trying all 3 of my cameras. The oldest of them, and actually the best, is my trusty Nikon 995, which has the huge advantage of the swivelling lens, but it isn't giving me th supersharp close-ups I see others achieving. The other two are both Casio Exilims; the EX-Z750 and the EX-H10, the latter of which I have hardly used because if it's lack of an optical viewfinder. So, my question is: Is it that my technique is up the creek, or that my equipment isn't up to the task? I guess I'm hoping to hear the latter really, so I will have a chance of accomplishing what I want by buying a new camera! I am keen to receive any advice anyone on here would care to offer regarding what to buy. I'm willing to spend up to around £450 and it needs to be not too heavy and cumbersome due to my partial disability. Oh, and I want a proper viewfinder! Many thanks in advance. Linda



DavidHowdon's picture

Manual or autofocus

Insects moving on a complex background (like a plant) can prove a challenge for autofocus on cameras. Have you tried manual focusing?

Amadan's picture

David is right -

see what focus modes are available on your camera. Try a static object - say a flower head - and take pictures using each mode.
Also, if you can, try controlling the exposure. What you need is a good depth of field for many shots. If you can set the shutter speed (exposure time) to as slow as you can, then you may be able to get a better depth of field. As a general rule, you need 1/lens length as a minimum. So if you have a 125mm lens (or the digital equivalent), the slowest shutter speed you can get away with is 1/125 of a second.
Your camera may have some dedicated modes (close up, foliage, or whatever). Again, experiment with these.
If your camera or lens has stability control, make sure it is switched on. My Nikon lens's switch is surprisingly easy to knock to "off" by accident.

TheTlady's picture

Re your Manual or Autofocus question

Thank you, David. Yes I have tried Manual, but in an unskilled, random and unsuccessful sort of way ;-)

Basically my eyesight is no longer up to using Manual focus, and the constant changing of spectacles is limiting, but I have just looked up some advice on taking macro shots with my Nikon Coolpix 995, and will see if I can make any improvements to my previous disappointing results.

As for the two Casios, I suspect I am not getting the best out of them, or perhaps this is the best they can do. They are really lightweight and take excellent general garden photos, but I've had very limited success with their Macro settings. Having said that, most of the photos I have uploaded on here have been taken with my little Casio EX-Z750.
Any further advice would be most welcome. I guess I want the impossible, a camera capable of super macro that focused down to my subject on an automatic macro setting.

Many thanks

Fenwickfield's picture

no skill needed

I am rather rubbish with anything high tec and have no knowledge about cameras.I mainly take macro and super macro shots with auto focus on a Panasonic DMC-TZ8 LUMIX.Have a look at some of my photo's and see what you think,I have just put some close ups of fungi and insects in the last couple of days.


Simon Walker's picture

Macro Photography

Here are some things I've found help, but I'm still learning too; getting better though.
When you're taking macro shots, there are a number of things that can go wrong. If you can eliminate as many as possible, you're halfway there.
1. the camera moves as you take the shot. This is reasonably easy to fix. The usual cure is use a tripod and a remote trigger (I use one on the end of a wire, but wireless ones are available). You just can't hold the camera enough. At a pinch, you can support it against something. If the subject's on the ground, I sometimes lie down and support the camera on the ground.
2. With DSLRs, the movement of the mirror can make a difference, incredible though it may seem - it makes the camera shake. If your camera has live view option, then the mirror doesn't move; problem solved.
3. the thing photographed moves. If it's a flower, or a minibeast on a flower, the wind is a real problem. Some people bring things indoors.
If it's a moving creature, then you might need to use a fast shutter speed. That will have detrimental effects elsewhere: either your ISO goes up, risking a grainy image, or the aperture has to be larger. That means that your depth of field reduces.

For macro work, the depth of focus is always a problem. There's always something that's out of focus! It's so frustrating. Here are some thoughts:

1. If you can, go for F8 or more.
2. Try to position yourself so that you're square on to your subject. Suppose it's a dragonfly, and you're in front it: you're not going to get everything in focus.
3. It seems to me to be the case that, the further you take your shot from, the greater the depth of focus. Maybe you can get TOO close? If you're camera has a good sensor, it might be better to bacl off a little, and crop the image (I use IrfanView (free on the internet) and Photoshop Elements (NOT free!))
4. Think about what's most important to have in focus - with insects, for example, it might be the eye; with plants it might be the stigma or the stamens.
5. Sometimes you can compromise a bit. Suppose you're photographing something where the depth of focus is a whisker to wide for you; focus somewere about the middle - that way, you'll get more of the item in focus than if you go for the closest part of it.

Sometimes a flash helps; good lighting is nearly always helpful though. A sunny day makes all the difference. You can use a reflector if you like - you can get fold up ones for less than ten quid. Practice folding it up before you take it out with you though, because you look a twit if you don't know how to fold it and you can't get it into the car...

I hope this helps.