Updated: Jan 3
Macrophotography is the type of photography I truly enjoy to look at. The level of details that can be retrieved from these photographs is just incredible and really gets me locked into looking at some of those shots. I could easily imagine a leaf on the ground, a drop on a leaf or a blooming flower. There is nothing as simple and common as those, but when looking at them from very close, this reveals the essence of nature. Small and natural things that are actually full of details and meaning.
Macrophotography is one of the numerous landscape photography style out there, and if you areintersted in knowing more about landscape photography, feel free to check out my article where I expose 13 amazing landscape photography styles.
In this article, I will be presenting what equipement is needed for macrophotography while shooting with Fujifilm as well as some tips to enhance your chances of great shots. I will be providing you with the macrophotography workflow you could follow while on the field shooting macrophotography.
Most advices and tips would also work for any brands, but the details I'll provide on cameras and equiprement will be targeted towards Fuji users.
I. The Equipment
You're in luck here, Fuji and other brands have got you covered to either do highly professional macrophotography or only hobbyist with nonetheless fairly good results.
Camera: I mostly know the X-T series, therefore I am sure that any camera in this category would work. I am also convinced that the X-H series would work as well. I also have the feeling that any of the interchangeable lens camera that Fuji has under the X series would be a good fit.
Recording card: you want to have the fastest SD card as possible. For example, it tends to buffer very quickly with my X-T3 as it tends to buffer very quickly. If you have other type of cards like CF express, this should not be an issue given their better performance.
Tripod: a tripod is mandatory while doing macrophotography. It will obviously help to assure you shake free images, but also similarly framed picutres. Since a focus stacking is highly recommended, the tripod will help o have a set of similar framed picutres.
Lenses; there are two Fuji lenses for macro with a third one expected soon and three third parts lenses:
Fuji XF 80mm f2.8 OIS Macro
Fuji XF 60mm f2.4 R Macro
Fuji XF 30mm f2,8mm Macro
Laowa 65mm F2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO
Samyang 100mm f/2.8 Macro
7artisans 60mm f/2.8 Macro
Not selling yet
Not selling yet
Extension tubes: BUT, for those who don't have the money to buy a new lens, or like me, who don't want another lens for an occasional photography fun, then Fujifilm got you covered with some extension tubes. Extension tubes are tubes you put between the camera and the lens as you would put a regular lens, which will allow you to use your lens as a macro lens when screwed on it. The advantages are that you do not lose any quality on your lens, they allow for autofocus, they are tiny, and they are definitely affordable. However, they do not allow you to focus at every distance in your photograph and therefore need some time to understand how to best manage your focus. So, below are the two Fuji's extension tubes available. The difference between the two is the actual focus distance to your subject and magnification of your subject.
MCEX-11 - Amazon
MCEX-16 . Amazon
Here is the magnification table provided by Fuji for these two devices
Take note that the extension tube is mostly efficient on shorter focal length as per Fuji's magnification table. Up to 55 mm, the effect will be really noticeable. Beyond that, the shooting distance will get bigger and using the exxtension tube will not make a big difference.
I personally own the MCEX-11 and for the time being I am happy with it. To be honest, if I were to get more serious about macrophotography, I would most probably invest in one of the dedicated lenses. Bur for now, the extension tube is fulfilling my needs.
Beware that some third parts extension tubes are sold much cheaper than the Fuji's, but users have reportedly mentioned that they are damaging the bayonet mount on their camera. Therefore I would stick to using the Fuji gear. In addition, it keeps value in case of resale.
Flash: In some cases, using a flash can help emphasize your subjects and especially its details like some droplets on a leaf orhair on a plant. It can also help you to shoot your subject with interesting backlight while still having a good exposure on your subject. This important thing is to test your flash to ensure that it doesn't totally blow the highlights in your image and that it's in the right direction. But keep in mind that using your camera in-built flash should not be an option for great result,
II. Tips for Macrophotography
Macrophotography is an entire photography style and following some advice is always beneficial.
1. Watch out for breeze
Breeze is the nightmare of the nature macrophotographer. Since you are going to do a focus stacking on your photographs, all pics need to be identical to avoid any artifacts while processing them. If it's a windy day and there's no way to get no moving subjects, then it might be better to pass and shoot something different.
2. Don't hesitate to boost your ISO
ISO is the devil for most photographers. However, in certain situation, when the light is not that available, increasing the ISO to 400 or 800 will allow to shoot faster photographs which can help to reduce the risk of mnoving subject during the shoot. In addition, at that level, noise will be hardly noticeable for most cameras. Whether the shoot is made through manual focus or focus bracketing, increasing the ISO might help.
3. Get on your knees... and observe!
A friend of mine once gave me this advice: when doing macro, just get close to ground and start observing for few minutes. After that, you'll start seeing things that you didn't pay attention to in the first place.
That was a hell of an advice and you should give it a try.
4. Learn how to do Focus Stacking
I am stating below briefly how to do some focus stacking for macrophotography on Fujifilm cameras, but any cameras might a its own functionnality. Therefore it is important to learn how the camera works. Then, on Photoshop, the technique is the same for everyone and once mastered, you'll quickly increase your productivity.
5. Get creative with interesting lighting
While on the field, it's fairly easy to get creative in macrophotography, even with basic equipement. Just get a basic flashlight with variable intensity and just highlight your subject the way you want. Try to keep it look natural though, so that it remains interesting to look at for the viewer.
III. The techniques
Alright let's get into the tough part of the topic. This might seem a little overwhelming at first, especially for the neophytes. However, once the technique is understood, then it gets fairly easy.
You should keep in mind that in photography, there is a lot of process involved if you wish to take photographs with certain advanced techniques.
Macro is no excpetion. Therefore, the process is as follow:
Finding a subject
Composing and placing yourself at the right distance to be able to focus (that's actually the interesting part)
Shot several pictures with a different focus
Ensure you're happy with your shot, if not repeat 1 to 3
Process the pictures (that's also the cool part)
1-Finding a subject
The subject is really up to you and to your like. It can be a flower, a flower petal, a mushroom, a stone, water... whatever nature has to offer to be honest.
2. Composing and placing your subject
As for finding your subject, this step is totally up to you but, try to remember the fundamentals of composition in order to get more impactful pics. Considering the rule of thirds, the golden ratio, diagonals, etc. will definitely help you here.
At times, you could even imagine replicating a miniature from a larger scene. For example, capturing mushrooms on a tree trunk, could be associated to trees on a mountain. Keep this in mind while composing.
Final advice here, if you don't know what composition to start with, just get inspired by other photographers. The creativity will come by itself very quickly.
3- Shot several pictures with a different focus
What you want to ensure while shooting macrophotography is to get most of your subject in focus so that you get a sharp subject and a great final bokeh. In order to do that, you would need to either set you're aperture to the lowest f number possible on your lens to get as much bokeh as you can or get your aperture where it's the sharpest for your lens to get your subject as sharp as possible. Ideally, you could shoot a set of pics with low aperture and another with the sharpest, and then combine them in photoshop for the best result. But frankly speaking, I am not sure if it's worth the effort.
Now that you got the principle, here are the settings you should consider in your Fujifilm camera:
Choose the bracketing shooting mode then in the bracketing menu of your Fuji: Menu -> Shooting setting -> Drive Setting -> BKT select -> Choose Focus BKT -> OK. Then, you need to set the parameters of your Focus Bracketing. For that you need to go in the same menu: Menu -> Shooting setting -> Drive Setting -> Focus BKT and then:
Frames: choose a number of frame of above 30. It actually depends on how big your subject is in the frame. The smaller, the less picture you need to take. It's a little bit of a try and miss. In my experience, between 30 and 60 pictures will allow you to get an all-in focus photograph not matter what your subject is, as long as you are at the right distance from it
Step: this is the space the camera will put between each focus point. 1 is small and 10 is large. Since we want to get a precise final result, a lower number would need to be choosen. I generally choose 1 for the sake of simplicity and precision.
Interval: this is the duration between each picture the camera is taking. As we want to capture the moment we should choose 0 which means that each picture will be taken one after the other without waiting time.
Once you've got all those settings in place, you're also supposed to have you're scene in place. That's the moment of truth. You can set your focus to the bottom of your image and once you press the trigger of your camera, the number of pics set in the Frame setting of your bracketing will start to unfold.
Below, as an example, is a GIF showing a set of 38 pictures shot with a focus bracketing from front to back and that was later on focus stacked and edited with Lightroom and Photoshop.
4- Ensure you're happy with your shot, if not, repeat 1 to 3
Once done, wait for a few seconds for the camera to "take it's breath". If your recording car is not fast enough it will need some time to record all the pics shot one after the other. Then you can take look at your pics to see each sequence captured. To have a better overview of what you've shot, I recommend placing yourself on the first pic of the series, then stay put on the right button to see all the picture scroll. That way you will see all pictures taken and how the focus has moved along the photograph. If your settings are right, all the pics from your subject should be in focus from front to back, and you should still have a nice bokeh around it.
Alright, did you follow until there? This was good stuff! Now let's get on the computer.
5- Process the pictures
Yes, I know, there's still more to all of this. But once again, when you'll be familiar with the process, it's going to be a piece of cake.
In this step, we will learn how to focus stack the images so that all the focused part of your series will be blent together to create a seamless image.
So, you imported your photographs on your favorite editing software and now are ready for some editing:
Firstly, editing each pics as you wish it looks on the final look. I recommend editing one of the picture where your subject is the most in focus and caopy/paste the same editing settigns to all pictures from the series.
Then, import all files in photoshop as layers: select all pictures -> right click -> Edit in -> Open as layers in Photoshop (very easy from Lightroom and most probably easily doable with other software)
Once in Lightroom, select all your layers (select the top layer from the list and then press Shift + Select the last picture from the list) and then go to Edit -> Auto-Align Layers. This step will ensure all layers are aligned
Once aligned, keep all pics selected and go to Edit -> Auto-Blend Layers -> Select Stack Images
Now, wait for the magic to happen
Once your image is created you can stamp up all images based on all the layers by pressing Shift-Option-⌘-E on Mac (Shift+Alt+Ctrl+E on Windows). Now you can delete all unique layers to free up some space.
Do not forget to save your file
After this final step, your picture is most probably ready and you can finally publish it.
I agree that the process might look scary at first, but don't despair, once you've got the process in hands, it's gonna be fairly quick to get a final image. Patience to learn is key in this stituation.
I truly hope that ths short guide has helped you learn more about macrophotography. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comment section below.
About the Author
I am Rémi Bergougnoux, a French travel and landscape photographer currently based in Zurich, Switzerland. My most influential destinations include Latin America, where I spent about a year, Namibia, Iceland, Lofoten and certainly many others.
Aside from photography, hiking, cooking, enjoying good wines and socializing are my main hobbies.