Digital Focus: How to Shoot Small Objects Up Close
Ever since I saw Raquel Welch battling white corpuscles in the classic 1966 sci-fi film
You can check out the world of macrophotography with your very own digital camera. Most cameras have a macro mode (also called
Most cameras don't automatically close-focus. Instead, you need to activate that setting by pressing a button on the camera body. Most manufacturers use the familiar tulip symbol to indicate macro mode--look on the camera body, or perhaps on the LCD menu system, for this symbol. Remember, though: When you're done shooting your close-ups, turn off the macro mode or your normal photos will be blurry. Macro focusing works only when you're within a few inches of the subject.
When you swoop in for your close-up, you may encounter a digital camera oddity: parallax. With most digital cameras, the optical viewfinder is not in exactly the same place as the lens; it's a few inches away. So if you compose your picture by looking through the optical viewfinder, your subject will be offset in the frame. This is referred to as the parallax phenomenon.
You can solve this problem in two ways. If you prefer to use the optical viewfinder, look for correction marks in the eyepiece. These lines help you adjust for the fact that when you shoot close up, the viewfinder and lens won't line up. But there's an even better solution: Since the LCD shows you exactly what the camera lens is seeing, use that display to frame your close-up photo.
Shooting close-ups highlights another unusual aspect of photography. The closer you get to your subject, the narrower your depth of field--the total range within the photo that can be in sharp focus--becomes. When you shoot an ordinary photo, your depth of field is several feet, allowing you to get a whole bunch of things in sharp focus. When you're only a few inches from your subject, though, the depth of field drops precipitously to just an inch or two. When you're really close, the depth of field may even be as small as a fraction of an inch.
The solution? If your digital camera allows it, switch to aperture priority and select the biggest value you can, like f/16 or f/32. By selecting the largest aperture value, you're maximizing the depth of field. The advantage of a very narrow depth of field is that the background will be blurry and indistinct--which is usually a nice effect when shooting ultra close-ups.
Finally, if you're interested in taking close-ups, try a set of macro lenses from a company like
I'm rarely taken in by small, discreet cameras. I like big, beefy photographic power tools that proudly proclaim their megapixels from the mountain tops. But the Logitech Pocket Digital, which is literally the size of a credit card, is surprisingly endearing--so much so that I plan to buy them for family members as a fun and inexpensive way for them to enter the digital world. I found the camera for less than $100 at the
This 1.3-megapixel camera is about 3/8-inch thick and almost exactly the same size as a credit card. Indeed, it's small enough that you can pick it up along with your car keys and make carrying it a regular part of your daily routine. It is also effortless to operate--there's just a shutter release and resolution control. Since there's no LCD, you can't review your pictures until you return to the PC. The Pocket Digital holds 52 pictures, and the integrated rechargeable battery charges whenever you plug the camera into your PC's USB port to transfer images.
The images themselves are nothing to write home about. Almost all indoor shots are noisy, and the fixed-focus lens is not what I'd describe as razor sharp. Ansel Adams probably wouldn't carry this camera, but it's fun and convenient--just the thing for capturing snapshots on the go.
Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique. Every month, the best of the weekly winners gets a prize valued at between $10 and $100.
A gentle reminder, folks: We disqualify some really wonderful pictures every week because the submissions don't follow the rules. Be sure to include everything we ask for in your e-mail message, including a description of your picture and your complete contact information, or your entry is wasted!
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Stacy says, "Here is a photo of my son, Alex, enjoying his first sparkler on the Fourth of July. The shot was tricky because I didn't want to ruin the effect of the dark night and the glow on his face by using my flash. Actually, the real trick here was to tell my very active two-year old to 'freeze!' while I attempted to take the shot without a flash. (And with no tripod, I might add!) It was taken with my Olympus C-3040."
Each month we choose one of our weekly winners to be the Hot Pic of the Month. For the month of August, we chose an unusual portrait of a car. Earl Stuckey gives us "
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