The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

BugShot 2012: Magnification

If you haven’t seen them yet, check out the BugShot instructors’ Top Five Tips for insect macrophotography! Over the next few days I’ll be writing more detailed posts on some of the subjects that I found most interesting; I hope you’ll find some tidbits of information that are helpful for your own photographic adventures.

Thomas Shahan is a master of magnification, known for creating breathtaking in-your-face portraits of jumping spiders.

Portrait of an Adult Male Phidippus putnami Jumping Spider

Portrait of an Adult Male Phidippus putnami Jumping Spider, by Thomas Shahan (click the image to be taken to his incredible flickr stream)

Here are some of his suggestions for achieving greater magnification when shooting small critters. As a “starving student, I particularly appreciated his DIY/second-hand-stuff approach to a lot of this! It just goes to show that expensive equipment is not necessarily the be-all and end-all of fantastic photography.

One of the critical points to consider is that the higher the magnification, the lower the depth of field . A smaller aperture can help compensate for this, so stop down the lens. Also, photo-staking in post-processing may be an option you want to explore. In the meantime, how can you achieve higher magnification in your images?

  • Dedicated lenses – these are out-of-the-box ready to use for high-magnification photography. They’re easy to use, but they can be pricey. Both fixed and zoom lenses are available.
  • Extension – add a bellows or extension tubes to gain distance between the sensor and lens. No glass is added in this setup, only space.  These can be quite inexpensive, and are  easy to find online at places like ebay. Be warned, though, that with some of the cheaper kits you lose control of the len’s automatic features and may need to adjust things like aperture manually.
  • Reversing – Take an old (inexpensive) non-macro lens and mount it backwards using a macro reversing ring designed for the task. This approach is simple, cheap, and powerful. No extra glass is added, so there is no loss of image quality. However, this is probably not something to try with an expensive or heavy lens (think second-hand 28 or 50 mm). Thomas uses reversing to achieve his incredible spider shots!
  • Close-up filters  – This is a secondary lens applied to your existing lens.  One example is the Raynox DCR 250 snap-on; I can personally attest to the utility of this lens since it’s the one I use with my Canon PowerShot SX10.  These filters are easy to use but they do add glass , which can affect the image quality.
  • Stacking lenses – This is exactly what it sounds like. You can add, for example, a reversed lens to a telephoto or zoom lens. The pros of this approach are that it uses equipment you already have (so may not be as expensive as buying a new dedicated lens) and you can achieve high magnification. However, it also adds lots of extra glass, causing chromatic aberration. Also, it can be super-heavy.

Stay tuned for the next post: lighting, with Alex Wild

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2 responses to “BugShot 2012: Magnification

  1. africagomeza August 28, 2012 at 5:16 AM

    I am loving your BugShot posts and I am already practising some of the tips. The jumper you posted in Twitter is wonderful, did you use the Powershot + Raynox?

  2. Pingback: BugShot 2012 reverberates through the blogosphere – MYRMECOS - Insect Photography - Insect Pictures

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