Guest post by Joe Farace

The classic definition of macro photography is that the image projected onto the digital sensor or film plane should be the same size as the subject. At a 1:1 ratio, a digital SLR with a full-sized chip should have the ability to produce life-size magnification and focus on an area as small as 24—36 mm. On the other hand, lens manufacturers sometimes describe a lens’s close-focusing capabilities as “macro” even if it doesn’t quite meet that definition and it’s gradually come to mean being able to focus close enough so the image is life-size or larger when viewing a 4—6 inch print. This only requires a magnification ratio of approximately 1:4.

Conventional wisdom is that close-up photography requires lots of expensive, specialized equipment and while it’s true you can spend lots of money in order to make macro shots, you don’t have to break your piggy bank to shoot macro, no matter how you choose to define it. Here’s why:

Most filter and camera manufacturers offer what are sometimes called close-up “filters” Although not filters in the traditional sense, they look like filters, work like filters and act like filters, so I’ll call ’em filters like everybody else. Close-up filters are really supplementary lenses that shorten your camera lens’ close-focusing distance allowing you to get closer to the subject.

Close-up filters are available in different strengths (or diopters) as a set usually includes versions labeled Close-up +1, Close-up +2, and Close-up +4. A diopter is a unit of measurement used to describe the power of a lens and is expressed as the reciprocal of the focal length in meters. For macro shooters on a budget, a complete set of really good close-up filters in 52mm threads should cost about $50.

Tip: Close-up lenses are double-threaded so they can be used in combination with one another but to get the sharpest results it’s a good idea to place the strongest filter closest to the lens’s front element.

You can follow Joe on his own blog, Changing the World, One Pixel at a Time

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