Any good books on Macro Photography ?

Discussion in 'Macro' started by hjoseph7, Mar 20, 2021.

  1. Since I have more time on my hands now, I'm finally ready to jump into the Macro Photography world. I think I have all the equipment to start out with including various Macro lenses (AF & MF), two Nikon Bellow extensions, a Reversal ring. An el-cheopo ring flash, 2 butter-fly clamps (ala John Shaw) and other clamps, a few enlarging filters, a few extension tubes, etc.

    I was looking for a good technical Macro Photography Manual, but so far I have only run into books with 'pretty pictures'. If I wanted to look at pretty macro pictures I would just Google "macro photography" and my computer would be inundated with Macro shots.

    Here are two books I ordered so far, so you can scratch them off.
    1) Macro Photography Learning from a master by Gilles Martin
    2) Close-up & Macro Photography by Robert Thompson

    Now I can't really criticize these books. They might be inspirational to many and to tell you the truth I have not really sat down to read them for any lengthy amount of time, but what I saw was enough. Here is what I have against them:

    1) The book written by Gilles Martin is more like an Atlas than a photography manual. There are so many pictures in this book that I became overwhelmed pretty quickly. The text is written by someone else, not the photographer and is sort of inserted around the pretty pictures. I have time on my hands, but not that much ! My attention span is too short to take a book like that seriously, not only that, it is a whopping 300+ pages thick and heavy. I had trouble finding room for it on the shelf.

    2) The book written by Robert Thompson is a little more reasonable in size, but for some reason I get the impression that it is a Clone of John Shaw's Close up in Nature, a book I already own except that it references Digital Photography. The magic word here is "close-up" . The book concentrates mostly on close-up's with only a few sections about Macro photography.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2021
  2. First, I do not know much about the field, but a quick search on Amazon came up with this interesting book

    The Complete Guide to Macro and Close-Up Photography: Harnischmacher, Cyrill: 9781681980522: Books

    You can "look inside" and peruse the table of contents to get a feel for the book.

    Your library may have a copy or may be able to get a copy via interlibrary loan.

    If your local College/University gives a course in macro photography, see what text book they use or ask the instructor for recommendations (of course that is easier said than done in a time of COVID restrictions.)
  3. What do you have in mind for subject matter? There's very technical macro work like medical photography. RIT used to have a degree program entirely dedicated to that. Or, there's the more artistic stuff, some of which also drifts into photomicroscopy. IMO, it mostly comes down to understanding optics and lighting, with a few tricks for fragile or moving subjects. Need to know what the target is so we can choose the weapon!
  4. You are right, macro photography encompasses various fields such as Forensics, Medical, even Jewelry, but I would like to concentrate mainly on Nature subjects or things like my stamp and coin collection.
  5. "
    The Complete Guide to Macro and Close-Up Photography is a comprehensive handbook on macro and close-up photography, offering both ambitious beginners and veteran photographers all the information they need to create great macro photographs. Experienced photographer and author Cyrill Harnischmacher covers:
    • Explanations of all the concepts behind close-up and macro photography
    • Equipment, including camera systems, macro lenses, close-up lenses, extension tubes, and reversing rings"
    I think this is one of the better books ? I looked at the index and it seems to cover the subject matter I am interested in. The only problem it's a little bit pricey and I could not find a cheaper price except for the Kindle version. I just wish I would purchased this one first instead of the other two. There are also some great videos on Youtube, but its nice having a quick reference manual when you are out in the filed. Thanks.
  6. I know more about coin and stamp type stuff than nature. It comes down to having a very rigid setup, control over lighting and the eternal DOF problem. Pretty much everybody is doing focus stacking these days. Good tripod on a solid floor, never carpet, or maybe on a table. Remote or wireless release. Soft lighting, tent, or for small stuff I cut a hole in a white plastic milk jug and light the outside. Use black tape or cards inside to control how reflections look on metallic objects. Very important with coins. With the lens extended, diffraction can be more of a problem, so moderate apertures are best unless tests show you can stop down more. As mentioned, focus stacking is almost essential these days. IMO, you don't need some magic book, you need to shoot a lot. Pick a single type of object, coin, stamp, watch, leaf or whatever and try as many variations as you can. Look at the images objectively and apply feedback. Pick a problem that bothers you and learn to correct it. Then the next and the next.

    Oddly, for some commercial work I've found they don't like what I consider good lighting. They like direct light and a certain amount of harshness, thinking it gives the images more impact. Question your assumptions!

    As for books, try the used book shops. There may be older titles that you can pick up for little money. Do a search on Abe Books or Better World Books. I found dozens of titles for next to nothing.
    Bob Peebles likes this.
  7. Most of the older literature on macro photography, on-line and in-print, for film hasn't really been made obsolete by the digital revolution.
    There is an incredible amount of You-tube and other how-to posts out there that will be revealed by a series of varied Googles™

    Here's an old, simple intro about different paths to the goal (from Popular Photography February 2004):

    Of course, you have to find more recent versions of the specific hardware mentioned.

    Last edited: Mar 21, 2021
  8. Remarkable that this PP document does not give exactly the same quality verdict for extension tubes and bellows, since the only thing both do is put more space between lens and film/sensor. How could one be excellent and the other only good?
    So Popular Photography is not the turn to guide in learning about photomacrography.
  9. Almost everything ever written has flaws. Focus on what's useful and ignore the little stuff. Try to do your own tests. The Nikon bellows is built like a tank but I've seen others that are quite flimsy. Reflection control can vary and some extension tubes have actual light baffle plates. In theory they're just spacers but I can imagine them not being equal in performance under certain conditions. It's also not clear they used the same lenses and camera, though I would hope so.
  10. John Shaw is a good photographer but a poor teacher. Get Lefkowitz.

    Angel, Heather. 1987 (revised, originally published in 1983). Book of Close-Up
    Photography. Originally published by Ebury, London. Revised edition published by A.
    A. Knopf Inc. 168 pp. ISBN 0394532325. A much better book than John Shaw's
    Closeups In Nature. If nothing else, she uses and discusses more than Nikons. Angel
    does the John Shaw thing better than he does.

    Blaker, Alfred A. 1976. Field Photography. W. H. Freeman & Co. San Francisco, CA.
    451 pp. ISBN 0-7167-0518-4. A deep discussion of all aspects of photography, with
    considerable emphasis on close-up. Discusses getting the magnification, lighting, and
    exposure. Weaker than Lefkowitz on working above 1:1, stronger on lighting, especially
    flash. Extensive bibliography.

    Bracegirdle, Brian. 1995. Scientific PhotoMACROgraphy. Bios Scientific Publishers.
    Oxford. 105 pp. ISBN 1 872748 49 X. A terse drier updated version of Lefkowitz. Very
    useful bibliography, unfortunately scattered into small sections after most chapters.

    Gibson, H. Lou. Close-Up Photography and Photomacrography. 1970. Publication N-
    16. Eastman Kodak Co. Rochester, NY. 98+95+6 pp. The two sections were published
    separately as Kodak Publications N-12A and N-12B respectively. Republished in 1977
    with changes and without the 6 page analytic supplement, which was published
    separately as Kodak Publication N-15. 1977 edition is ISBN 0-87985-206-2. Gibson is
    very strong on lighting, exposure, and on what can and cannot be accomplished. His
    books, although relatively weak on getting the magnification with lenses made for
    modern SLR cameras, provide a very useful foundation for thinking about working at
    magnifications above 1:10 and especially above 1:1. Extensive bibliography.

    Lefkowitz, Lester. 1979. The Manual of Close-Up Photography. Amphoto. Garden
    City, NY. 272 pp. ISBN 0-8174-2456-3 (hardbound) and 0-8174-2130-0 (softbound). A
    thorough discussion of getting the magnification, lighting, and exposure. Especially good
    on working above 1:1. Extensive bibliography.
  11. I think they were only trying to 'vary' their wording (perhaps signs of 'bad influences' in English courses)-- I don't see significant difference in the summaries. Nobody ever said that any simple 2-page magazine article was the end-all source for much of anything, by the way. It's just a list of ways, not so much means.
  12. Correct, I decided to get this book in the meantime it's a little dated actually a lot dated since they still refer to film, but i don't see how that's a problem. There are plenty of negative reviews that this book only deals with film though ?
  13. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Actually, if you can get hold of the Nikon Nikkormat Handbook by Joseph D. Cooper 1974 published by Amphoto there is a wealth of info on Macro and other genres. It came in a hardbound, and also in three loose leaf binders that were updated for a number of years. Generally a lot of fine info on Nikon gear and photography in EPOI days.
  14. Amazingly it's selling on Amazon thanks
  15. Thanks Dan I'll take a look !
    If Angel Heather's book can replace John Shaw's book "The Nature Photographer's Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques" which influenced me to the point where I was thinking about dropping out of school and becoming a Nature Photographer back in the 1980's , then I would say that it is a GREAT book !

    I love the books from Eastman Kodak, got a whole bunch of them. They are compact, well written, to the point, technical as well as artistic.
  16. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    One watchout, though it won't impact macro info much, this is the earliest version and the difference in what was available in 1968 and 1974 is considerable. Had this one before the loose leaf version and gave it to my brother in law when I got the update.
  17. Actually, I learn faster by watching videos. There was one video I saw years ago where this guy discussed all the props he used in his macro photography, but I have yet to find it again...
  18. I bought a lot of macro books at one time and, unfortunately, many were not that great (not very helpful or not to my liking). John Shaw's "Closeup in Nature" was my first book and it sparked my interest. But it was way back in those film days so the book is a little dated now. John is a good teacher - I have been to his workshops. His new book "John Shaw's Guide to Digital Nature Photography" has a chapter on closeup. It is not the super-macro type. John and Barbara Gerlach's "Close Up Photography in Nature" is very good.

    If you really want to learn macro photography, I recommend Mike Moat's macro photo club. He gave a talk at my photo club a few months ago (zoom meeting) and his presentation (all macro work) was stunning. Check out his amazing images. I have not joined yet because I am at a busy juncture of my life. But I plan to.

    Good luck!

    PS: Just found that Mike Moat also published a book in 2008: "Macro Photography - Tiny Landscapes". Btw I am going to join his macro photo club now before he raises the price ($99 lifetime membership).
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2021
  19. Wow, those are some pretty great images!
    Mary Doo likes this.

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