How to take Macro pictures - like flowers to start

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by ken_wang|1, Jan 6, 2011.

  1. I just don't know how to handle my new macro lens Nikon f2.8 60mm that I received in Xmas as a present.
    I am using Nikon D40 camera body.
    I have no problem with the original lens that comes with Nikon D40. I could use f5.6 to take a lot of close up (flowers , butterflies etc) and produce nice pictures.
    But with this Macro lens, maybe I just don't know how to maneuver . I tried to take close ups of small flowers and the pictures came out not sharp (not focused).
    Can any one give me some simple steps how to take close up pictures with this Macro lens?
    Do I have to change in the camera - focus mode , AF-area mode, shooting mode?
    If I have 3 flowers in the picture, should I focus on the middle one. How close should I put the camera? etc.
    I tried to search some articles on this subject and did not get much help that can explain why I have such difficulties.
  2. SCL


    If you have more than one object, or objects at differing distances from the film plane, you will need to pay particular attention to using the greatest depth of field you can (without introducing diffraction). You should also consider using a tripod with a focusing stage/rail to minimize shake, and/or using flash or a macro light. I personally prefer hand held, but over time I'm finding in spite of lots of good muscular control, age is beginning to take its toll and I'm having to gracefully accept tools to improve my focus and sharpness. Another thing to consider is a cable release....using it means just one less source of vibration. Lastly, consider turning off everything auto (auto focus, auto exposure, etc.) and learning how to do things manually where you have complete control over the processes. Take a read in the learning tab at the top of the page under the macro section for more hints and reference sources.
  3. Some lenses have a switch that limits the range of focus. Make sure the macro mode is enabled.
    The easiest way to become familiar with macro work is to back away from the subject, as though you were using a normal lens, and take a photo. Then move a bit closer and take another. Keep going closer until you reach the focus limit of the lens.
    Your sample photo looks fine to me. One characteristic of macro work is very shallow depth of field (DoF). This can only be improved by using a smaller aperture (larger f/number), which requires a slower shutter speed. In many situations this will require use of a tripod.
    A general comment on DoF:
    The area of acceptable focus extends from half the focus distance to twice the focus distance. For example, if you focus at 12 inches, objects from 6 inches to 24 inches will be "in focus", while objects outside that range will be less sharp.
    What lens are you using?
    - Leigh
  4. If you real are interested in geating the most C of C (DOF) check out the Helicon Focus software at They offer a free 30 day trail. The results from this software are amazing! Happy Microing!
  5. The 60 mm / 2.8 AF D doesn't autofocus on the Nikon D40 - at least that's what I read. You have to focus manually. Turn on M on the lens _and!_ turn on the switch of the D40 to M. (My D90 manual says you can ruin the lens if you don't turn both switches to M).
    Macro lenses have a very shallow depth of field. It will maybe surprise you. You can enlarge it a bit with a smaller aperture if you have enough light, but don't go to far because of diffraction.
    It's my favourite lens. Nearly all the macros in my gallery were done with it.
    You can read useful things at Ken Rockwell's site about this lens. PN forbids to post links to Ken.
  6. Forgot to add this image:
  7. The example you posted looks good to me, on a technical level. The three blossoms are in decent focus.
    The DOF is very shallow greater the magnification of the subject. DOF is the same at a given f/stop and magnification, regardless of focal length. To increase DOF, you must use a smaller aperture. This means slower shutter speed which increases the effects of motion blur and camera shake. Using a flash not only allows smaller apertures, but allows you to use faster shutter speeds, but makes the background darker (not necessarily good or bad). DOF is never very good, so try to use a point of view in which the main objects of the subject are in a plane parallel to the camera.
    It's always best to use a tripod, if time permits. A tripod not only controls camera shake, but fore-aft motions which affect the focal plane.
    "Closeups in Nature" by John Shaw is a classic book with much information about tools and techniques.
  8. Practice will improve your images...We can tell you tips to try, but the best teacher is practice. Like Stephen, I use a speedlight much more often than I do a tripod...Tripods are great fro static subjects, but suffer with mobile subjects like many insects...As said above, shoot in manual mode as AF becomes useless the closer to get to life size magnification...Nikon's literature that comes with the lens even suggests not using AF in this situation.
  9. Sorry but having trouble posting images (still learning)
  10. Juri, that's focus stacking, something I just learned about a minute ago (thank you, Roberta!). That would be the third step before the first.
  11. One of the nice thing about this software is that if, one owns a DSLR (Canon or Nikon), it allows you to hook up the camera directly to your computer and from there fully control, on the computer screen, the process. Once you have manually focused, on both the nearest and the furthest points, the software takes over and determines, based on your f stop and distances, the number of shots it requires to give you the best range of sharpness. Now for the amazing part! The software will now automatically increment focus your AF lens and shoot all the frames! When it combines these images to give you a perfectly focused image it also taking into account focus breathing, the effect of minute focal length change at different focus points.
  12. @Peter Eisenburger
    You can read useful things at Ken Rockwell's site about this lens. PN forbids to post links to Ken.​
    Based on my understanding, itself has not banned links to KR's site, it's only the Nikon forum that does this. It's not an official policy, but a rule that this forum's moderators have specifically added (just for this forum).
  13. "but a rule that this forum's moderators have specifically added"
    In any way and with all respect, it's ridiculous.
  14. The 60 mm / 2.8 AF D doesn't autofocus on the Nikon D40​
    Peter, i did not see the OP mention that he's got the AF-d version, and the AF-s version focusses perfectly on a D40..
    One of the nice thing about this software is that if, one owns a DSLR (Canon or Nikon), it allows you to hook up the camera directly to your computer​
    Juri, Is it possible that this software cannot control a d40 ? ( its not mentioned in the compatibility list for the helicon Remote Software...). In that case you could only use the focus stacking part of the package..
  15. This software, Helicon Focus, requires the camera to be either a Nikon or Canon with Live View. I am not sure if D40 has this feature since it was produce awhile ago.
  16. i would just add a couple things.
    1) the 60 micro-nikkor will not AF with a D40, but that's ok, because past 1:2 you want to manual focus anyway.
    2) at extreme magnification, handholding will be difficult. for static subjects, use a tripod. and for insects, bugs, and birds, use a flash, preferably a macro ring light. if you need to stop down for DoF, you may need to use flash regardless. or you may also have to use a tripod regardless, depending on what shutter speed you need to use.
    3) a wireless cable release could also be useful in minimizing camera vibration. Vivitar makes one which you can find at B&H.
  17. Ken, I have the 60mm micro f2.8 D version and it my favorite lens. Most of the macro shots and the water shots in my portfolio are done with the 60 mm. I am fairly new to macro shots myself, so can not give you much technical information.
    Are you trying to learn to use this lens getting very close to your subject at the min. focusing distance ?
    The min. focusing distance on the D version of the lens is about 8 inches .
    I personally shoot in manual mode and do recommend that you try to that.
    I have learned (usually the hard way) that when you are using the lens to remember the following:
    1. Movement on your part will cause blur. If you are not able to use a tripod, and holding the lens steady is a problem, brace it on something , a bean bag , something.
    2. If you are shooting at 1:1 try what is referred to as rocking back and forth to get focus if you do not use or do not have live view.
    3. Remember that with the macro lens at its mininum focusing distance, the area in focus (depth of field) will not be great. Lighting on minimum focusing distance on a macro lens is an issue and a flash will help you by allowing you to stop down . If you have good natural light that helps also.
    4. Practice, practice , practice --- don't give up or get discouraged.
    You have gotten some good advice from the previous posters who I have learned from by reading their posts in the past.
    Focus stacking is another area and one that I am just starting to learn. I personally would try to learn to use the lens before you add the element of focus stacking to the mix .
    Good luck, hope this helps.
  18. I always shoot macro with flash. The Nikon R1C1 setup. Using a tripod for this kind of work is an exercise in frustration because the subject is usually moving, in the wind or with its wings or legs.
    Having the camera off of a tripod alows you to move with the subject. Flash allows for a high shutter speed and good DOF at the same time. I usually shoot at f11-16 @1/250 (ISO200) Another benefit of flash that I like is the background is very dark. This provides high contrast with he subject and makes bokeh less of an issue.
    60mm is a little short for me, not much distance to the subject. 100mm is better IMO. But, 60mm does give you more DOF. I try to get bees, bugs and butterflies in my flower shots to add some interest.
  19. Ken, I looked at the EXIF data on the image you posted and it shows a shutter speed of 1/50 of a second. That's probably where your out-of-focus appearance is coming from. Remember the more magnification you get the more vibrations get magnified too, just like with a telephoto lens. A tripod, or a flash is the way to go, as a number of others have commented.
  20. @Peter Eisenburger (belatedly): Just to say, there's a lot of interesting and useful stuff on Ken's site, but it's indisputable that there's also a lot of opinion presented as fact, and sweeping statements presented without qualifying them. I sympathise with the forum maintainers that they don't want too many newbies following links and then arguing with anyone who disagrees with Ken's rules. I assume they had a lot of this in the past, or the rule wouldn't have been enforced. If it causes trouble for the forum admins, they're quite within their rights to try to make life easier for themselves.

    I agree with quite a lot of what Ken says, but certainly not with all of it. Neither does Ken, who is both self-contradictory and has a disclaimer that his site is purely opinion. The problem is, it doesn't always read that way - which is fine if you know about it and are prepared to evaluate everything that he says, but not necessarily so if you're just starting out and are impressionable. It's a good site to learn from and has a lot of information - but it's better to preface any link to it with a warning than just to provide an in-line link to a particular bit of information. I think that's all the forum maintainers expect of us.
  21. The AF 60/2.8 D does not AF on D40, but the AF-S 60/2.8 G does.
    To get some approximately useful DOF at higher magnifications you will need to use F/16 or even further (though too far means overall fuziness due to diffraction). The shutter time gets long so you need a tripod - and a focussing rail comes handy because it is difficult to move the tripot precisely enough, especially if you get into focus stacking.
    If this is not your idea of life with the camera, or if you want to shoot thing that move, you may consider getting enough light at short shutter time using flash. Diffusion of flash is the key to well-lit macros. You don't need an R1C1 for the start, a $10 lens-mounted collapsible diffuser will do. Preferably with an external flash, but even the pop-up may be useful. However, flash is not as convenient for flowers as continuous light as you may get unexpected reflections.
  22. Hi everyone,
    I went back to the store and got some answers and practices. I understand much better now how the whole Macro works with all your input.
    I think the most important thing now for me is "PRACTICE, practice, practice". I will try to do manual focus and experience different situations.

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