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Tripod Accessories for Macro and Close-Up Photography

In ordinary photographic situations tiny amounts of camera shake are unnoticeable, but in macro and close-up photography the effect of camera shake is amplified. Tripods and accessories help you overcome this challenge.

High levels of magnification in macro photography bring special challenges: light loss, shallow depth of field, and exaggerated movement (the slightest movement in your subject or camera can have a drastic effect at such a close range). All of these factors make motion extra difficult to deal with.

Add a focusing rail

Whatever tripod combination you go with, it’s always a good idea in macro and close-up photography to include a focusing rail (a slider that enables you to move the camera in and away from your subject without moving the tripod itself) in your setup. The focusing rail attaches to the tripod head in place of your camera and then you mount your camera to the focusing rail.

The principles of macro photography make a focusing rail important. Only one focusing distance provides a 1:1 ratio for a particular macro lens. To achieve it you must set the lens to its manual focus mode and rotate the focusing ring until it’s set to the 1:1 ratio. (You achieve this ratio when the focus marker is lined up with “1:1” on the lens’s dial.)

You then move the camera to achieve your desired point of focus in the scene. Doing so gives you a true life-size representation of your subject on the digital sensor.

Moving your tripod in order to achieve focus in macro situations can be frustrating, as it’s not very accurate and can alter your composition. Using a focusing rail enables you to work more quickly, and with fewer annoyances.

Use a cable release

With your camera positioned on your tripod, your composition lined up, and your focus point set, the last thing to do is to take the shot. When you press the shutter release button with your finger, you can cause the camera to shake during your exposure even though you’re using a tripod.

Ensure you get the perfect shot by using a cable release to avoid having to touch the camera at all during the exposure. A cable release sends a signal to the camera (either through a cable or wirelessly) and enables you to release the shutter without touching the camera at all.

If you don’t have a cable release you can achieve the hands-off technique by utilizing your camera’s self-timer. Set the camera to the self-timer mode (refer to your owner’s manual to learn how to do so), set up your shot, press the shutter release button, and then sit back and wait for the camera to do the rest.

Some cameras offer self-timers that can be adjusted for different delays. Two seconds should suffice for this purpose. Of course, this method works best on subjects that are still, and would not be suitable for subjects that move frequently or if you are trying to capture a specific moment in time.

Using a cable release (left) versus a finger on the shutter (right) for long exposures.
Using a cable release (left) versus a finger on the shutter (right) for long exposures.

100mm, 0.5 sec, f/4, 400    100mm, 0.5 sec, f/4, 400

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