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Photography Question 
Desiree C. Preckwinkle

Camera Support for Macro Photography

So I am going to start taking macro pictures and am curious if I use natural light, do I need to use a tripod or monopod? I want very crisp photos. Do they make real small monopods? Some of my photos are a bit blurry, and I feel I need to use something. But I am just curious if others use tripods all the time or just sometimes when needed. Thanks,

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12/24/2006 12:45:21 PM

Mark Follmer   I shoot quite a bit of macro. I find I generally use some kind of support, a tripod, beanbag or whatever. With the extremely limited depth of field in macro work it definitely helps.

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12/24/2006 2:38:49 PM

W.    "So I am going to start taking macro pictures and am curious if I use natural light, do I need to use a tripod or monopod? I want very crisp photos."

Then you need a tripod. Not a monopod.

There are small tabletop tripods. Not for heavy camera/lens systems, though.

Tabletop Tripod Comparison:

But maybe the Gorillapod is something for you. Same applies: get the heavier duty model(s),

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12/24/2006 6:14:27 PM

Desiree C. Preckwinkle   Thank you both. I will try your suggestions. They both sound great. I have heard of the gorillapod, perhaps I shall look into it.

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12/24/2006 8:53:33 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  As you get closer, camera shake and subject movement will become more pronounced. You should also consider ways to stablize your subjects to keep them rock-solid during exposure.
If you've been doing a lot with macro, often you will find yourself using shutter speeds of several seconds or more. It's essential that your camera AND your subject remain still during the time the shutter is open.
A decent sturdy tripod that allows you to shoot close to the ground is a valuable tool. Those compacts are OK for low-angle work as long as you can operate your camera hands-free. (Just pressing the shutter can generate enough movement to cause a blurry photo.)
Now... how do you stablize your subject? This depends upon what you are shooting. For most folks, the preferred macro subjects are flowers and insects. As anyone who shoots in the field knows, the wind can be a real pain sometimes... especially when your subject is being magnified to 1:1 life-size and beyond. Shooting early in the day is the best time for flowers and insects for several reasons:
The wind usually is much calmer then, and the bugs are still semi-dormant... especially after a cool overnight. Eventually though, the wind WILL pick up and getting things to stop dancing around in the viewfinder will become more difficult.
As mentioned earlier, the greater the magnification, the more movement will register on your film or sensor. To combat this problem, you can build a few supports from lengths of coat-hanger wire. On one end of the wire is a small alligator clip. On the other is a larger clip (the kind used for battery terminals). When the wind starts blowing, attach the small clip to the twig or stem of your subject just out of frame. The larger clip gets attached to your tripod leg, a nearby branch, or other support. These are simple to make and easy to transport inside a tripod bag. You can also make a few with just the small clip on one end and plain wire on the other for low-level work. (The wire end gets stuck into the ground.)
Often, two or more of these support devices are required to keep things rock-steady... especially when using extension tubes or a bellows unit for those really cool super-macros.

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12/25/2006 5:38:13 AM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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  Desiree, Bob gave you some good info. There are also tripods specifically designed for macro work that slide back & forth for those very slight adjustments that are needed for focusing. I also shoot with manual focus for macro. I am currently re-reading a book about macro photography by John Shaw and there are some classes available here at BP that will show you some nuances and techniques as well (Editor's Note: Check out Brenda Tharp's Mastering Macro Nature Photography) and Mastering Macro Nature Photography: Advanced Techniques .)
Macro photography using natural light is wonderful but also consider macro lighting as well. Some of the most incredible macro photos I have seen are set up carefully with tripods and lighting to get that super sharp and vibrant look (like the tree frogs in National Geographic). You can also get a 3D effect with lighting. I am also starting to focus more on macro photography as it is so fascinating and easy to find subject matter - like in your back yard, the little leaves with water droplets, the bug on the flower, etc. I will be signing up for a couple more classes starting in Jan and am seriouly considering a macro class by Jon Canfield (Macro Photography: An In-Depth Look at Close-up Subjects). Good luck & have fun.

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12/25/2006 7:56:08 AM

Desiree C. Preckwinkle   Thank you Bob and Carlton, You gave great information. The wire stabilizer idea sounds super and I am going to have to try it. I can practice with the easy things like Carlton said and experiment with water droplet on leaves. Wish me luck!

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12/26/2006 1:01:35 PM

John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  Vice Grip with Tripod Socket
Vice Grip with Tripod Socket
© John H. Siskin
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
If you use small strobes you can work without a tripod. Also you are not dependent on good light. There are a couple of small things you can build to do this. Iíll try to work them into an upcoming blog. I have a vice grip that has tripod screws welded onto it. I can use it for a tabletop tripod or attach it to almost anything. It is very handy for macro. Thanks, John Siskin

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12/26/2006 2:07:03 PM

Charles J. Kelly   Desiree, you will find macro a most enjoyable form of photography. Subject matter is unlimited from inside your home to the outdoors. Just take time to look around and down. Take Brenda Tharp's course on is excellent and kicks your imagination into high gear. Do use a tripod !!! A remote shutter release is also helpful.
Have fun. Chuck j

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12/28/2006 7:40:14 PM

Jessica K. Cunningham
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2006
  For Christmas I got a Trekpod from Hammacher Schlemmer (sp?) catalog and I really like it! It turns into a walking stick in a matter of moments. I was afraid at first it wouldnt be sturdy but I have had no problems. It may be something to look into.

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1/1/2007 7:21:09 AM

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