by Alex W.
Macro photography can be one of the most rewarding genres of photography but like anything worth having it’s also a frustrating skill to master and there’ll be a lot of failures before frequent success arrives.
Having the right macro photography equipment can shorten this spell of frustration though, and while dedicated macro photography lenses are admittedly expensive there are other pieces of kit that won’t break the bank.
But what are the essentials when it comes to macro photography equipment? Read on and you might just find out!
Unfortunately, if you do want to get serious about your macro photography you will eventually need to buy a dedicated macro lens. Our budget-friendly macro photography hacks will only get you so far before the limits of macro filters and extension tubes start to become apparent.
We’ve got a whole list of the best macro lenses here, but the one you choose largely depends on your budget and what you’re planning to shoot with it.
If you want to photograph insects you should aim to get the longest focal length possible to increase working distance, whereas that’s less of an issue when shooting subjects that won’t fly away.
It’s also worth considering whether you’ll be using the macro lens for any other type of photography. For example, the 90mm options – a popular focal length in macro photography – is also perfect for portraiture.
All things considered, we like the Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD as the perfect balance between excellent performance, high-end features and affordability.
The need for a tripod often flies under the radar when it comes to macro photography, but just because we tend to be using faster shutter speeds it doesn’t mean a suitable tripod won’t make the world of difference.
You’ll find yourself having to rely on manual rather than autofocus a lot when shooting macro, and when you’re working with razor-thin planes of focus having the camera bolted down and secure is an absolute lifesaver.
Not only that, but focus stacking, composing your shots and setting up the perfect shot also become a lot easier when you’re working from a sturdy base.
Bonus points if the tripod is macro friendly, such as the Vanguard Alta Pro 2+ below. The central column can move in all sorts of unconventional ways to make getting into those tight shooting areas a lot easier.
If there’s two things there is never enough of in macro photography, it’s depth of field and light.
We want to maintain a fast shutter speed to avoid motion blur while also using a narrow aperture to counteract the effect close-up photography has on depth of field.
Add the problem of the camera casting shadows over your subject and your need for additional light sources becomes dire.
Exactly what kind of lighting you’ll want depends on what you’re shooting, but you can’t go far wrong with a ring light that attaches to the front of your lens. I also use a powerful LED light panel to provide directional light, and there’s no shame in supplementing that with the torch on your phone.
Sticking with the lighting theme, this is one of the cheapest but most versatile photography accessories out there.
A simple 5-in-1 diffuser and reflector can bring a whole range of improvements to your macro photography, and I consider it the most essential piece of macro photography equipment after my lens.
You can use it to bounce light and fill in the deep shadows in your shot, or you can use the gold or silver covers to add a warmth or coolness to the colour temperature. You can also use it as a diffuser to soften any harsh midday sunlight, or even position it behind your subject for a nice, clean background.
The possibilities are endless, and it’s useful in a whole range of other photography pursuits as well!
This one is for the more serious macro photographers, but if you really want to up your focus stacking game a focus rail is the perfect way to do so.
Depth of field is notoriously shallow in macro photography and most macro photographers will, at some point, find themselves focus stacking. This can be done manually, either by moving the subject closer or further from the lens or by manually focusing your lens.
With a focus rail, which attaches between your camera and tripod, you can adjust the distance of your camera from the subject in precise increments. It’s a much more pleasant experience when you’re not running the risk of missing the focus on a crucial part of your subject!
About Alex W.
Alex is the owner and lead writer for Click and Learn Photography. An avid landscape, equine, and pet photographer living and working in the beautiful Lake District, UK, Alex has had his work featured in a number of high profile publications, including the Take a View Landscape Photographer of the Year, Outdoor Photographer of the Year, and Amateur Photographer Magazine.