Macro Exercises #2 Focusing.

Lord VetinariLord Vetinari SmugbugPosts: 15,001Registered Users Major grins
edited June 17, 2011 in Holy Macro
As demonstrated in exercise #1 macrophotography suffers from one big problem- lack of DOF. This means accurate focusing is critical in most macrophotography. Unless you are using a tripod with a remote and have a flat subject which is well lit, it also means manual focusing has to be used.

Why manual focus ?

1. Macro lenses tend to have slow AF which will not keep up with any movement.
2. You are often in a low light situation due to the magnification where the AF will not lock anyway.
3. The camera does not know what part of the subject you are trying to focus on and by the time you have changed focus point or locked focus point, often the subject will have moved.

By developing and practicing your own MF technique you can considerably increase the number of keepers you get.

Exercises.

Fraid we need the 1/2" flat headed screw again for this. Set the camera in M mode ISO200, 1/200th, Fll with external flash in ETTL mode or the onboard flash popped up. Set the lens to manual focus and minimum focus distance. Stand the screw on a table near the edge on it's base so it's pointing at the ceiling. Try taking 3 shots of the tip of the screw at an angle of about 45' to the table under the following conditions.

1. Without touching the table of anything else, try to hold focus on the screw tip and take 3 pics.
2. Again without touching the table try moving gently back and forth with your body and take 3 pics as you pass through the focus point.
3. With your elbows resting on the table take 3 pics.
4. Find a pole eg a broom handle, grip the pole in your left hand whilst also holding the camera and without leaning the pole on the table, slide the camera to the focus point and take 3 pictures.

One hint on doing this- the eye/ brain often fool you in doing this by interpreting "most in focus" as being in focus. This means that you will often back focus something like a screw tip or an insects eye becuse you tend to regard seeing more in focus (ie actually back focused) as being in focus- hope that makes sense :) .

Check the pictures for focus accuracy and precision. (accuracy means did I get the focus where I wanted it, and precision means did I get the focus point in a similar place in each of the 3 pics even if it was not in the correct place.

You should find you get better accuracy and precision with 3 & 4 than 1 & 2.
With some practice you should find you get better accuracy and precision with 2 over method 1. If you try and hold focus whilst taking a shot you are much more likely to get muscle tremors than if you are moving.

In nearly all my macrophotography I set the magnification I want before approaching the subject, by preference I would then try to lean on something- the ground, a wall or even myself (ie elbows on knees) or if the subject is on a solid surface I rest the lens on the same surface. Failing that I use a bean pole to stabilise the camera, move in slowly to near the focus point and then use the sway technique to accurately focus and take the pic.
I suspect I slow my breathing down when doing this but certainly do not hold my breath.

One point about the swaying method is that once you get used to it you can use it even when the subject is also moving - often the case in macro.

As an output from this exercise I would just like to know which method you had the most sucess with in terms of accuracy and precision - just put the methods in order best to worse.

Brian V.

Comments

  • Lord VetinariLord Vetinari Smugbug Posts: 15,001Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 20, 2007
    Dioptre adjustment
    One thing I should mention if you are trying manual focus is to make sure your viewfinder dioptre adjustment is correct.
    Just look through the viewfinder at a fairly bright subject and without focusing on it move the dioptre adjustment wheel until the focus points in the viewfinder appear sharp. Then check the adjustment by using the lens in manual and the camera on a table withy a printed box as a subject (well lit) move the camera towards the subject and see if you get focus confirmation by half pressing the shutter when you think it's in focus in the viewfinder. take a few pics just to make sure.
    Brian V.
  • SkippySkippy Forensic Wannabe Posts: 12,075Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 20, 2007

    One point about the swaying method is that once you get used to it you can use it even when the subject is also moving - often the case in macro.

    As an output from this exercise I would just like to know which method you had the most sucess with in terms of accuracy and precision - just put the methods in order best to worse.

    Brian V.

    Now listen up folks, Brian doesn't mean go out and get drunk when he talks about swaying okay rolleyes1.gif thumb.gif Thanks Brian.
    ... Skippy
    .
    .
    Skippy (Australia) - Moderator of "HOLY MACRO" and "OTHER COOL SHOTS"

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    :skippy Everyone has the right to be stupid, but some people just abuse the privilege :dgrin
  • DalantechDalantech No cropping zone... Posts: 1,519Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 20, 2007
    In nearly all my macrophotography I set the magnification I want before approaching the subject, by preference I would then try to lean on something- the ground, a wall or even myself (ie elbows on knees) or if the subject is on a solid surface I rest the lens on the same surface. Failing that I use a bean pole to stabilise the camera, move in slowly to near the focus point and then use the sway technique to accurately focus and take the pic.
    I suspect I slow my breathing down when doing this but certainly do not hold my breath.

    I was out shooting crab spiders today in less than ideal conditions and when I stepped back to take a break I noticed that I was breathing hard. I wasn't holding my breath, but I had slowed it down for too long.

    If I'm shooting below life size I use the focus ring after composing the image, then move my body slightly to fine tune. If I'm shooting above life size then I rock back and forth like a mental patient! :D

    Put a monopod on order today...
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  • SkippySkippy Forensic Wannabe Posts: 12,075Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 22, 2007
    As an output from this exercise I would just like to know which method you had the most sucess with in terms of accuracy and precision - just put the methods in order best to worse.

    Brian V.

    Today I found a LadyBug, she was in the Apple Tree too high for my reach, so I simply moved her to where I could get better access.

    I use the Sway method, cause be danged if I can hold still rolleyes1.gif
    I hold the shutter half way down and I sway ever so slightly back and forth.
    Really there is not point trying to refocus especially if your hand holding because at some stage your going to be back out of focus :D

    I find holding my breath I forget to breath and end up gasping as I try to hold my breath and sway at the same time.

    Yup today I was very happy with my result but I think that can be improved when I no longer have to hand hold my flash thumb.gif

    Thanks for the lesson Brian ....... Skippy
    .
    .
    Skippy (Australia) - Moderator of "HOLY MACRO" and "OTHER COOL SHOTS"

    ALBUM http://ozzieskip.smugmug.com/

    :skippy Everyone has the right to be stupid, but some people just abuse the privilege :dgrin
  • tleetlee Perma Grin Posts: 1,090Registered Users Major grins
    edited May 8, 2007
    Brian,

    Thanks for the lessons. I have been trying to use your swaying technique. I have some more practicing to do.....

    T :D

    www.studioTphotos.com

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    ----Ruth Ann Schubacker
  • stevehappstevehapp Newcastle, Australia Posts: 635Registered Users Major grins
    edited August 22, 2008
    Very good tutorial, thanks..
    My favourite methods were swaying through the focal point,
    elbows resting on table (if available)
    with pole.

    All these methods gave good results imho. a combination of the pole with swaying i think is the best.
    Something to rest your elbows on would be great but i dont think there would be situations that would permit it.. but wedging up against a tree or fence or anything as well as wedging my elbows into my stomach would be a good idea.

    Here is my pic of what i shot after i did the exercise .
    f/11, 1/200, onboard flash fev -1.0, outside light..
    Its a flower bud on a tree, dont know which one.

    ex2_5499.jpg

    Thanks for a great tutorial. :)
    Canon 40D, 50mm f/1.8, 400mm f/5.6L, sigma 105mm Macro.
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  • Lord VetinariLord Vetinari Smugbug Posts: 15,001Registered Users Major grins
    edited August 22, 2008
    Glad they were helpfull :)
    Most macro shooters will try to rest on something if it's available - I often end up resting the camera on bits of me.

    Focus looks good in the pic- rhink it's a bottlebrush or similar (callistemon)

    Brian V.
  • sapphire73sapphire73 Major grins PennsylvaniaPosts: 1,635Registered Users Major grins
    edited January 16, 2011
    Could someone recommend something I can use to preview the subject in the viewfinder before taking the photo? Right now I am mostly using a 60 mm macro but even there, when I checked images of primroses (recently purchased at a store) I found bits of debris - like a hair - that I didn't see before taking the photos. Would you suggest an accessory like a magnifying eye piece? A right angle finder (which I gather can also magnify the image but may cut off part of the image...)? Or just using a hand-held magnifying lens to preview the subject for that kind of situation?

    My eyesight isn't perfect, so I wouldn't mind having a way to check the focus when shooting macros - aside from checking the image afterwards in the lcd window or looking at them later on the computer screen. Any thoughts on this?

    Thanks,
    Gretchen
  • CodyBoxerCodyBoxer Big grins Posts: 39Registered Users Big grins
    edited January 16, 2011
    sapphire73 wrote: »
    Could someone recommend something I can use to preview the subject in the viewfinder before taking the photo? Right now I am mostly using a 60 mm macro but even there, when I checked images of primroses (recently purchased at a store) I found bits of debris - like a hair - that I didn't see before taking the photos. Would you suggest an accessory like a magnifying eye piece? A right angle finder (which I gather can also magnify the image but may cut off part of the image...)? Or just using a hand-held magnifying lens to preview the subject for that kind of situation?

    My eyesight isn't perfect, so I wouldn't mind having a way to check the focus when shooting macros - aside from checking the image afterwards in the lcd window or looking at them later on the computer screen. Any thoughts on this?

    Thanks,
    Gretchen


    I've seen other threads that recommend using live view to check focus before tripping the shutter. There may also be a magnify button available to check focus in live view even more closely (there is on my D90)

    GeorgeM
  • Lord VetinariLord Vetinari Smugbug Posts: 15,001Registered Users Major grins
    edited January 17, 2011
    sapphire73 wrote: »
    Could someone recommend something I can use to preview the subject in the viewfinder before taking the photo? Right now I am mostly using a 60 mm macro but even there, when I checked images of primroses (recently purchased at a store) I found bits of debris - like a hair - that I didn't see before taking the photos. Would you suggest an accessory like a magnifying eye piece? A right angle finder (which I gather can also magnify the image but may cut off part of the image...)? Or just using a hand-held magnifying lens to preview the subject for that kind of situation?

    My eyesight isn't perfect, so I wouldn't mind having a way to check the focus when shooting macros - aside from checking the image afterwards in the lcd window or looking at them later on the computer screen. Any thoughts on this?

    Thanks,
    Gretchen

    Gretchen - for checking for dust I think a high power magnifiying lens would be better and easier to use if you also want to remove the dust with a small brush or something. If you have a photo editing programme, it's not normally too hard to clone out the offending dust from a photo unless there is a lot of it when it becomes a bit tedius.

    Re focus aid for taking the shots. This is more difficult, I have tried a slightly magnifying viewfinder magnifiier but of course this also makes the viewfinder slightly dimmer as well and I gave up using it after a while. Depending on you camera you can use liveview on the lcd panel with magnification to check focus. Last suggestion would be to just focus bracket your shot by moving focus slightly + or - from where you think the focus point is and take 3 shots altogether.

    Brian V.
  • sapphire73sapphire73 Major grins PennsylvaniaPosts: 1,635Registered Users Major grins
    edited January 17, 2011
    Thank you both for your suggestions. I have resisted using live view up until now, but should really give it a try. Brian, thank you for helping me avoid buying something that may not be that helpful. Over the past few days I have made friends with the LR3 tool for spot removal and can see that it is very helpful in most situations. I will try to do more focus bracketing as well.

    Gretchen
  • flashfilterflashfilter Beginner grinner Posts: 6Registered Users Beginner grinner
    edited June 17, 2011
    Gretchen,

    This thread has definitely given me a lesson in camera advancement and I am glad you came first to serve as an example of view finding with bad eyesight, haha. I have been having some preview issues as well and was just about to pull the trigger on this software that promised me all of the things I feel are impossible. I have followed the guidance given to you and am quite pleased as I am trying to get better reviews online for my photography business. Do you guys ever check out Angie's List to see what the competition is up to?
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