One of your biggest goals in macro and close-up photography, is to draw attention to your subject. You want to make subject to really stand out. One way to achieve that is to make it the sharpest part of the image, so as to attract viewer’s attention. Here are few simple ways to achieve sharp closeup captures.
Keep Subject in front of Contrasting Background
The background can either be a contrasting colour or it could be much lighter or darker than your subject. The key is strong contrast. Things appear sharp when there’s a strong contrast along their edges. Shallow depth of field is part and parcel of close up photography. By using that green background blur created out of shallow depth of field, I could make the fly look sharper.
Position your camera so it’s parallel to your subject
When you focus your lens on something, what you’re really doing is focusing on a geometrical plane that’s parallel to your camera’s sensor. Everything that’s on this plane will be in completely sharp focus, so it’s important to position your camera so it is perfectly parallel to the most important plane of your subject. Carefully positioning my camera so its sensor was parallel to the side of the flesh fly in this blog has helped keep all the fly’s features in sharp focus. I was using Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM on my Canon EOS 70D fitted with Canon MT-24EX macro twin light flash. The flash was modified with home made diffuser made out of white plastic takeaway box and a bit of thin white foam.
Use the sharpest aperture of your lens
Most lenses have a particular aperture that produces the sharpest images of the lens. It is called sweet spot of the lens. It’s usually one or two stops down from wide open. So, a lens that has a widest aperture of f/4 is generally sharpest at f/8. My Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM has sweet spot between f/8-11 range. Experiment and find out the sharpest aperture of all your lenses and note them down. For this capture I used f/10 aperture. Don’t go to extremely small aperture like f/16 or f/22 as at that aperture diffraction will cause the image to become softer.
Composition rules over sharpness
But, the sharpest photo isn’t always the best photo. With all the sharpness secrets I shared above, you can easily make every macro sharp as cutting edge of a blade. But, it’s important to remember that composition still comes first. Sometimes you won’t always be able to get the sharpest photo because doing so would compromise the vision you had for the image.
For example, sometimes if you position your camera so it’s parallel to the most important plane of your subject, might give you a very bad background. Delicate subjects like flowers don’t look great when over sharpened. Those are places where you should break the rules and go for your vision rather than these technical aspects which we discussed above.
Use these tips judiciously and you will be rewarded with great looking sharp macro and close-up captures.