If you're not doing close-up work, why not? Here are your opportunities to explore new worlds without leaving home.
By Rob Sheppard
Gear For Getting Close
Flash. When you add flash to your close-up gear, you extend your possibilities dramatically. You can use any built-in flash to start (and when you don’t have another flash with you) as described in the 10 tips.
For more power, but especially more control, you need both a separate, external flash unit plus a dedicated flash cord. The cord is a simple accessory—just a connection between camera and flash that allows communication from one to the other for proper exposure and more. With this cord, you can hold the flash at different positions relative to your subject—left, right, top or bottom—giving your close-up a different look each time.
Another advantage of a corded flash is that you can do something called "feathering" if the flash is too strong. This only works with digital because you need to see what you’re getting right away. Sometimes a big flash is too strong, so instead of pointing it directly at the subject, point it a little off from the subject so only the edge of the light hits it. You can also point the flash completely away from the subject to brighten a background and not affect the subject.
Telephotos for close-ups. A telephoto lens can magnify your subject at a distance, letting you get close-ups without having to get so close to the subject. This can be important if the subject is flighty and won’t let you get close (like a butterfly), if it bites or stings or if you keep shading your subject because your lens and camera are so close to it. If you find you experience these challenges a lot, you might consider a telephoto macro lens. Otherwise, a set of extension tubes is probably the best accessory to have with you, as they let any telephoto lens or zoom focus closer. An achromatic close-up lens sized for your telephoto or zoom can also help get quality close-ups (Canon, Hoya and Nikon have them in telephoto sizes).
Wide-angles for close-ups. Most photographers don’t think of wide-angles for close-up work. Wide-angle lenses change your perspective and depth of field. You can get some amazing shots of close-up subjects with a wide-angle focal length. You can use a short extension tube with a wide-angle lens or zoom to help it focus closer (even moderate-sized extension tubes rarely work). There are a few wide-angle lenses that focus close normally. An easy way to make wide-angle close-ups is to use a compact digital camera. These cameras often have close-focusing settings that only work with the wide-angle part of their zooms, plus many allow the use of achromatic close-up lenses that give high-quality results at any focal length.