Wedding photographer’s, you need a macro lens! I will let that hang in the air for a second. When I started on my wedding photography journey I wanted to get all of my portrait must have lenses before I invested in a macro lens, I figured I could just shoot my rings from afar and then crop then down. I would set whatever lens I was using to manual focus and get as close as possible and go for it, never really understanding why my whole ring was not in focus even though it looked sharp in the back of the camera. Here are a few examples of my previous method of ring shots:
If you are familiar with macro photography, you know right away the settings for these images were all wrong, and the crop method is not always best, as it can distort your image and create more noise. Plus these images sure didn’t look like the ring shots I saw in the Zales catalog, or other wedding photographers ring shots that I admired.
So after some thought I decided I would try and invest in macro tubes. I knew as soon as I snapped the first image with these tubes that I was not going to get the quality that I wanted. It was basically like stacking several pairs of glasses in front of my camera then attaching my lens. It did not allow the amount of light in that I needed to get the shot I wanted, plus the focusing capability was something that would need a lot of fiddling, and I did not want to be fumbling around on a already pressurized wedding day. I know several photographers who have mastered the use of the tubes, but I decided they were just not for me.
I finally landed on the Canon EF 100mm f2.8L IS lens. After playing with it around the house, snapping salt shakers and drops of water on water glasses I was ready to take it out into the real world, so here are some of the things that I have learned.
- Crank up that ISO and Aperture: The first thing I learned was that shooting at f1.4 was just not going to get the details in the rings that I was looking for. I choose to shoot my ring shots anywhere between f7-f14 depending on if I am shooting one or two rings and how much of the details I want to include. I was a little nervous about using those settings because I love my dreamy bokah, but because of the long focal length I learned right away dreamy bokah could still be achieved at f13. The macro lens is so powerful, you can see every detail in rings, and even engravings. Here is a shot where both bride and groom’s rings are side by side, and you can see every detail in both rings.
Because the aperture has to be bumped up, causing the ISO to be bumped up you will need to do some sharpening in post processing. I normally will increase the luminance and then add lot’s of clarity because I want to bring out the details.
- In order to get as close as I wanted to get I found that manual focusing was much easier. Because the focal length is a little longer and I know I have a tendency to shake I made sure to get the lens with image stabilization, and when I am shooting I will sometimes take 4 or 5 snaps of the same set up just to make sure I got the ‘one’. That is just a personal preference but I know I have a natural shake and I would rather be safe than sorry.
- Macro photography can enable you to engage a very creative side. Placing rings on branches and trees, flowers and so forth. When shooting I try and place them on something significant and memorable. Maybe on the wedding invitations, the veil or the bouquet. When shooting this ring shot, I used a pine cone because it was a winter engagement session in the snow surrounded by huge beautiful trees.
This is your chance to let your creative juices flow and create something beautiful that the clients will remember forever. Kyla and Ryan will remember their adventures in the snow when they see this gorgeous ring shot on a pinecone.
- The 100mm focal length I have found to be great for many other uses besides my ring shots. I have used it for other wedding details such as shoes. When photographing shoes I normally will open up my aperture as much as possible and edit in a way that makes for a more soft image. Take a look at these adorable shoe shots.
I just love the compression that the 100mm gives me, over shooting details with my 50mm or even the 85mm, however I do love the 50mm for other wedding details such as the dress or veil.
- If you get into a pinch the macro lens can counter as a portrait lens, although I wouldn’t recommend using it over the 50mm or 85mm, or even the 70-200mm. The macro lenses have a tendency to have higher contrast and saturation which some don’t find as flattering for portraits. If you are a film photographer, or edit like film, then this fact may not be as bothersome to you, as film can sometimes have a higher contrast, such as Fuji Agfa. I have sometimes edited my images to take on a more contrast feel, also I shoot in raw, so editing out some of the contrast or saturation that I do not want when using the lens is not an issue. Here is a photo I quickly snapped of a couple right after I had photographed her engagement ring. We were running out of light and I did not want to take extra time changing the lens so I switched the lens into autofocus and crossed my fingers and toes. What I found was that the 100mm was tack sharp and was very responsive in autofocus. I did not have any issue with the colors in post processing either.
So in the end, where I really felt that the macro lens was more of a luxury then a necessity, for where I am taking my business I know now it is a necessity. It is not very often that I am not whipping out my macro to capture something creative to include in the clients gallery, wether it is the ever important ring shot, or images of the beautiful flowers surrounding the clients home for a lifestyle session. As a storyteller with my images, I have found that the macro rounded out the storyline for my clients. If you are on the fence I would encourage you to rent one and see if it is worth the investment.