This article features a selection of close-up flower images captured handheld using the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 zoom lens along with a pair of extension tubes. In-camera focus stacking was used for all images.
Many photographers have an interest doing close-up photography from time to time, but find it hard to justify purchasing a dedicated macro lens. Using extension tubes with a zoom lens can be a good option for many people as this type of combination can provide a good deal of flexibility.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
Technically a macro image is one where 1:1 magnification or more is achieved. Anything less than 1:1 is considered close-up photography. Semantics aside, using extension tubes to shorten the minimum focusing distance of a lens and increase magnification can be a very cost effective solution.
Depending on the size of the blossom some interesting close-up images can be created using extension tubes. To calculate the additional magnification effect of using extension tubes you divide the focal length of the extension tube(s) used by the focal length of the lens.
Whenever I go out to specifically do macro/close-up photography I always take my M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro lens, my M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 zoom, a pair of Kenko extension tubes (10 mm and 16 mm), and my MC-14 and MC-20 M.Zuiko teleconverters. This combination of gear provides a lot of creative flexibility especially for close-up flower images.
Yesterday I spend a couple of hours at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington Ontario. My specific goal was to create some close up flower images for this article, using the zoom lens and extension tubes noted. All images were captured using a stool, and were composed from the articulating rear screen of my camera.
I used my standard in-camera focus stacking settings of 10 photographs with a focus differential of 4. Using an ISO value of ISO-400 helped ensure a good amount of dynamic range and colour depth in my close-up flower images, as well as allowing me to use somewhat faster shutter speeds.
These settings worked well as my E-M1X was able to in-camera focus stack every attempt made during my visit. I also had limited time available yesterday, so using a slightly higher ISO value and somewhat faster shutter speeds allowed me to work more expediently.
As is the case with any genre of photography, one needs to pay attention to aperture and focal length from a depth-of-field perspective. Distance to subject and the subject’s distance to the background are also important.
In the photograph above the close-up flower subject was on an angle facing the focal plane of my camera. So, I increased my aperture slightly and moved in a bit tighter so I could use a shorter focal length. Both of these considerations would increase depth-of-field in the resulting close-up flower image.
On occasion some real-time experimentation is required… which was the case with the photograph above. It can sometimes be a bit of a challenge to get the pistil and all of the stamen in focus when doing close-up flower photography. I ended up using an aperture of f/7.1 and a shutter speed of 1/30 to create the image above.
Here are a few additional photographs that had similar challenges associated with them.
When using my M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with extension tubes for close-up flower photography I consider the focal length ring as my initial focusing adjustment. Once I have the flower in approximate focus using the focal length adjustment, I then use a single auto-focusing point to finalize my composition.
I arrived at the Royal Botanical Gardens right at opening time. Some of the plant maintenance would have been done before the facility opened. This was ideal to create some close-up flower images that had water droplets on them.
Water droplets on a flower blossom always create additional interest in a composition. My visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens yesterday was under somewhat overcast conditions. This provided more diffused light on subject blossoms, which was also helpful.
It is important to compose an image with a background that does not compete with the subject blossom. This comes down to a personal, creative choice that we make with each composition.
Sometimes finding a monochromatic background is not possible, but the natural, visual flow of the other vegetation may help create eye flow.
We may find some bokeh opportunities which can help create additional contrast in a close-up flower image, as well as form some interesting, muted shaping in the background.
Ultimately our success as photographers comes down to us learning how to best use the camera gear that we have, given our photographic interests.
When it comes to close-up flower photography a good quality zoom lens with some extension tubes may be all you really need… regardless of what other folks say that you ‘must’ buy.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from out-of-camera jpegs using my standard process. All images were captured using my E-M1X’s in-camera focus stacking technology, with a single AF point engaged. I used my standard in-camera focus stacking settings of 10 photographs with a focus differential of 4. All images were composed from the articulating rear screen of my E-M1X, and were assisted through the use of a short stool.
For those readers who are interested in calculating equivalent field-of-view, multiply focal lengths for Olympus M4/3 cameras by a factor of 2. This is the 1,275 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.
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2 thoughts on “Close-Up Flower Images”
Beautiful images but I am interest in an article on flower photography using my newly purchased 90 mm macro lens. Please consider writing this.
I’m glad you enjoyed the images in this article.
I have no way of obtaining an M.Zuiko 90 mm macro lens for test purposes, and I will not be buying one in the future… so I will not be writing any articles about this lens. This website is not a gear review site and never will be. I imagine there are plenty of reviews of this lens that are on the web that may have the information for which you are looking.
In terms of close-up or macro photography of flowers the same fundamentals would apply in terms of composition, shooting angles, utilizing technology like in-camera focus stacking, working with backgrounds etc. The lens used to capture the photographs is simply a tool in that process.