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When working extremely close to subjects at high reproduction ratios, it is vitally important that both the subject and the camera remain absolutely motionless. With a reproduction ratio of 1:1, the area of the subject visible in the viewfinder in just 36mm x 24mm when using a 35mm or digital SLR. This means that subject movement of just 2mm will extend blurring across almost 6% of the frame. At a reproduction ratio of 10:1 the same degree of movement extends blurring across over half the width of the frame. The simple rule is that the closer a camera gets to a subject the more important stability becomes.

Finding ways of keeping everything motionless is consequently one of the most valuable skills a macro photographer can acquire. Tripods, monopods, laboratory stands, windbreaks, support canes and objects available in the environment all have a part to play. A heavy tripod equipped with a substantial head makes an excellent starting point but does not always provide a solution. It may be difficult to find sufficient space to set it up, and it may prove too heavy to carry in the field. Much smaller and lighter table-top equipment can be used indoors where a stable and wind-free environment is guaranteed.

Subject movement is arguably the first consideration because the slightest change of position makes long exposures impractical and sharp images extremely difficult to achieve. The best approach when photographing an insect on a plant which is waving around in the breeze is to work hand-held. Find a location where there is good light, arrange the best windbreak possible, support the plant with stakes and work as close to the ground as possible. Use flash if the light is insufficient for a practical shutter speed. Focusing manually is virtually impossible when photographing a wind-blown subject. It is better to use autofocus in a dynamic, predictive or continual tracking mode rather than a simple one-shot focus-and-lock mode.

Camera stability is also vital and not always easy to achieve outdoors. Investment of time and effort in finding a solid location for a tripod will be well repaid. A remote shutter release must be used to avoid the need to touch the camera, and a windbreak may be as important as it is in the case of the subject. Even a slight breeze can move a camera by a small amount.


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