filters for macro photography

Many photographers view filters for macro photography with a disdain, particularly the filters applied with software after the photo has been taken.  Others say that filters should be used extensively, either as a great accessory during capture, as well as manipulations with software.

Screw-on filter for macro photography
Nik Software Box
Polarizing filter for close-up photography

I understand both sides of the issue. Should we limit our use of post-capture software to only the small tweaks that attempt to match the resulting photo to the original scene?  Let's re-visit that in a minute.  

First we'll take a look at the magnifying filters that are made to screw onto the camera lens for taking close-up pictures.

close-up filters for macro photography 

Close-up screw on filters for macro photography

These filters are one of the easiest and most affordable ways to dabble in close-up photography.  

Similar to the reading glasses that many over-50 year olds must wear, these single optical element devices magnify the subject.

They simple screw onto the front of your lens.  They do not give you the best quality images, particularly at the edges of your photos where they go soft.   But soft is not such a bad thing with some subjects, particularly flowers.

software filters for macro

My attitude has changed with respect to post-capture editing.  All photography capture is the recording of a scene, right?  

Whether it was the original days of black and white film, then the first color film, followed by color transparencies (35mm slides) and now digital photography, capture had always involved an interpretation of the world though lenses, cameras, different media and with different processing mechanisms.

The advent of digital photography has simply exploded the possibilities on how we'd can present the subject matter.

Close-up of yellow maple leaf without a filter.

The photo above is straight out of the camera.

The photo below is with Detail Extractor and Vignette Blur from Nik Software.

Close-up of yellow maple leaf with Nik Software filters applied

What do you think?  Do you liked the "filtered" image more?  I really like what the detail extractor does with macro and nature photography.  I recently took a photo workshop in West Virginia and the Detail Extractor filter really did a tremendous job of improving some of my nature shots.

essential filters for macro photography

1.  UV or clear glass filter.  Both of these filters protect the lens from damage and dirt.  When you are shooting close-ups the distance from your subject to the front of your lens may be quite small.

The danger may not be great, depending on your subject, but protecting the lens is vital.

2. Polarizing Filter.  Photographing macro objects outdoors often involves controlling the reflections from the sky on your subject.  This is particularly true when photographing in wet conditions or taking photographs that have water in them. 

Wet conditions often have a great effect on color saturation, but the reflections that are present from those smooth surfaces can block the details of your subject.

Using filters before and after image capture can dramatically affect your macro photographs.  For the majority of photographers, both software and optical filters are great tools to expand your ability to create your own artistic impression of any subject.

Have a blast!


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Optical Filters for Close-up Photography

Written in 2012.
Good for the beginner.

General, Macro Photography.
Equipment and Subjects.