I have the camera Nikon D90 and I don't want to buy Nikkor 105 mm Micro lens at this moment(even it may be the best solution: I hope it's not the only solution!).

I have tripod and remote shutter control. What other equipments should I have to do this work professionally? Lens? Filters?

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    Here's an article on what you would need for photographing an ant. But what do you mean with the bold question mark ? – Saaru Lindestøkke Jan 17 '13 at 16:27
  • Is renting an option? Maybe even a Canon DSLR with MP-E 65mm lens since it has the highest magnification of any lens and still a nice aperture. Any other way to get such magnification will be rather dim. – Itai Jan 17 '13 at 16:44
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    If you don't want to buy professional equipment but want professional results - you can rent/borrow/or steal. You can't just use sub-professional equipment but still get professional results! – dpollitt Jan 17 '13 at 16:47
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    You'll also need an ant. – Paul Cezanne Jan 18 '13 at 12:09
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    @PaulCezanne a big ant, at that – NickM Jan 18 '13 at 13:32

If you don't want to use a macro lens, you can try extension tubes, although a macro lens with auto-focus will be easier to use.

A tripod and remote shutter won't be much help if you want to get close to the level of a single ant. At that size, the depth of field will be so small that you will need to react on the fly to the ant's movement. You'll be lying down on your belly trying to get one in proper focus, being surprised how fast those buggers move at that scale.

If you are willing to focus on a small part of a ant hill or something and wait for a ant to stumble along just at the right spot, then the tripod will work. If you don't really want down to 1:1 magnification and want a wider field to catch a bunch of ants doing something, then the tripod may again be useful. However, that's not really "macro" then, although it may be too close for your existing lens. Extension tubes can be a reasonable option at that range.

It will also help if you can arrange for the scene to be as bright as possible. If this is outdoors, do it with sunlight if possible. Otherwise, add lighting if possible. You will need a small aperture to get reasonable depth of field, and you're already 2 f-stops down at 1:1 magnification. As much light as you can get will be useful to allow for as fast a shutter speed as possible.


Because you're using a DX format camera, you can buy a 60mm micro lens (for example, if you're in NYC area: http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/pho/3550856479.html ). With it, you're effectively at 90mm range (because of the DX factor, your lens is at x1.5 focal distance than stated). It's cheaper and you can still get yourself into macro photography.


I would always try first to get a macro extension ring if you have not done macro before, and if you are not sure yet if you want to spend a lot of money for new lenses. They are cheap, lightweight and therefore portable - a great tool to get a first impression about macro. They also allow you to use a light strong lens that you already have, such as a 50mm 1.4 or 1.8. With the extension tube you lose a bit of light, but it can still deliver great results if you have a decent prime.

The biggest issue in Macro on top of the available lens however is having enough light - even more so with moving so.

The less light you have, the lower your depth of field and the moving ants will be out of your focus range very quickly, even more so if you have the camera hand-held. Continuous focus is a great setting here. Sometimes a burst mode shot might be helpful to make sure you get the ant in the moment it passes through the focus point if manual timing seems to fail.

The issue if you have a built-in flash or also sometimes with one mounted on the shoe is that you might be so close to the object that the lens will throw a shadow over the object. A flash connected to a wire or passive flash is very recommendable. There are special rails etc to light objects from the side of the camera and you can also get stands for flashes so your camera does not come in the way. If you have some sunlight and do not want to spend money for a flash, try to at least buy a cheap reflector or make your own with tinfoil.

  • Oh thanks! I have 50mm f/1.4 and Nikon SB-700 flash – garik Jan 18 '13 at 5:22
  • What I should add is that you will be better off having enough light so that you do not need to go all the way up to 1.4 so you have a decent depth of field. – uncovery Jan 18 '13 at 6:48
  • btw please mark one of the answers as accepted if they are good enough for you :) – uncovery Jan 19 '13 at 0:38

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