DRAFT: Macro Photography Technique: Overcoming Photo Blur
One of the most common hurdles to overcome when taking macro photos of any subject, or even life size subjects (1:1 or greater), is overcoming image blur. We all want sharp images. Image blur leads to less-than-sharp images. The cause of image blur could be the subject on a leaf during moderate to high winds, a moving subject or even the shake of the camera itself by the photographer who has less-than-steady hands (or too much coffee!).
Camera shake gets worse the greater the magnification, or, the larger the subject becomes in the frame or viewing area of the camera. What one should accomplish with macro photography is trying to obtain the sharpest image possible, thus, getting the subject to be still.
To overcome motion blur there are 2 methods: use of a flash and use of a tripod. Or perhaps even both.
Using Flash: Flash is probably the best method in getting the subject to be still. Using a flash will "freeze" the subject at the moment the flash is fired, whether the subject is flying, swimming, or the magnification is so high that your own hands are creating the movement. The only problem with flash is that sometimes it can create a harsh light making the image look over-saturated or too constrasty. Flash will also destroy any ambient light. For instance, say you are taking a photo of a grasshopper on a blade of grass at a high magnification so that the background is a smooth tan-green making the image more appealing. That is the ambient light that makes the background visible. When you fire the flash, since there is nothing behind the grasshopper and grassblade close enough for the flash light to bounce off of, the background will become a solid black. This is not a bad thing. It all depends on your preference, taste and sometimes you just have no choice. Now to overcome the black background you can use 2 flashes, I flash directed at the subject and the other flash directed at the background. Using flash also has a benefit of creating "catchlights" in the subjects eyes (if photographing organisms). Catchlights are those small white reflections in the eyes of the subject that add an ever greater sense of depth and realism to the photo and subject.
Using Tripod: Use of a tripod is a great method for subjects that are motionless, like spiders. With a tripod, most times a flash won't be needed, as the camera will be mounted on the tripod, with the tripod adding stability and preventing you from having to hand-hold the camera, which relieves camera-shake caused by your own hands. The bad part about using a tripod is that at increased magnifications, the depth of field is so small, that for any organism that is moving, you will have to keep moving the tripod in order to keep the subject in focus. That is why a tripod is best for still subjects such as spiders, or early in the morning when dragonflies or other such critters haven't yet fully warmed up and are inactive or asleep. The added benefit of a tripod is that you get to have a more aesthetically pleaseing image as you will have ambient light show up since you are not using a flash. What this means, is that if you are taking a photo of the same grasshopper on a blade of grass (and he just so happens not to move much), and the background is blurred out due to the arpeture creating a nice smooth and calm tannish-green background for your scene/subject, that background will show up in the final image. Whereas, if you used a flash, that same background would be black.