Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Meet your macro

Susan Brubaker Knapp here. Kelli’s theme this month got me thinking about the macro feature on my camera. When I sketch, I work a lot from my photos. I often don’t have much time to sit and sketch my subjects where I find them, so I use my camera to record what I see, and then sketch later. Here’s a sketch I did yesterday (above) based on the photo below.

I used the macro feature on my inexpensive point-and-shoot digital camera to take this photo. If you are not familiar with this feature, I urge you to get out your camera now, and look for it. On most cameras, it is the button with the little tulip symbol on it. On the camera in the photo below, it is just to the left of the "FUNC. SET" button. See it?

On this camera, when you push the macro/tulip button, you can toggle between the regular setting (shown as a little person in front of a mountain) and the macro setting, and it shows up on the big screen:

When you use the macro setting, your camera can shoot things – and keep them in focus – from only 3 to 6 inches away (depending on your camera; check your manual for details). Just make sure you are not zoomed in at all. If you zoom in with the macro setting on, it will go out of focus.

Here’s a photo I took several years ago, in the fall, when the blooms on my hydrangea had been touched by the cold, and had turned amazing shades of purple and maroon. Taking this photo with my macro lens helped me to observe the tiny structure with the pistol and stamen at the center of the bloom in the lower left:

Here’s a sketch I made from this photo:

When I look at the photo next to the sketch, I can clearly see that I need to work on value in this sketch. Nearly all of the values are medium values – there are not many lights and darks. I need to go back in and darken the green areas a lot, and add more shading to better define the petals. Discoveries like this are another great reason to try adding photography to your bag of tricks in your quest to become better at sketching.

Using the macro feature on your camera can help you start to see up close, to train your eye to observe the tiniest details in nature. You’ll be amazed at what you see through your lens.


  1. I don't think you need to work on the value in that sketch of the lavender flowers- it's more dynamic than the real one which makes it more exciting. Leave as is!

  2. What a helpful post Susan. Nice to see the camera functions explained and this I will find very useful for my new camera....annsart []

  3. How great, to figure out that I shouldn't zoom when using the macro feature - no wonder I get the fuzzies all the time!! Guess it's time to get out my user manual, duh!!


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