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Macro Lens Techniques: Brilliantly Capture the Sparkle in a Water Droplet

With a macro lens, you can capture magnified shots of small objects like ants and water droplets. Here, I will introduce some techniques to capture a starburst effect in your shot of a water droplet so as to make it even more dramatic. (Reported by: Miki Asai)

EOS 6D/ MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo/ FL: 65mm/ Aperture-Priority AE (f/14, 1/50 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 640/ WB: Auto
2 ants were drinking water that clung to the petals of an African daisy. I directed an LED light onto the water droplet, narrowed the aperture, and created starbursts to create a dazzling impression.


Shine an LED light onto the subject and narrow the aperture to f/14 to create starbursts in the water droplet

I thought of creating sparkling starbursts to accent this macro shot of ants and a water droplet with a reflection of a flower. Considering the size of the ants and the water droplet, since you would have to crop the photo if it was taken at actual size, I would recommend using the MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo, which allows you to shoot at up to 5x magnification.

I placed a vase containing the African daisy in a garden, and then dripped water over the petals with a syringe-type pipette. Next, I focused on the water droplet using the magnification function in Live View and directed the LED light onto the water droplet. I narrowed the aperture to f/14 to create starbursts from the light reflected off the water droplet. After that, I waited tenaciously for 6 hours for the 2 ants to approach from the 2 sides before I released the shutter. Note that if you squat down for too long, your back may hurt though.


Point: Shine the LED light at an angle from the back

I placed a vase on the ground in the garden and dripped water over the petals of the African daisy. The LED light was set up at the back on the right to shine on the water droplets. I used a tripod to take the shot while maintaining a distance of about 10 -15cm between the lens face and the subject.

The point to note here is the angle of the LED light. It was difficult to find an angle at which starbursts would appear. After setting the aperture to f/14, I moved the position of the LED light to search for such a point.


Working with the lens: The amount of bokeh does not vary much even with a narrow aperture when shooting close-up photography with a macro lens

When it comes to macro lenses, many people tend to think that it is better to shoot at the maximum aperture in order to create bokeh. However, narrowing the aperture lets you create starbursts. Although you may be concerned over whether the depth of view of the subject will increase and whether the bokeh will disappear, you can shoot up close and narrow the aperture to the minimum with a macro lens without affecting the bokeh too much.


Tip: The f-number affects how the starburst effect looks


Starbursts will appear clearly when you narrow the aperture fully to f/14. In the case of a macro lens, since it is hard to create starbursts with a slight narrowing of the aperture, try using the smallest aperture.



Although the large bokeh appears soft, starbursts will not appear at the maximum aperture of f/2.8. Faint light streaks only start to appear around an aperture of about f/13.


MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo


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Miki Asai

Born in Obihiro, Hokkaido. While working as a company employee, she would get her hands on a camera to shoot small objects after finishing work and on her days off. In 2013, she bought the DSLR that she had been longing for and started shooting. One day, she was moved by the morning dew that she saw on a leaf through a macro lens the sight of which was “more beautiful than any gem”. It struck her then that she wanted to photograph the small and beautiful world which exists everywhere but is easily missed and hard to see with the naked eye. Since then, she has continued with her style of photography in pursuit of her goal.


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