Book Review: Digital Macro & Close-up Photography by Ross Hoddinott


New in 2013

Matt Cole first brought this book to my attention, and with his recommendation, (and having borrowed the first edition from our local library a few years ago) I did not wait long to order a copy of  Digital Macro & Close-up Photography through Amazon UK.

Ross Hoddinott is a professional nature photographer hailing from the Cornwall/Devon border area in south-west England. He is well-known for his landscape photography, but also–as you can tell from this book–for his excellent close-up and macro work.

In Digital Macro & Close-up Photography he opens with chapters on digital cameras, the benefits of DSLR‘s, lens choices and accessories. The chapter on technique is solid, working on the basis that macro is a very precise style of photography and then providing lots of information on how to achieve that precision. It opens with the essentials of understanding exposure and moves on to offer helpful tips on depth of field, composition, orientation (horizontal or vertical) and perspective (lens choice and the relative position between the camera and the subject).

The section on lighting is useful, beginning with methods of using and enhancing natural light, and moving on to advice on flash use, which now has much more detail than the first edition. There is a new chapter on the Outdoor Studio which is delivered with the very able help of  Matt Cole, who provided some striking Meet Your Neighbours-style photography.

In Still Life section covers common items and techniques:  food, colour, B&W, cross-polarization, flowers and water droplets–all illustrated with excellent photographs–but it left me wishing (perhaps due to the long winter that is looming ahead here!) that there was a more thorough exploration of ideas for indoor close-up and macro photography.

The following two sections–Natural-history subjects and Texture, detail, shape and form–are the heart of the book, providing  pertinent information on macro techniques for bugs, plants, fungi, mosses and lichens. As an example of the approach taken, I’ll take a closer look at just one chapter: Spiders. In this chapter he covers how to approach spiders in the web, how to align the camera, watching for intrusive backgrounds, photographing from both sides of the web, taking advantage of natural light, getting to eye-level and where to focus. There is a fine image of a Dolomedes water spider on the water surface, and a spider’s web bejeweled with dew, set in front of a mauve background. There is one inset ‘Pro Tip‘ advising to be careful when photographing potentially venomous species. The other chapters are delivered in a similar way, with subject-specific advice and supported by outstanding images.

The last chapter, Post-production, provides a basic introduction to some of the most important aspects of any type of photography: image processing, workflow and archiving. He offers basic information on RAW workflow, cropping, adjusting colors, focus-stacking and producing B&W images–all with just enough detail to get you started on your own path.

The new and larger format of this revised and expanded edition greatly improves presentation of the photographs. The chapter Close-up Top Tips, in which Ross uses prime images to illustrate important skills, is particularly striking (although, as one butterfly image reveals, I would not want to see  bright-red backgrounds become a fad!). Digital Macro & Close-up Photography has a strong leaning towards natural subjects and is rich with inspirational photographs. Anyone beginning to enter the fascinating field of macro photography will not go wrong if they select this book as a guide. This revised edition is a step-up from the first release and is now a real stand-out guide to macro–definitely a book that I will recommend to new photographers.



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