Book Review: The Complete Guide to Macro and Close-up Photography

Harnischmacher_Macro_and_Close-Up_C1-319x400Have you heard the phrase, “Write the book you want to read.“?  Well, when I first flipped through this book after I received my free copy in the mail,  my first thought was, Someone wrote my book!

The Complete Guide to Macro and Close-Up Photography by Cyrill Harnischmacher sets out to be a, “…comprehensive handbook on macro and close-up photography, offering both ambitious beginners and veteran photographers all the information they need to create great macro photographs.” (back cover blurb) How does the author set out to do this?

After an introduction and inspiring photographs, the book leads off with some essential photographic terminology, lingering properly at the key subjects of magnification and depth of field. There are useful charts for optimal apertures, exposure relationships, depth of field and calculations included. (I found only one error– in the magnification calculation page, the beetle’s size is listed as 12.5 cm instead of 12.5 mm, throwing the whole calculation out.)

After this, the book is arranged much in the same way as my macro workshops, beginning with cameras, equipment, and various means of obtaining magnification; then moving on through electronic flash, the qualities of light and into a useful chapter on studio and table-top photography. Notable is the section on dealing with various types of blur and another on how to hold your camera properly: two basic but essential components of doing photography right.

Electric guitar detail by Cyrill Harnischmacher

Electric guitar detail by Cyrill Harnischmacher

While many of the photographs are of natural subjects such a flowers, insects, fish, fungi, lichens and minerals, it has images of a variety of other subjects. One of the pleasures of this book is how macro photography is portrayed as a tool of exploration. Details of subjects as divergent as electronics, smoke, clock gears, board games and musical instruments pepper the book. Besides the author’s own photographs in a variety of themes, the book also features several ‘macro masters’, including the work of Stefan Dittmann (fungi), Jan Metzler (focus-stacking) Hans Christian Steeg (high-speed photography) and the very creative work of Bernd Schloemer.

Physalis HDR by Cyrill Harnischmacher

Physalis HDR by Cyrill Harnischmacher

As any ‘complete’ book on macro photography should, this book deals with all the latest hi-tech photographic applications. Multiple exposures, focus-stacking, light painting, time-lapse, stop motion, high-speed, HDR, macro panoramas, infrared and creative techniques are all covered. A small quibble is that here is no mention of Cognisys, the U.S creator and manufacturer of high-speed flash and focus-stacking systems that are used worldwide.

Four-spotted Skimmer by Cyrill Harnischmacher

Four-spotted Skimmer by Cyrill Harnischmacher

The last chapters are on technique, dealing with the author’s methods of photo processing in Photoshop, a strong chapter on working with light, and a good chapter on composition. The book closes with a DIY section, with a method for turning a macro lens into a microscope, building a sliding rail for macro panoramas, making a simple beanbag and even a template for making small reflectors for flash.

Cyrill Harnischmacher is an independent graphic artist, photographer, and author. His experience, skill, and creative spirit are reflected in this book, which is well-written and full of useful tips and techniques. The image reproduction is top quality and they are all well supported by the text. Highly recommended for both beginners and intermediate-level photographers, and even bug photography “veterans” may find something that will inspire them to turn their macro lenses in new directions!

The Complete Guide to Macro and Close-Up Photography by Cyrill Harnischmacher. 336 pages | Soft Cover, 8 x 10 in.ISBN: 978-1-68198-052-2. Released April 2016 by Rocky Nook. (My copy was provided free by the publisher)

 

 

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