Subjects for Close-Up Lenses
I often use my 85 mm lens and 500D close-up lens combination for portraits, flowers and insects, and details. The following sections provide some details and examples.
My 85 mm lens is ideal for portraits. I use it on a full-frame camera; a 50 mm lens on a crop-sensor digital SLR has a similar field-of-view. But sometimes I like to get in really close, so my subject's face fills the frame, and my close-up lens helps me to do that, as shown in Figure 4. I can keep the close-up lens in my pocket, and it takes just a few seconds to screw it onto the front of my lens when required. This action doesn't interrupt the "flow" of the portrait session.
Figure 4 I used my 85 mm lens with a 500D close-up filter to get close enough to my model, Abbey, to take this photo.
Photographing Flowers and Insects
This lens combo is ideal for photographing flowers. The narrow field-of-view of the short telephoto lens helps to throw the background out of focus, and it frames the flowers in a way that eliminates highlights and other distractions in the background (see Figure 5).
Figure 5 The close-up lens helped me get close enough to this orchid to take this photo.
You can also use this technique for photographing insects. Because there's no light loss with close-up lenses, it's easier to achieve the fast shutter speeds required for freezing the motion of insects. Telephoto lenses are best for this task, as you get greater magnification when using them with close-up lenses. They also help you to keep your distance from the insects so there's less chance of scaring it away (or being bitten or stung). See the work of Ernst Vikne for an idea of what you can achieve.
Capturing Architecture and Object Details
Shooting details offers a great way of capturing the spirit of a place or object, and I often need a close-up lens to get near enough to photograph a particular detail (see Figure 6).
Figure 6 This photo shows the detailed carving of a calligraphy brush in a Dongtai Road antiques market in Shanghai, I wouldn't have been able to get this detail without a close-up lens.