Author: Iyad Suleyman

Iyad Suleyman is an underwater photographer from Ukraine based in the United Arab Emirates,He was awarded at many competitions and contests,including Digital Online Underwater Photography Competition in the UAE,where he became the Champion in 2013. He received the title of Grand Master in the biggest online competition in the world at in 2013 as well and many more,He takes different kind of underwater photography, but especially he is carried away by the super macro,He likes to capture tiny subjects in details to show their hidden beauty and singularit.






Most photographers would agree that super macro photography means the production of photos with reproduction ratios greater than 1:1:1Therefore super macro photography leads us to the mysterious world of hidden beauty. Without special equipment our eyes can’t see it.

Generally, in order to achieve these levels of magnification vides ,we need to use a ‘normal’ macro lens,with one or more additional specialised tools,like,dry diopter,wet diopter,Tele-converters,or extension tube.

UAE, Nikon d800e, 60 mm lens, ISO 125, F/14, 1/160s

60mm for Canon ,100or Nikon and 100mm for Canon,105(105 mm for Nikon),these are basic macro lenses,they used often and they work well for macro photography,But for super macro photography 100 mm Canon (105 mm Nikon) macro lens works better. It allows us to keep the distance and provides more space for stacking diopters.

60mm macro lens combined with wet diopters is also used,but the focus distance will be extremely short,The 60mm lens has a small working distance,which means we will be fairly close to the glass of wet diopter when shooting small subjects,We can use it with static, slow or not shy subjects,(f.e.: tiny nudibranch, skeleton shrimp etc.),but for shy or moving subjects,(like tiny fish, pygmy seahorse),is better to use 100mm with wet diopters.

UAE, Nikon D3s, 105 mm lens, ISO 200, F/32, 1/125s

Tulamben, Canon 60D, 100 mm lens, ISO 100, F/13, 1/160s

Let’s move on to the additional specialised tools,As I mentioned earlier, these tools are:dry diopters,wet diopter,teleconverters and extension tubes,I tried all of them and my choice is using wet diopters for super macro photography,There are some disadvantages while using other tools, which I prefer to avoid, namely

The disadvantage of "dry" diopters is that the diopter must be used for the entire dive,It’s not possible to add or to change the diopter underwater. The lens will no longer focus at longer distances.

Con of teleconverter is loss of light, therefore slightly dimmer viewfinder. The camera can’t focus quickly.

The extension tubes will make our port needs much longer,and we have to deal with loss of light again, so I don’t recommend it.

Tulamben, Canon 70D, 100 mm lens, ISO 125, F/13, 1/160s

I recommend a wet diopter (or combination of two) for super macro photography,Wet diopters that can be placed over a port, will allow for increased magnification by reducing the minimum working distance,A big advantage of a wet diopter is that it can be added and removed during the dive,It gives us more flexibility. Please note, when using a wet diopter, the camera lens should be as close as possible to the port,to reduce the distance between the camera lens and the wet diopter.

Romblon, Canon 60D, 100 mm lens, ISO 125, F/14, 1/160s

There are several ways to attach a wet lens to the camera,include a bayonet mount,which simply rotates and locks on,a "quick adapt" mount that snaps on in one motion,But I prefer screw mount, which must be screwed on the port. The distance between the port and wet lens is short in this case. That gives more sharpness and details on the picture. 1 cm (0,4 inches) or even 0.5 cm (0,2 inches) can make a big difference by focusing and can affect the sharpness. That’s why I don’t recommend a bayonet mount. The best choice is a screw mount.

But we should be careful with air bubbles,which can appear by screwing on the wet lens above water,These small bubbles can be invisible for our eyes,but they can disturb by focusing. To avoid it, each time screw on a wet lens underwater.

Anilao, Canon 60D, 100 mm lens, ISO 100, F/14, 1/200s

Nowadays there is a big choice of wet diopters. I use different brands,SubSee +5,+10, Epoque DML2, Inon UCL-165, SAGA Pro +5,+10.

For bigger magnification we can stack two wet lenses using adapter or thread,We can achieve truly large magnifications,By stacking wet diopters, attached on the 100mm macro lens, we can even take subjects as small as 8mm and fill the frame.

My favourite combination of wet diopters is SubSee +10 stacked with Inon UCL-165 +10 used with 100 mm macro lens.

Komodo, Canon 60D, 100 mm lens, ISO 100, F/20, 1/160s

How to photograph super macro

While shooting super macro you should be extremely accurate and precise,It’s very important to get sharp focus on eyes, or rhinophores,The olfactory horn or the mouth (depending on the subject) is very important. So shooting super macro requires special skills and knowledge.or mouth (depends on your subject), when the subject itself can be only 1 cm only. So super macro photography call for specific skills and knowledge.

Puerto Galera, Canon 60D, 100 mm lens, ISO 100, F/16, 1/160s

Using Manual exposure mode will give us complete control,The aperture is more important than the shutter speed,The aperture is more important than the shutter speed

If I go underwater I prepare my camera on air,and make the basic camera settings: ISO 100,F13, 1/1601/160s. Depending on underwater conditions and subject, I adjust the settings underwater. But my favourite aperture figures for super macro are in the range from F/6 till F/16. By this aperture the pictures are with the best details.

Okinawa, Canon 60D, 100 mm lens, ISO 100, F/13, 1/200s

Stacking diopters on a DSLR means focusing distances so close that it may be hard to illuminate a subject with our strobes,We should be very careful in placing the strobes to light up the scene,I always use manual mood for lightening,I put the strobes with diffuser on ¼ power and place them just close to the port.

Shallow depth of fields makes autofocus perform very slowly,It is more effective to use manual focus instead,rocking the camera slightly back and forth and pressing the shutter,when we see with our eyes that the subject is in focus,This can take many attempts and some time, but the result can be fantastic.

Make sure to find a stable,and relaxed position that doesn’t damage to the surroundings,when attempting the shot,It can take some time to achieve the shot desired,so we better get comfortable,.

Okinawa, Canon 60D, 100mm lens, ISO 200, F/13, 1/160s

Use a focus light whenever possible to help achieve focus.

Always ensure the well-being of the subject during the photo taking process,as it can be easy to touch them with the front of the diopter.

Spend enough time on the subject!,Don’t hurry and you will be paid off!

Mabul, Canon 70D, 100 mm lens, ISO 160, F/13, 1/200s

Yawning fish,nice behaviour shot and many more interesting things can happen in front of your lens,if you will be patient,And show the details! In fact, the secret for success in super macro photography in my view is in showing the finest details!

Romblon, Canon 60D, 100 mm lens, ISO 125, F/13, 1/160s

Don’t leave your subject,if you have enough time,air and the subject is “in good mood” to be photographed,Get the shot you planned or you like enough!

And last but not least,with its emphasis on detail,pattern, and texture, super macro photography can give unique results.

Ishigaki, Canon 60D, 100 mm lens, ISO 125, F/13, 1/200s


Okinawa, Canon 60D, 100 mm lens, ISO 200, F/14, 1/160s