How to Use Focusing Rail for Macro Photography

If you have trouble nailing the focus in macro photography, consider using a focusing rail. This article will discuss the definition and benefits of this tool as well as how to use it. Continue reading on to learn more!

Whenever I take macro shots of a subject, I still encounter soft focus from time to time. Nailing the focus every time is a challenging feat to achieve. Fortunately, I found out that there is a tool that helps you capture sharp and in-focus macro shots.

A macro focusing rail offers several advantages. These include keeping your camera stable as you micro-adjust the focus within a scene. In this article, I will talk more about their benefits and how you can take advantage of them.

And if you are curious about macro focusing and macro photography in general, I also included an FAQ section below. 

So without any further ado, let us get on with it!

What Is a Macro Focusing Rail?

Neewer Pro 4-Way Macro Focusing Focus Rail Slider

A macro focusing rail is a photography tool that allows you to move the camera forwards and backwards as well as sideways. It is essential for macro photography for several reasons. 

First, it allows you to adjust the focus in small or micro amounts. It features measurements that let you move the rail as little or as much as you want in a precise control. So even when the subject is moving, you can easily achieve sharp and precise focus, owing to these features.

Second, a macro focusing rail makes it easier to stitch images together because you can easily note the focus distance. This technique is known as focus stacking, and it requires you to take photos of the same image with different focus points. After that, you will combine all photos in editing software like Adobe Photoshop. This way, you can still ensure in-focus shots even if the depth of field (DOF) is shallow, which is usually the case in macro photography.

Finally, it is compatible with tripods, so you can mount it on any brand or type. Thus, it can help stabilize the camera and eliminate camera shake. This is crucial in macro photography as the slightest movement can result in blurry or soft photos, which are magnified in the final result. 

Overall, a macro focusing rail can help you capture sharp and photos by letting you adjust the focus in a controlled manner.

How to Use a Macro Focusing Rail?

Now that you are familiar with its benefits, you are probably wondering if a macro focusing rail is easy to use or not. Fortunately, using this camera tool is pretty straightforward. There is no need to adjust the focusing barrel of the lens or the camera settings. The focusing rail will do that for you.

Perhaps the only challenge you will encounter is measuring the proper focusing distance when capturing the same subject for focus stacking.

Read on below for the steps on how to use a macro focusing rail.

First, you need to attach your camera and lens to this camera tool. Simply secure the tripod thread on the bottom of your camera. However, if you are using a telephoto macro lens, you need to connect it to the rail via the tripod collar.

After ensuring that your camera gear is set up on the macro focusing rail, you can start adjusting the focus. Decide if you will start emphasizing the front of the subject or the back. It is essential to know this factor beforehand as it will determine where you need to attach the camera to the macro focusing rail.

Once you attach it, you cannot move the tripod-like plate in the opposite direction. So, for instance, if you start all the way back, you can only adjust the focus forwards, and vice versa.

Now that everything is in place, you can start capturing photos using different focus points. The distance between each will depend on your depth of field. This factor itself is dictated by your aperture and your distance from the subject.

The smaller your depth of field or nearer you are from the subject, the more images you need to capture. That means you also need to shoot at smaller intervals or distances.

However, make sure that there are not any focus gaps when you shoot the subject. The focal point must still overlap a touch, so when you combine the shots together, it will look seamless.

To give you an idea, some photographers adjust their focus at 10-micron intervals. For reference, human hair has a thickness of 75 micros. So you can only imagine how many photos they will take to achieve a seamless result later in the focus stacking process.

Fortunately, many casual macro photographers can perfectly take between 10 to 45 images at longer intervals. This is a good range for broader or larger subjects like food and nature.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is macro focusing?

Macro focusing refers to the process on how to focus on macro photography subjects. This genre of photography requires you to shoot small objects and enlarge them to lifesize. So when you say macro, you need to capture the subject above a 1:1 ratio. 

Using anything below that magnification ratio will give you a close-up shot and not a true macro image. One of the most common macro photography subjects is insects.

However, focusing on such a tiny object is challenging. First, you will need to invest in a dedicated macro lens. This specialized type of macro lenses has a 1:1 magnification ratio and a close focusing distance. Thus, it is easier to take photos of small subjects and ensure their sharpness across the frame. Choosing a non-macro lens will not give you the same results because of their vastly different spherical elements.

For instance, the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens offers a minimum focusing distance of 0.99 ft./0.3m. However, the standard Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM Telephoto Lens has a limited closing focusing distance of 3 ft/0.9m.

You might also want to consider getting a macro focusing rail slider. It enables you to make micro-adjustments when it comes to the focal point. So it is easier to combine images with a small depth of field and achieve correct focus through focal stacking.

What is camera focus stacking?

Focus stacking refers to the process of taking photos of the same subject but using different focus points. After that, you will combine all the shots together in Adobe Photoshop. This way, you can create an image with more depth of field than what is possible with a single exposure. This technique is especially useful for macro photography when you usually capture tiny subjects.


That summarizes this article about how to use focusing rail for macro photography! This camera tool makes it easy to adjust the focus in small increments when capturing small subjects. There is no need to adjust the focusing barrel of the lens or the camera settings. You simply move the camera or lens back and forth or even sidewards. Doing so helps you achieve sharper or in-focus photos.