Macro Photography is a type of photography which is used for producing photographs of very small subjects and living organisms like insects, in which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than life size. In simple words, macro photography is the art of photographing small objects and making them appear of larger size, close and personal. Before getting started here is a quick introduction of this article.
Macro photography has definitely become a very broad genre of the art form, thanks to the ability of today’s cameras from smartphones to professional DSLRs and Mirrorless Cameras to make capturing macro shots as easy as clicking a button or two. However, the results may not always be what you desired.
That is why I decided to write this article. In this article I will be sharing “11 Amazing Macro Photography Tips Everyone Should Know” in order to get you your desired results. This article is especially meant for beginner photographer to get started and intermediate level photographer to improve their macro photography. That is why I am going to make this article as simple as I can for you to understand it. Also, make sure you read this article till the end as I will also give you two bonus tips. Now, let’s get started!
List Of 11 Amazing Macro Photography Tips Everyone Should Know:
- Invest In A Good Macro Lens
- Use A Longer Focal Length For Living Subjects
- Balance Your Depth Of Field And Sharpness
- Always Plan Your Point Of Focus
- Improve Your Photography Lighting Skills
- Improve Your Composition Skills
- Pay Attention To Your Background
- Consider Using Diopter
- Start With Inanimate Subjects
- Always Keep It Interesting
- Experiment With Different Angles
Now, I am going to explain what each one of those means and how will it affect your macro photography.
1. Invest In A Good Macro Lens
Not just macro photography but photography in general you need to invest in good lens. While today’s cameras offer a macro mode in the menu or analog settings, they don’t offer as much as 1:1 magnification. For you to get a good quality professional looking image just like you see in the magazines and art galleries, you’ll need to purchase a dedicated macro lens for your camera. Unlike other lenses, macros are capable of high reproduction ratios. This means that the ratio of the subject size on the sensor plane is similar or greater than the actual size of the subject in real life.
There’s a wide array of macro lenses on the market that offers 1:1 magnification and above for your camera. You might be taken aback by some of their price tags, but they’re definitely worth the investment for greater quality macro shots. If you plan on shooting flat objects such as coins, stamps, use a “flat-field” macro lens to ensure edge-to-edge sharpness. Additionally, with a macro lens, you can focus at really close distances.
They come in numerous focal lengths. It is the focal length that guides the photographer on the best working distance to opt for. Which makes me come to our next tip:
2. Use A Longer Focal Length For Living Subjects
With a good focal length, you can take the short with minimum disturbance to the subject. Middle-range lengths are ideal in circumstances where the subject is scary or you do not want to scare them away but you may also want to go for those that offer longer focal lengths, depending on your subject of choice. This allows you to digitally move in closer (without actually having to move closer) when photographing living subjects such as insects and chameleon close-up without disturbing them or disrupting their natural environment.
The best focal length for these types of situations should be anything starting from 85mm and above, such as the Samyang 85mm F/1.4 Prime Lens For Canon. While some camera brands macro lenses don’t offer the same maximum magnification yet, there are available connective lens accessories such as tubes or bellows for them that help extend the lens for more reach such as Fotodiox Nikon Macro Extension Tube Kit For Nikon Cameras.
3. Balance Your Depth Of Field And Sharpness
This is one of the most important tip of macro photography, understand it properly especially if you are a beginner photographer. Most photographers will advise you to use smaller apertures (a larger f-stop number) as this helps increase your depth of field and ensure that the important parts of your subject are in sharp focus.
However, the problem with using a smaller aperture is that the reduced and diffracted light can greatly affect the sharpness of your image. On the other hand, if you use too large of an aperture (a smaller f-stop number), you end up with less depth of field, which means that some parts of your subject may end up blurred out as well.
One of the hardest parts in doing macro photography is achieving the right balance between desired sharpness and depth of field. If you are able to shoot from a perspective or angle that allows you to fit the most important or interesting parts of your subject on a single plane of focus, which ensures that your subject remains sharp while still maintaining beautiful background bokeh, then it’s all a matter of finding the largest aperture that will allow you to do that without leaving your subject blurred out in certain parts.
A recommended solution to the problem of balancing depth of field and sharpness is focus stacking, which is a built-in feature in a select number of cameras. If you don’t have this feature, it can also be accomplished in Photoshop. Here is a video tutorial on focus stacking by Adorama:
4. Always Plan Your Point Of Focus
You have your shot ready, and all you’ll need to do is focus on your subject and click the shutter. But before you do, it helps to realize that in macro photography, your point of focus can greatly improve your composition.
Also, in macro photography, you will be required to push against problems such as diffraction, poor depth of field and motion blurs. The only way to do this through is by maintaining an outstanding focus. Macro photos capture smaller subjects some of which you will even strain your eyes to see. To make it worse, some of these subjects are fast-paced. That tells you why you need to carefully plan for the focus.
Several cameras feature continuous-servo autofocus (AF-C). In AF-C area mode, you will be able to track the subject’s movement efficiently without any blur. Even with constant subjects, it is prudent to be in AF-C mode. With a tiny subject, moving the camera even by an inch is good enough to throw your focus. In this circumstance, you will need to plan the focus with the use of the camera’s manual focus features.
One thing that can help you take better macro photos is to learn how to focus on different parts of the frame manually and to try to change your focus to provide different and interesting perspectives.
5. Improve Your Photography Lighting Skills
A key component in photography is light, and macro photographers obviously greatly benefit from having good lighting conditions. It doesn’t matter what your subject is when practicing macro photography, you’ll likely need to incorporate some extra light.
You need a wider aperture and an extended focal length so the usual ambient lighting will not be enough. Aside from using it to artistically improve your shots, you can add light to support your exposure settings, such as when the subject is still too dark despite having a wide open aperture. There are cases when you have enough natural light to suffice, but if not, use a reflector or external flash to improve your photo.
Many macro photographers would advise beginners to use a ring flash to enable the use of smaller apertures, as well as faster shutter speeds for handheld shooting and moving objects. Ring flashes or twin flashes offer good 3D lighting that is not as flat as built-in pop-up flashes.
6. Improve Your Composition Skills
Whether you’re shooting macro photography or any other photography style, a photographer should learn how to improve their composition skills while shooting. This means properly framing your subject before clicking the shutter instead of relying on post-processing to correct your composition. This can be quite crucial for macro photography, as cropping your shots decreases the photo resolution.
Instead of cropping a photo of an insect to make it look larger, increase your subject magnification while shooting so you get to keep your original resolution. This is also another reason to use a dedicated macro lens with a longer focal length.
7. Pay Attention To Your Background
As simple as it may look, many concepts and factors come into play during macro photography one of which is background. Background make or break any macro photo. It defines whether the image will have distracting colors, shapes, and lines or a uniform appealing appearance.
Shooting inanimate objects is fairly easy as you can have complete control over the positioning, lighting, and even your background. Simply place it against your desired background, depending on your composition, and make sure they don’t clash with each other. Experienced photographers integrate concepts such as simplicity, good subject separation and use of the surrounding environment for good photos. For killer photos, you can use natural backgrounds such as the sky, broken sunlight, branches, and flowers.
If you’re spontaneously shooting outdoors, you may not have that much control over your background. However, you can change your perspective or maybe use any kind of support for positioning your object, such as a leaf or flower, to face you from another angle.
8. Consider Using Diopter
Even without a dedicated macro lens, you can achieve good macro shots with assistive accessories that can be incorporated into your macro kit. There’s what they call a diopter, it’s basically close-up filter or magnifying glass that is screwed on to your regular lens or to any bridge or compact camera to achieve macro magnification without having to purchase a true macro lens.
Also remember, as mentioned in tip no. 2, bellows or tubes are the accordion-like, expandable part of a camera that helps achieve ultra-tight close ups on your subject. You can also get lens adapters that allow you to reverse your lens and manually control the aperture.
9. Start With Inanimate Subjects
To back up a bit, you might want to begin with subjects that aren’t going to fly away. It’s exciting to capture a macro image of a caterpillar or butterfly but it can also drive the most skilled photographer batty. One of the best macro photography tips is to begin with inanimate objects like food or plants and then graduate to things that move. What this will do is help you learn and get better at the basics of macro photography so that you will be able to adapt to more advanced skills quickly.
10. Always Keep It Interesting
If your viewer can’t understand what they’re looking at when they see your macro shot, how can they appreciate it? But of course, this is all a question of preference and aesthetics. One of the goals of taking macro shots is to take things we see all the time and make them more interesting. That is why you need to keep it interesting.
You can achive it by your composition skills and trying different angles which makes me come to our next tip:
11. Experiment With Different Angles
Just like in any form of photography, trying different angles helps a bunch. It defines the depth of the field and how the outlooks of the background. Literally, different shots call for a different level of angles. Most macro photos feature low angle. This type of angle provides minimum background and almost the same viewpoint as that of the subject. Higher angles, on the other hand, are ideal for bird’s eye view and parallel angles provides the largest depth. They are ideal where you want to make the sharpest focus out of your subject.
By experimenting with different angles, you will be able to manipulate the depth of the field and the subjects’ background for your good. The result is a photo that captures everything that your looking for.
Now, as I promised you earlier I will be sharing two bonus tips, here they are:
- Take Your Time
- It’s Not Necessary To Have A Professional Camera
1. Take Your Time
Timing matters a lot when it comes to general photography. It determines the level of focus, the depth, and level of magnification. When to shoot is determined by two factors; whether the subject is constant or moving. For constant subject, you can take as long as 10 minutes focusing on the subject. You can easily bring the aforesaid factors into play without losing much sweat.
On the other hand, capturing moving objects can be a little tricky. The pace of the subject is the main guiding factor here. For uniformly moving subjects, 1-2 minutes is enough to adjust the focus and have a great shot. Otherwise, for flying insects, you may be forced to randomly shoot without giving much time on focus and other factors.
2. It’s Not Necessary To Have A Professional Camera
Though you might already be working with a DSLR camera when you decide to practice macro photographer, it isn’t necessary. As a matter of fact, you can capture macro images with nothing more than your Phone camera. You’ll just need to use the right lens to get the macro effect you want. Two of my favourites is SKYVIK SIGNI 20X Macro Lens Kit and SKYVIK SIGNI One 25mm Macro Lens botth are available at amazon. Don’t believe me here is an image captured on iPhone 7:
Macro photography can be a very rewarding style of photography, despite it being somewhat complicated for many beginners. While there are a lot of things to remember in order to achieve a good professional macro shot, practice helps make it a habit. Once you get used to it, it becomes a skill and you’d be well on your way to improving your shots with every click of the shutter.
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