Macro photography is a fancy way of saying close-up photography. Strictly speaking, macro photography is a photograph where the subject is magnified to life size or greater. Insects and flowers are perfect examples of macro photography. However, that’s only the beginning. You can also take interesting pictures of normal objects up close. Even fruit takes on a whole new look when you magnify the subject significantly.
True macro photography is done using a specially designed macro lens. However, if you have a DSLR camera you can also use spacers to mimic the effect of using a macro lens in most cases. If you’re still using a point-and-shoot camera, macro photography is much more difficult; although some point-and-shoot cameras are capable of doing some macro photography. Mastering Macro Photography explains the minimum requirements for macro in better detail.
Macro photography is a fun and exciting new way to look at everyday objects. The 10 macro photography tips contained in this article should greatly improve your macro photographs and are relatively easy to master with some practice.
Get Up Early
This may not seem like a photography tip at first glance, but some macro subjects are less active in the morning. If you are searching for insects, you are much more likely to get a good shot in the early morning hours when the insect is still resting. Also, don’t forget about those early morning dew on flower shots that have become very popular in the macro photography world.
Make Sure the Subject is Perfect
When you’re working with an object that is very close, every little imperfection is very noticeable and can take away from your image. If you are searching for flowers to photograph, take the time to look for a perfectly formed flower. Alternatively, many photographers make a point of looking for deformed subjects intentionally. Either way, just remember that when you are taking macro photos, every detail is noticeable – for better or for worse.
Another reason to get up early is to try backlighting your macro subjects. Mildly translucent objects such as leaves, flower petals, and butterfly wings become really interesting when the low morning sunlight shines through from the back.
The trick to this technique is that backlighting can often fool your camera into underexposing the shot. If this happens, simply use exposure compensation to correct your shots. Chasing the Light is full of natural and artificial lighting techniques you can use for your photographs.
Use Manual Focus
When working with a macro subjects, autofocus doesn’t tend to work very well. It ends up searching backward and forward for something to focus on and if it ever finds the subject at all, it could take a very long time.
If you are not accustomed to using manual focus, start practicing. Shooting in Manual teaches you how to effectively use manual focus for your macro shots and other forms of photography as well.
Even manual focus may not be fast enough to catch insects that move quickly or scare easily. One technique that many macro photographers use is known as pre-focusing. Basically, you find something that’s of a similar size and position it approximately the same distance away from the lens that you expect your subject to be when it lands.
Being careful not to bump your camera out of focus, your shot should be focused when your subject does come into the frame. This definitely takes some practice to master and it may not always work perfectly, but you can sometimes steal a perfectly focused shot using this pre-focusing technique.
Use a Polarizing Filter
A polarizing filter helps ensure that the colors captured are the same as the real thing. Especially in macro photography, the vibrant colors of flowers and insects are often what make the photos so attractive in the first place. Don’t let your colors get washed out and be sure to fit a filter on your lens before heading out.
It’s worth noting that using a polarizing filter will slow down your shutter speeds. Although you should be using a tripod for just about all macro photography anyway, it’s especially important if you have added a polarizing filter to your setup. The Landscape Filter class is a great way to learn how various filters and their uses.
No matter how steady your hands may be, when you are taking macro photographs, the slightest movement is noticeable in your images. You should always use a tripod in macro photography. If you have one, you should also use a remote release as even just pressing the shutter button could be enough to blur your subject.
Don’t Shoot on Windy Days
For the same reason that you should be using a tripod and a remote release, macro photography and wind do not play well together. The slightest movement from even a small breeze can completely mess up your macro photographs.
If you are forced to work in these conditions, try to be patient and wait for the wind to die down before taking a shot; also, increase your shutter speed slightly when possible.
Experiment with Distance
Macro photography is taking pictures up close, but how close is up to you. Look at your subject and try to find a specific detail that really interests you. Zoom in as close as you can and fill the frame with just this small subsection of your subject.
You can also back out a little bit to give your subject some breathing room. This little bit of background in the image can help to put your photograph into context and create a sense of scale. Since you’re going to be taking more than once shot of your subject most of the time anyway, take the few extra seconds to play around with distance and see what you come up with.
Lighting your subject properly is extremely important in macro photography. Obviously, natural light is always best when possible, but sometimes you will need an additional light source. Whatever you do, do not use the built-in flash on your camera as it creates harsh light that will wash out your macro subject.
Instead, use reflectors to move around existing light or use a ring flash to spread out artificial light more naturally. Proper lighting take some practice in any type of photography, but it is especially important in macro photography where even the slightest shadow can completely ruin an otherwise perfectly composed image.
Hopefully, these 10 macro photography tips will help you start taking better macro photographs right now. The best way to get better at taking macro is – yup, you guessed it…practice!