This genre of photography has become a very broad form of art. This is due to new innovations in technology. Thanks to today’s new cameras, both professional DSLRs and smartphones, as they have the ability to capture easily macro shots by just one button.
But it may have become easier but to get desired results you have to learn more than pressing one button. The button won’t be able to get the perfect image for you if you don’t learn the right tips and techniques.
Before learning the essence of macro photography and taking it to the next level, let us give you an overview of what macro is really about and how it is done.
What is Macro Photography?
It is a unique form of photography which revolves around small objects and photographs them to make them look larger and life-sized then they really are.
The most used subjects are flowers, small insects, and minute organisms that people cannot normally see up close with their naked eyes. It not only used to captures small objects but it is also used to bringing out intricate features in inanimate objects, jewelry and other detailed objects.
Not only is it a genre itself but it is also incorporated in many niches of photography – be it travel, action, wildlife, portraiture and event photography. It can be done via both the film and digital gadgets.
How is macro photography done?
Macro photography truly depends on the level of magnification. Mostly the magnification is ideal at 1:1, which means a 1-inch object is also projected on the camera sensor at 1-inch.
The same 1-inch object will be projected at half life-size and would take up a half inch on the camera. Nevertheless, in true macro photography, the subject is usually magnified at a ratio of 1:1 or higher.
Nowadays, both DSLRs and point-and-shoot cameras come with a built-in macro mode which enables a user to capture very close shots even from an observable distance from the object. This is because the lens elements in the camera automatically adjust; thus they move closer to the sensors in the camera in a way that best suits close focusing.
This is all done without requiring extra macro tubes and lenses. But if you want exceptional macro photography, instead of using the inbuilt macro mode it is better to use a dedicated macro lens because it produces better results as they are accessories designed to enable your camera to shoot macro.
Macro vs magnification:
You can also create a macro image without conducting macro photography, by just zooming an already captured photo or cropping things out to make your subject look magnified.
But this is faking a macro image and most digital outputs lead to ineffective magnification and reduces image quality.
So resorting to such measures cannot substitute macro photography as it cannot yield desirable results. Macro images have their own essence which cannot be replaced.
So what should you do achieve excellence in macro photography? It is not only the right gear you need but also the right skills and lots of practice.
You can get the most expensive macro lens from the market as there is a wide range available and they might be optimized to achieve 10x magnification, but without experience, you won’t be able to execute it well.
To get professional macro images, you need to know how to use the right gear as well. To become a pro at macro photography you need to master your camera settings, adjust your position, and modify other factors to suit your shooting requirements.
It might look easy but in reality, macro shooting is complicated. But don’t worry, here are top 10 tips for capturing macro images which will make the whole process, from the beginning till the pressing of the shutter, easier for you:
Top 10 Tips for Macro Photography
Find an excellent macro lens
Even though most cameras today offer a macro mode in their settings, but they cannot provide the same 1:1 magnification which a macro lens provides. So if you want results similar to magazine and gallery macro images, then you need to get a dedicated macro lens which suits your camera.
A macro lens that have long focal lengths are more desirable, so go for them. You will find a large variety in the market of Canon macro lenses which will offer 1:1 magnification and more to fit your Canon camera.
They might be pricey, but believe us, they are worth the investment as they create wonderful macro shots that pay it all off.
Bonus tip: Choose a lens depending upon your subject, for example, if you are planning to shoot flat objects like coins and stamps, then go for a “flat-field” macro lens which provides you with edge-to-edge sharpness.
Choosing a suitable subject
Contrary to popular belief, capture as much as you can. Macro cannot capture everything well as not everything can become a macro subject. Some subjects are indiscernible even when viewed with a close up thus not even a macro lens can’t define their context.
So if you want your viewer to appreciate your work, you need to capture a subject that they can comprehend in your macro shot. Remember, there is no one right subject, it depends upon your preference and aesthetics.
All you have to make sure is that the subject photographed doesn’t appear to be confusing while in macro mode and remains aesthetically pleasing in the eyes of your viewer. Anything that falls within this category can qualify as a suitable subject.
Mainly subjects that are used in micro photography are small insects, water droplets, butterflies, and small items like miniature dolls, accessories, household items, jewelry, and coins. It is easier to photography Inanimate objects as they are stationary, while, on the other hand, moving subjects like insects and bugs can become a challenge to capture.
Bonus tip: a key to photograph small moving objects is to capture them from a safe distance so that they are not scared. This avoids their movements and enables you to capture a still shot.
Using a long focal length for subjects that are alive
Choose your lens according to your subject, because you should go for longer focal lengths if you want to shoot animate objects like living animals. You will have to capture them from distance and for that, you have to “digitally” move in closer without physically moving or else they will get scared away.
So if you want to photograph them close-up in their natural environment without disturbing them then you should have a focal length anything above 90mm, which you can get from macro lenses like the Tokina AT-X 100mm f/2.8 PRO D.
Incorporating accessories to aid you
Remember even with a dedicated macro lens, you will need assisting accessories to achieve spectacular macro shots. So to conduct exceptional macro photography incorporate accessories in your kit. There’s what they call a diopter.
You can make use of tripods to achieve stability or utilize tubes or bellows which are accordion-like parts which can expand and help a camera achieve ultra-tight close-ups. You can use lens adapters which will enable you to manually control the aperture and reverse the lens.
Customizing the background
Background matters a lot in macro photography. For inanimate objects you can easily customize the background as you have complete control over the position of the subject, you can change the lighting and background as per your liking.
So place your desired background which matches with the subject and the composition to ensure that they don’t clash.
Bonus tip: Expert photographers prefer to make use of contrasting background to create a beautiful background blur by placing the subject farther away from the backdrop.
Focus on the depth of field
Most photographers use smaller apertures as this enables them to increase the depth of field and makes sure that the vital aspects of the subject are in focus and are sharp. However, this leads to a problem of diffracted and reduced light which greatly reduces the sharpness of your overall image.
But, you cannot use a very large aperture as it will reduce the depth of field, and will cause many aspects of the means subject to blur. So to achieve a balance between the hardest desired depth of field and sharpness is the hardest part of macro photography.
You have to shoot from a perspective which will allow you to focus the most vital parts of your subject and also ensures that your image remains sharp along with a beautifully maintained bokeh. Thus, you will have to the largest aperture that will lead to such results.
Creating better lighting
One of the most important components of photography is light, and it is also a key for macro photographers. Creating good lighting conditions is obviously necessary for a macro shot as well because it greatly benefits results.
Not only does it artistically improve the shots, but by adding the light you can support your exposure settings. The tip is to use a ring flash which enables the use of smaller apertures and help beginners and utilize faster shutter speeds, especially when conducting handheld shots of moving objects.
Improving the in-camera composition
No matter what photography genre it is, the in-camera composition is a vital key for all. And for shooting macro it is necessary for a photographer to learn how to enhance their composition in-camera.
This means to properly frame their subject before pressing the shutter and not to rely heavily on post-processing to amend the composition. It is crucial for macro photography as it results in images of high resolution, instead of poor picture quality of cropped images.
Planning the point of focus
To get a perfect shot, what you really need to do is focus correctly on your subject and press the shutter. But remember this sound easy but it is not because the emphasis is on focus in macro photography. It will do you good to realize sooner that point of focus really matters in macro shots as it greatly improves the composition. Using a tripod (depending on subject) may highly improve picture’s quality.
So learning to focus on different aspects of the frame manually and changing your focus to gain interesting and different perspectives can take macro photos to a whole new level.
Macro photography is known to be a rewarding style of photography, even though it is complicated for a lot of beginners.
Yes, there are a lot of things to remember and many skills to be learned to become a professional macro photographer, it all eventually pays off. Just remember to practice a lot and make it a habit. It will require time so be patient and everything will fall into place.