This genre of photography has become an extensive form of art. This is due to innovations in technology. Thanks to today’s new cameras, both professional DSLRs and smartphones they can easily capture macro shots with just one button.
It may have become more accessible, but you have to learn more than pressing one button to get the desired results. The button won’t 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 overview what macro is really about and how it is done.
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What is Macro Photography?
It is a unique form of photography that revolves around small objects and photographs them to make them look larger and life-sized than they are.
The most used subjects are flowers, small insects, and minute organisms that people cannot usually see up close with their naked eyes. It is not only used to capture small objects, but it is also used to bring 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 film and digital gadgets.
How is macro photography done?
Macro photography truly depends on the level of magnification. 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 authentic 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, enabling a user to capture very close shots even from an observable distance from the object. This is because the camera lens elements in the camera automatically adjust; thus, they move closer to the camera sensors 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 in on 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 reduced image quality.
So resorting to such measures cannot substitute macro photography as it cannot yield desirable results. Macro images have their essence, which cannot be replaced.
So what should you do to 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. Still, 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 the 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, they cannot provide the same 1:1 magnification that a macro lens provides. So if you want results similar to magazine and gallery macro images, you need to get a dedicated macro lens that suits your camera.
A macro lens that has long focal lengths is 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 plan 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 used microphotography subjects are small insects, water droplets, butterflies, and small items like miniature dolls, accessories, household items, jewelry, and coins. It is easier to photograph 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 photographing small moving objects is to capture them from a safe distance and not be 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 a 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 of anything above 90mm, which you can get from macro lenses like the Tokina AT-X100mm f/2.8 PRO D.
Incorporating accessories to aid you
Remember, even with a dedicated macro lens. You will need to assist accessories in achieving spectacular macro shots. So to conduct exceptional macro photography, incorporate accessories in your kit. There’s what they call a diopter.
You can use tripods to achieve stability or utilize tubes or bellows, which are accordion-like parts that can expand and help a camera achieve ultra-tight close-ups. You can use lens adapters, which will enable you to control the aperture and reverse the lens manually.
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 subject’s position. You can change the lighting and background as per your liking.
So place your desired background, which matches the subject and the composition, to ensure that they don’t clash.
Bonus tip: Expert photographers prefer the contrasting backgrounds 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 make sure that the subject’s vital aspects 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 substantial aperture as it will reduce the depth of field and cause many aspects of the means subject to blur. 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 that will allow you to focus on the most vital parts of your subject and ensure that your image remains sharp and a beautifully maintained bokeh. Thus, you will have the largest aperture that will lead to such results.
Creating better lighting
One of the most important photography components is light, and it is also a key for macro photographers. Creating good lighting conditions is 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 uses a ring flash, which enables the use of smaller apertures and helps beginners 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, a photographer must learn how to enhance their composition in-camera.
This means properly framing their subject before pressing the shutter and not relying heavily on post-processing to amend the composition. It is crucial for macro photography as it results in high-resolution images instead of poor picture quality of cropped images.
Planning the point of focus
To get a perfect shot, you need to focus correctly on your subject and press the shutter. But remember, this sounds easy, but it is not because the emphasis is on macro photography. It will do you good to realize that point of focus matters in macro shots as it greatly improves the composition. Using a tripod (depending on the subject) may highly improve the picture’s quality.
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 a rewarding style of photography, even though it is complicated for a lot of beginners.
Yes, there are many things to remember and many skills 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.
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