Macro photography is an art of beautifully capturing the details in life. And like all arts, it needs skills and experience to master. There are little things that you need to follow to create a macro masterpiece and if you ensure to grasp them then you can become a next level photographer for sure!
These infallible tips and techniques have been compiled by our experts to help budding photographers excel at clicking macros. So scroll down to read the 10 of the most useful tips on macro photography that can change any photographer’s game:
Obviously, with so much variety in the market, you will find several lens choices for macro photography. But which of these options suit you best is a dilemma. Now making the right lens choice is very necessary as it is the single most focal gear. That is why we have simplified this decision for you.
Even though you can conduct macro using extension tubes with a normal lens for some magnification or use a normal reversed lens with extension tubes for even more magnification, but we believe the best option is to get a dedicated macro lens. Not only are these dedicated macro lenses most convenient and flexible option, but they also give the best results in macro photography.
Invest in the most useful models which feature a 1:1 magnification and have focal lengths between 90-105mm. These are also the most popular ones because when the user focuses on the subject as closely as possible, it gets bigger on the sensor as it is in reality.
You can go for shorter focal lengths like 50mm but they are difficult to work with as they have shorter working distances. This means that the users have to get very close to the subject, which is very risky.
You will find that the best 1:1 macro lenses with long focal lengths are made by most of the brands. From Sigma’s 105mm, Nikon’s 105mm, Canon’s 100mm, Samyang’s 100mm, Sony’s 90mm, and Tamron’s legendary 90mm, there is a vast variety available. You can’t go wrong with any of them as they produce comparable results.
Just ensure that you read the specification and reviews first and invest in the lens which has features that suit you most. Their cost also varies as they are priced between $400 and $1,000. These all provide great value for money and most of them have image stabilization, which makes composition a lot easier. So just pick the one that you feel the surest with and you will be good to go!
Location and weather
Some of the most exceptional images in macro photography revolve around capturing interesting subjects. Usually, these are small bugs, insects, flora and fauna, etc… Capturing these on-camera results in interesting abstract images full of color and details. But finding these fun subjects amongst normal life can be an issue.
So go for locations that are famous for flowers and plants. For example, botanical gardens have a lot to offer to a macro photographer. Then in my experience, weather is as important as the location. If you don’t want to be disappointed, then choose the best time for shooting, when the subject is active.
For example, if you want to capture insects then wait for the outside to get warmer, at about 17°C (63°F) you will see different insects wriggling outside. On the other hand, if you are want to shoot insects while they rest, then first you will have to find their home, and go on expeditions early in summer mornings. Just keep the location and weather in mind before leaving your home!
When shooting very small subjects, like bugs, the focal plane will be very narrow; only a few millimeters. Thus, the aperture has to be set at least F16 to get a chance of focusing on most of the species. So for smaller apertures and high shutter speed like these a flash is a must.
Most of the flashes in the market are suitable for macro photography. Even the in-built pop-up flash in cheaper DSLRs also work quite well.
Flash is not needed in every macro photography situations. For example, if there is plenty of sunlight and the user is okay with shooting at F2.8 or F4, then the flash is not required at all. This could be led to the upside of getting more natural-looking photos without any artificial flashlight.
Diffuser is recommended
If a flash is being used for macro photography, then it is highly recommended using a diffuser as well. A diffuser is a translucent white material which you can put between the subject and the flash. It can be anything.
So if you have a large light source, then the use of diffuser will led to smoother and softer shadows in your images. It will make the size of flash’s light much larger, thus making it look less harsh in the resulting photos, and making the colors come out better.
This is the reason why octa boxes are used in all sorts of photography and can be helpful in macro photography. If you don’t want to invest in it then just use a normal white paper and cut a hole in for the lens. It works just fine. For more professional outlook there are purpose made soft diffusers available in the market as well.
Higher Shutter speed
In macro photography, any tiny bit of vibration can ruin your whole image. Even the shake of your hands can make the subject jump around like crazy.
Now combine this with a subject that is already moving itself, for example, a bug resting on a plant that is swaying with the wind. This makes things difficult and a challenge for even professional photographers. That is why high shutter speed is recommended. Beginners should start with a shutter speed of 1/250 or even faster.
However, the downside is you will lose the benefit of using a slow shutter speed which helps in avoiding the black background which is caused by flashes in macro photograph.
Say goodbye to autofocus and tripods
First of all, autofocus has to be forgotten right away in macro photography as its lenses do not have a fast enough AF to keep up with the shaking which 1:1 magnification brings. It will be very helpful if you don’t use it from the very beginning, and manually focus instead.
This will make you a pro at shooting macro. Secondly, tripods have to be forgotten as well unless for shooting a completely static subject. They are completely useless in macro photography as the subjects are rarely static.
They are mostly used in studios for products and are very impractical when shooting outside. It will only take time to set up and leave you disappointed as even the slightest vibrations of the flower due to the wind will make the results blurry. Also, you will miss many opportunities while you waste 1 minute setting it up as the subject needs only seconds to completely vanish.
For those who prefer video to reading, here it is a video by Micael Widell who presents ten of his best tips about macro photography. Please enjoy:
As stated above, a close focusing distance means a very narrow focal plane. So the trick is to utilize this narrow focal plane in the best way to get amazing images. So, try finding subjects which are flat such as small flowers, butterflies side view, flat back beetles and place them in the focal plane.
Another way to utilize the narrow focal plane cleverly is to make the subject’s head “stick out” from the blurry background which results in an aesthetically pleasing image.
One of the most common newbie photographer mistakes is hat they conveniently snap the image from the exact position they stand in which is usually at a 45-degree angle towards the subject.
This makes all their images look alike and a similar angle make it boring and common. So it is necessary to find uncommon angles which haven’t been explored before to create something extraordinary. Instead of always shooting from the front, go sideways or shoot from top or bottom. This will add variety as well as a more attractive perspective.
Utilize flip-out screen if bottom crawling is not possible for you. Raise the platform where the subject is staged to give a cooler background.
Most beginners in macro photography always do the mistake of going for maximum magnification. They think that “the bigger the subject looks in the frame, the cooler the image will be.”
But in reality, an interesting subject doesn’t always look beautiful on full focus. You need to back off a little, to make the insect look as it is so that the details depict the surroundings.
Keep sharp objects and other items at bay
Last but not least, keep all kind of sharp objects such as knives and drills away from your expensive lens as even the slightest scratch can ruin our macro results. Also, avoid cigarette lighters and toothpaste because they might give an impressive onetime look but will ruin the lens forever.
I hope you found these tips helpful and would hold on to them tightly to create some marvelous macro images. Just embark on your photography adventure with the right gear, the right tips, and a small amount of luck!