Macro photography is the art of beautifully capturing the details in life. And like all arts, it needs skills and experience to master. You need to follow little things to create a macro masterpiece, and if you ensure to grasp them, you can become a next level photographer for sure!
Tips on macro photography:
Our experts have compiled these infallible tips and techniques 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 macro photography lens choices. 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 the 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 most brands make the best 1:1 macro lenses with long focal lengths. From Sigma’s 105mm, Nikon’s 105mm, Canon’s 100mm, Samyang’s 100mm, Sony’s 90mm, and Tamron’s legendary 90mm, there is a wide 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 with 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, making composition a lot easier. Just pick the one 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, the weather is as important as the location. If you don’t want to be disappointed, choose the best time to shoot 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 want to shoot insects while they rest, you will have to find their home and go on expeditions early in the summer mornings. Just keep the location and weather in mind before leaving your home!
When shooting tiny 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 works 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. 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, it is highly recommended using a diffuser. A diffuser is a translucent white material that you can put between the subject and the flash. It can be anything.
So if you have a large light source, then diffusers’ use will lead to smoother and softer shadows in your images. It will make the size of flash’s light much larger, making it look less harsh in the resulting photos and making the colors come out better.
This is 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 use a normal white paper and cut a hole in for the lens. It works just fine. For a 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 that you will lose the benefit of using a slow shutter speed, which helps avoid the black background caused by flashes in the 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 beneficial 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 flower’s slightest vibrations due to the wind will make the results blurry. You will also miss many opportunities while you waste 1 minute setting it up as the subject needs only seconds to vanish completely.
Here is a video by Micael Widell, who presents ten of his best tips about macro photography for those who prefer video to reading. 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 flattened subjects such as small flowers, butterflies side view, flat back beetles, and place them in the focal plane.
Another way to utilize the small 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 photographers’ mistakes is that they conveniently snap the image from the exact position they stand in, usually at a 45-degree angle towards the subject.
This makes all their images look alike, and a similar angle makes it boring and common. So it is necessary to find different angles that 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 make 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. It would help if you backed 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 kinds 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 and destroy 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 advice, and a small amount of luck!