Five Quick Tips For Getting Started in Macro Photography


Have you ever looked at macro images in National Geographic and wanted to shoot images just like that? There is a lot to learn before you can capture shots like that. Take a look at these tips on how to get your feet wet.

Image by WilliamCho

Master How to Light Your Subjects!

Image by GServo

Even lighting is very critical at the macro level, and there are entire lighting kits for macro work. If you already have an on-camera flash, the Orbis and the Ray Flash are popular choices.

The image above was most likely lit by softboxes off to the side and above, in order to get that shadowless look and to bring out the visible minute details. Try to imagine the image without it—it would be very dark.

Stop Your Lens Down and Stay Still!

Photo by Dabe Murphy

Stop your lens down to get your subject sharply in focus. Since I'm a Canon user, I've found this out by making mistakes using the 100mm F/2.8 L Hybrid IS. I recommend using a tripod to prevent camera shake even at faster shutterspeeds, because a stopped down lens lets in less light. The photo above was shot at F/11 at 1/60th of a second. You can see a softbox, which was needed for proper illumination.

Compose Your Images Differently

Image by maestropastelero

Compose your images in an eye-catching way, with a background that isn't distracting. Because of the smooth background in the image above, our eyes are drawn towards the droplet. Inside of the droplet is a curious shape: a globe with people around it holding hands. Incorporating fresh ideas like this into your photos will make them unique. More on this later.

Choose an Interesting Perspective on Your Subjects

Image by Andrew Morrell Photography

How about photographing a specific part of your pet? A new perspective on a common subject will always grab attention. Try different angles: shoot high, shoot low, shoot vertically, etc. Perhaps put your subject in a different environment to add contrasting elements.

Use Your Creative Freedom

Photo by Werner Kunz

Again, think out of the box. Making mistakes and experimenting is one of the best ways to start. Try playing with a random object. For example, take a small binder clip, give it stick on eyes from a craft store and make it eat something else besides paper.

Sure, this is a silly idea. But if you put it on Flickr, people will love it. Creativity will aid your framing and composition later on, when you try to shoot more professional photos.

One can easily say that the eye photo above is a reference for the eye being a window into the soul.

What tips can you offer beginner macro photographers?

Discussion 2

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I have a Macro Workshop that I conduct near Boston. 

There are a few things I emphasize -

1. Lighting.  As you mentioned, it is an image maker (or breaker).

We use combinations of existing light, off-camera flash, diffusers, gobos and reflectors to control the light, because we're often in a position where we're throwing a shadow on our subject. 

2. Equipment.  Many people have macro lenses, and they work well.  But most have never used extension tubes.  I *love* extension tubes for the extreme macro, where some tiny aspect of a larger subject reveals a world of its own. 

B&H sells them here

3. Subject matter.  As alluded to above, an extreme close up of a mundane subject becomes something completely unique and fascinating.

It's really worth a try.  Macro can be so much more than closeups of flowers...

Charlie MacPherson