10 Quick Macro Shooting Tips
Eliminate the variables, and you’ll end up with nothing but great shots
Text and Photos by Mason Resnick
The secret to successful macro photography is eliminating the variables.
Here’s a checklist of things that can get in the way of your capturing your macro subject clearly and accurately, and how to get rid of them so you can get down to the business of turning the mundane into the extraordinary.
1. Check focus: When shooting at 1:1 or higher magnifications, depth of field is extremely narrow. Make sure your camera’s diopter is set properly for your shooting eye, and triple-check focus before shooting.
2. Check focus again: After you shoot, if you’re using a digital camera, check the image in your LCD screen and zoom into it as far as your camera will let you to confirm that your subject is in focus.
3. Eliminate subject motion: If you’re outside shooting a flower’s stamen or any other high-magnification foliage, the slightest wind will not only mess up your composition, it will blur it. If possible, plant a stake in the ground and tether the flower to it to add stability. Use the fastest shutter speed you can get away with. If you are shooting at a small aperture, a ring flash or a pair of lens-mounted flash units is necessary.
4. Eliminate camera motion: You can control composition and eliminate the variable of a moving camera very simply: don’t move it. Put it on a tripod, a bean bag, or a mini-pod so it goes nowhere.
5. Don’t curse the darkness, add a flash: In studios, you can control all of the above variables and use any light you desire (hot lights, strobes, HMI, etc). But in the field, you don’t have control of the light. One moment you may be shooting in bright sunlight, the next under the dark canopy of a forest. It could be sunny or cloudy. The solution is to bring your own light–either a ring flash or a two-flash, lens-mounted setup. This way you can also stop down for greater depth of field and sharper focus. Want backlight? Bring a pocket slave. Overhead sun causing harsh shadows? Diffuse it with a translucent white umbrella.
6. Eliminate background clutter: Remember that the eye naturally goes to the brightest spot in a photo, so if you are shooting in mixed light, be aware of what’s in the background. You may need to change your point of view, get closer and fill the frame with your subject, or bring a sheet of plain paper or an 8×10-inch print of generic, highlight-free foliage to hold behind your subject (see Rick Sammon’s Practice Makes Perfect in Close-up Photography for more on this technique). You can also control background clutter by shooting at wider apertures, which reduces background focus, or using a ring light, which throws most backgrounds into darkness.
No distracting background: See that big white area patch behind the pre-blossomed flower? Get rid of it–the viewer’s eye will go there first.
7. Eliminate foreground clutter: If you’re shooting through dense foliage to get to something of interest, make sure this doesn’t block your view. If permissible, trim away blocking branches or leaves. If not, try to find another angle. Still no good? Move on.
8. Eliminate poor exposure: Be especially conscientious about metering and exposure when using a bellows or extension tubes and a handheld meter. The greater the distance between the rear element and the recording medium (film or sensor), the longer the exposure or wider the aperture. If your camera has TTL (through the lens) metering, you can relax–somewhat. Bright backgrounds can still mislead the meter, so bracket. Shooting digital? Check your histogram to confirm exposure’s right.
9. Eliminate grain and digital artifacts. With so little light reaching your film or sensor, you may be tempted to use fast film or pump up your digital camera’s ISO setting. Don’t. This adds grain or digital artifacts (also called noise), which is an unwanted distraction. The grain makes the image appear less sharp, which defeats the purpose of using a super-sharp lens at a smaller aperture. Use your digital camera’s lowest ISO setting, or a fine-grained film like Kodachrome 64 or Fuji Velvia, and add a tripod or flash to make up for the loss of light.
Be bold: Don’t be afraid of dramatic colors and lighting when composing in macro.
10. Eliminate bland subject matter: Be bold in your composition, look for stunning color, and don’t be afraid to experiment and create abstractions. The greatest benefit of Macro is how it transforms mundane subjects into worlds of wonder by enlarging them far beyond what the human eye is used to seeing. Pump up your digital camera’s color and contrast settings if that suits the subject. With a film cam, use super-saturated film.
Once you’ve eliminated the variables, it’s time to have fun. Keep shooting, and don’t be afraid to experiment. Shoot closer, and closer still. The closer you get, the more will be revealed for your waiting camera. Enjoy exploring and photographing the tiny worlds that await you!
Transform the mundane: Look at what happened when I shot a 1:1 macro detail of my daughter’s fuzzy slippers!
Buy My Prints Fine Art America
- Aerial Photography
- Feature Photo Shoots
- Featured Images
- Flowers and Plants
- Food and Vegetables
- My Flickr Photos
- Olympus Cameras
- Street Photography
- Trees Photography
- Urban Decay Photography
- Urban Landscape
- Water Falls Photography
- Wildlife Photography
Louis Dallara is a Fine Art Photographer who specializes in landscape photography of the New Jersey Pine Lands. There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs. Ansel Adams
- Washington Memorial Chapel March 18, 2023Louis Dallara Photography http://www.louisdallaraphotography.com/blog/ Shadows at Valley Forge The post Washington Memorial Chapel appeared first on Louis Dallara Photography.Louis Dallara
- Soft Landing at Bombay Hook, DE March 16, 2023Louis Dallara Photography http://www.louisdallaraphotography.com/blog/ Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge protects one of the largest remaining expanses of tidal salt marsh in the mid-Atlantic region. The post Soft Landing at Bombay Hook, DE appeared first on Louis Dallara Photography.Louis Dallara
- * Philadelphia Flower Show * March 14, 2023Louis Dallara Photography http://www.louisdallaraphotography.com/blog/ PHS Philadelphia Flower Shows The post * Philadelphia Flower Show * appeared first on Louis Dallara Photography.Louis Dallara
- Moorestown NJ Historic-Architecture March 11, 2023Louis Dallara Photography http://www.louisdallaraphotography.com/blog/ Moorestown NJ Historic-Architecture The post Moorestown NJ Historic-Architecture appeared first on Louis Dallara Photography.Louis Dallara
- * My Street Photography * March 5, 2023Louis Dallara Photography http://www.louisdallaraphotography.com/blog/ Some photographers looking to shoot some models. The post * My Street Photography * appeared first on Louis Dallara Photography.Louis Dallara
- Purple Wisteria Flower February 28, 2023Louis Dallara Photography http://www.louisdallaraphotography.com/blog/ The bright purple Wisteria is seen in my front yard by the telephone pole, draping its blooms from the vines. The post Purple Wisteria Flower appeared first on Louis Dallara Photography.Louis Dallara
- Washington Memorial Chapel March 18, 2023
Leave a Reply