Macro photography makes tiny things feel big and important, but when photographing tiny things, you can potentially run into a lot of big problems. Getting in close means camera shake is more obvious. Focus must be dead on. The slightest breeze can introduce even more blur. But, you can overcome these challenges and get big shots of little things by incorporating a few macro photography tips. Here’s what beginners need to know to snap great macro photos.
Use a tripod.
Magnifying a subject also magnifies camera shake. If you can, use a tripod. Look for a tripod that has a short height minimum, so you can get down close to things like flowers and a bug on a blade of grass. Alternatively, you can also pick up a tabletop tripod. These are often cheaper and more portable, you simply can’t use them at your eye level for other types of photos.
If you can’t use a tripod, steady your camera the best that you can. Often, propping both elbows up and supporting the camera with both hands helps. You’ll need a faster shutter speed when shooting macro handheld.
Check your background.
To really draw attention to your subject, check your background. Busy backgrounds are distracting; simple backgrounds work best for macro photography. Look for different angles that have a simpler background in them. If you’re shooting plant life, you can often use one hand to move the flower a bit more to a better background. Just make sure you’re not destructive.
If you can’t find a simple backdrop, one technique is to use a flash to underexpose the background, leaving you with black behind your subject. This works for subjects that don’t have other objects close by or the flash will light up those objects too. Turn your flash on and use spot metering. This also works better if the subject is in the sun and the background is shaded.
Be aperture aware.
The closer you are to the subject, the deeper your depth of field will be. That means you’ll get soft, out-of-focus backgrounds even without a wide open aperture. But that also means it’s tricky to get the focus just right. Shoot wide open and up close, and only a very small portion of the image will be in focus. Use the depth of field preview button to ensure you get what you want in focus. You’ll need a narrow aperture to get an entire bug in focus instead of just part of it, for example.
Can you use wide apertures for macro photography? Sure, and you can use narrow ones too. Wide apertures in macro photography are helpful for eliminating distracting backgrounds, while narrow ones help keep the subject in focus. Of course, you can (and should) find a happy medium too.
Look for patterns.
Macro photography makes us notice things that we may not otherwise pay attention to. Using pattern is an excellent way to highlight that. The repeating shape on a mushroom, for example, makes a good pattern. Look for patterns that break too, like three blades of grass and one with a ladybug on it.
Pattern is also an excellent way to embrace abstract photography. Getting in close on something that’s full of pattern is a great way to create an abstract image. Just because the camera captures just what we can see doesn’t mean you can’t take a close-up that makes people wonder, what is that?
Getting in close is also a good way to highlight colors you may not have noticed before. Consider color as you make your composition. Are there any distracting colors in the shot? Are there any colors that pop and immediately draw the eye? Try using that pop of color as your focal point, and adjust your perspective to eliminate distracting colors.