The beauty of close-up photography is all about discovering the little things in everyday life, such as the patterns of a snowflake or the wings of a butterfly. Potential subjects are all around you, both indoors and outdoors particularly in the garden. No matter what you prefer shooting, exploring the world through macro lens is one of a photographer’s greatest pleasures, just keep trying! Here are some tips to help you get started or to improve your skills…
Flowers are perfect for macro photography due to it’s beauty and symmetry, plus it is an easily accessible subject.
1. Start Early
Morning light (8:30 – 9:30AM) is particularly attractive and warm on flowers, complementing the colorful elements. Just be sure it’s a still day as wind will affect the focus and composition.
2. Use Reflectors
Sometimes dark shadows are unavoidable, especially during daytime shoots. To counter this, use a small reflector to bounce light off the flower and move it around to find the best natural-looking light with perfect exposure.
Most nature photographs are taken in landscape format. How about looking at a subject on a horizontal or vertical level instead? Personally, horizontal is more versatile and easier to shoot as it includes the stem as well.
4. Bokeh Effect
This is an artistic way of producing blurred, out-of-focus shots by a lens. To create this effect, use a wide aperture of perhaps a f1.4 setting for fantastic-looking flowers that stand out in the frame.
This technique shoots multiple frames on different angles, ensuring that the subject remains sharp in at least one frame. These frames are then combined into a composite image using Photoshop. So if time is not an issue for you, master this skill!
6. Depth of Field
Use a shallow depth-of-field for more artistic and flattering pictures of your blooms. Opt for smaller aperture for maximum focus and light, like the tip of a petal for example. This is another option to shooting something more aesthetic like a blurred-out image.
The insect world is full of shooting options from alien-looking bugs with protruding eyes, spindly limbed grasshoppers, to butterflies with their detailed wings.
7. Steady Hold
While a tripod provides support, it’s not the best bet for insect photography since the subjects are not likely to wait and pose for you while you set up, right? One alternative is increasing the shutter speed to double the focal length of your lens. Ex: 90mm macro = shutter of 1/180sec.
Insects can be found anywhere outside in your garden or local parks and woodland areas. Look among tall grasses, atop flowers and along hedgerows for small crawlers like beetles, grasshoppers and butterflies.
9. Low Viewpoint
This angle provides the most natural-looking shots but you’ve got to lay on the ground and prop your elbows as support. Using a bigger aperture setting will create a wider landscape but possibly distracting.
How do you capture the details on the underside of butterfly wings, for example? Shadows are inevitable sometimes so the best thing is using a reflector to angle light onto the subject instead and voila, beautiful details captured!
11.Patience is Key
Just like any wildlife, insects can be a challenging subject to shoot. Move into a position slowly and try not to rustle any leaves or cast shadows over the subject. It may take some time before you get a good shot but don’t give up!
The background, of course! Make your subject stand out from the scene by setting an aperture of f/5.6 to render the background as blurred but do maintain precise focus due to the limited depth-of-field.
This is the most precise method of focusing and is best used for close-up shots, however it does require patience to produce results. This gives you full control especially when you’re shooting at a narrow depth of field.
Water is incredibly photogenic and there are endless ways to shoot it, whether is it a single drop or in large quantities.
14. Simple Starter
One shot often recreated by photographers is the close-up of a droplet splashing into water. Yes, it may seem overdone but do it well and you can create more of such striking images. Plus, all you need is a simple table set-up, digital camera, macro lens, flashgun and other little things for effect (but not necessary).
This is where creativity lies. To do this, focus on a row of droplets and place a flower (or anything colorful) behind them until you can see it in the droplets. Blur out the subject behind and capture the refracted droplets.
Change up your angles or framing for a dramatic difference to the shot. Various viewpoints will give you the best compositions, such as including the whole subject in the frame or focus on a certain feature, or even use a shallow depth-of-field for extreme close-up shots.
17. DIY Droplets
Use a plastic syringe for more defined droplets on your subject or you can use a spray bottle instead for volume but make sure it has a fine spray. The best choice of liquid is saline solution for contact lenses as the thicker drop will hold it’s form for a longer time than regular H2O.
18. Single Point AF
Use this camera setting for better control of the camera focus. You can manually adjust where and which part of the water droplets you aim to shoot.
Experiment with extension tubes as they are more affordable than macro lens. This is a plastic equipment that sits between a camera’s body and the lens. To create the best effect, set your lens to manual focus as auto will not work well in this case.
20. Add interest
Try adding more droplets on the surface for more interesting styles. It can be quite tedious to get the relative size for all the droplets but it will be worth it. Use a wide aperture to focus on one droplet or a narrower option to shoot the liquid beads.
Transform everyday objects into interesting elements! It could be anything from canned soda to feathers or your kids’ toys!
21. Right exposure
Always check your light settings for the best exposure. To isolate a subject, carefully frame it properly within the shot and use a wide aperture along with a rather fast shutter speed to compensate for the light.
22. Tell a Story
Look for subjects that have sentimental meaning and emotions. Play around to find the right aperture or blur out any distracting elements. For images such as the one below, you may need to use remote release to minimize the shake and sharpen the focal point.
This technique works well with sliced fruit! Many fruits are semi-transparent when cut and is perfect for being a backlit subject. You might need a lightbox for this but the results are stunning! Use a colorful variety including citrus fruits as they photography best with light.
You’ll be surprised by shooting in RAW mode will create sharper shots as compared to JPEG. The difference lies in the memory standards with the former records all data from the sensor so it’s easier to edit an image without compromising too much on quality.
Speaking of editing, don’t be afraid to use Photoshop to enhance your images. There are so many layers and tools you can use in design softwares to truly bring your subject to life. There are also free options out there like GIMP and Inkscape so you’re all set to explore!
26. Have Fun!
Need we say more?
And that’s that! These tips will help you along your journey of mastering the art of close-up photography! There are no rules for shooting, feel free to experiment and take good notes! Share any other tips with us on the comment box below!