Macro photography has been such a source of inspiration in my photography over the years. It is an opportunity to see details and textures most never look for or can even see with the human eye.
What is Macro Photography?
By definition, macro photography is extreme close-up photography that allows the viewer to see things in an image that they might not be able to see with the naked eye. Another definition might be representing something as greater than life-size.
No matter how you define it, one of the most distinct characteristics of a macro photo is the exaggeration of depth of field. Generally, you'll have a sharp subject but everything else will be incredibly blurry and indistinguishable - much more so than with any other type of photography. This beautiful background bokeh is one of the reasons I love macro photography.
Macro Photography Tips
Follow the tips below to learn how you can create your own beautiful macro photos.
1. Macro Photography Gear
The simplest way to get started with macro photography is to purchase a macro lens. Most lens/camera manufacturers make one or more. Most are fixed focal length lenses (i.e. 50mm, 105mm, etc.)
If you don't have a macro lens and can't afford one right now, the next best option is to use your current lens along with extension tubes created for your camera mount. These will help your your current lens focus closer as well as increase magnification.
There are other tools that can also help you get started with macro photography including filters, teleconverters, taking the lens off your camera, flipping it around and reattaching the lens with a reverse adapter ring or just holding the reverse side of the lens to the camera (Freelensing). If you can't afford a macro lens right now, do some research and figure out the next best option for you.
2. Use Manual Focus for Macro Photos
One of the only times that I manually focus my shots is when I am shooting macro images. Auto focus works well for almost every other type of photography but, with the lower light available for macro shots and very shallow depth of field, lenses can often times struggle to grab focus on what we decide the focus to be. I generally start with auto focus and then move to manual focus if I find that auto focus is struggling.
Luckily, using manual focus is easy. Just switch your lens to manual focus and turn the focus ring until your subject is perfectly sharp. Then snap your photo.
3. Give Yourself Extra Depth of Field When Shooting Macro
You've probably noticed that the closer you are to your subject the less depth of field you have. This is magnified 10 times when shooting with a macro lens. You'll have better results at the beginning if you close down your aperture to give yourself a little more wiggle room in your focus (for example f/5.6-f/11).
Closing down your aperture will let less light into the image, so you will need to balance closing down your aperture with increasing your ISO and lowering your shutter speed if you need more light. This might even mean pulling out a tripod or finding something sturdy to rest your camera on for the shot.
4. Brace Yourself When You Shoot Macro
And this brings up our next point. When you are shooting macro photography, you are often dealing with very narrow depth of field. Any bit of movement will cause your image to be blurry. In order to fix this, you'll need to get your camera as stable as possible.
I enjoy shooting hand-held as often as often as I can, so I make sure to look for things around me that can help me to be more stable. I often lay down on the ground and use my arms/elbows as a tripod. When there is nothing to be found, I tuck my elbows in tight and hold my breath.
5. Take Lots of Macro Shots
I am not one to advocate the "spray and pray" method of photography. BUT I do shoot lots of frames when I am shooting macro images. This is particularly important if you are hand-holding your camera. I often shoot in bursts of 3 and may do that twice in order to get the one photo that is tack sharp. I will also check the screen on the back of the camera at 100% to ensure that my images are in focus. However, sometimes with the outside light it is difficult to see for sure.
Try Something New
Macro photography is SO much fun and offers a wonderful way to experiment and grow your photography skills in a completely new way. I always welcome the opportunity to be creative, so even if flowers aren't your thing, look for ways to use your macro skills on other subjects that DO get your attention. Macro is a great way to photograph any details—including baby, wedding, and food details.
Do you have any questions or comments about Macro Photography? Leave us a comment below - we would love to hear from you! And please share this post using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate that, too)!