Last week we covered the basics of macro photography. We discussed what it is, why we love it, and where to shoot. This week, as promised, we’ll delve into the question of how and explore the nuts and bolts of the technical side of shooting macro photography.
The key to successful macro photography is having meticulous attention to detail and being able to maintain precise focus on your subject.
Embrace a shallow depth of field. When shooting on the macro level, the success of your photo is contingent on millimeters. One millimeter too close or a shutter speed that is a fraction too slow and your image will be a complete blur. Not to worry, we’ve got you covered. Follow our macro photography tips below to ensure your shoot is a successful one.
Shoot in Manual – Take control of your camera and its settings. Manual focus will ensure that the miniscule details you hope to reveal become the main draw for your viewer’s eyes.
Use a Tripod – Caution, shooting a depth of field as narrow as one millimeter means that every twitch has the potential to ruin your photograph, and, let’s be honest with ourselves, the majority of us don’t have those cool, calm, and collected hands of a brain surgeon. Having a tripod is a surefire way to eliminate unwanted camera shake. Still feeling shaky? Use a remote shutter release or a self-timer to remove your hands from the camera.
Crank Up the Shutter Speed – Let’s face it, when you’re shooting outside you can’t control the elements. Wind and movement can distort an image, and, as much as we’d like them to, insects do not pose nor saunter across our camera, they skitter and are incredibly jerky. A fast shutter speed will capture a crisp image and remove any blur caused by an unexpected movement.
External Flash – Having your camera abnormally close to your subject will make lighting a challenge. The close proximity of your camera coupled with a fast shutter speed doesn’t leave much room for light to enter the camera. When natural light is insufficient, an external flash may prove useful. It will allow you to light your subject from different angles without producing unwanted shadows.
Eliminate Distracting Backgrounds – Shooting macro is about attracting the viewer to a specific detail, a hidden pattern of a mundane object, or an exquisite detail of a commonly overlooked insect. Draw attention to this detail by eliminating distracting backgrounds. Shoot with a big aperture (low f-stop) to reveal your subject as the focus of the picture and blur the background.
Use the Live View (LV) Function – A feature of most digital cameras, Live View allows you to compose your shot from a back monitor instead of the viewfinder. Especially useful for photographing wildlife, it can prevent you from spooking critters by keeping your imposing body far away from them, all the while getting your camera as close as the reach of your arms will allow. The bigger screen will also allow you to fine tune focusing more accurately and confidently.
Composition – As in all photography, composition is everything. Remember to use the rule of thirds, and, yes, even at this size, it’s still the golden rule to shoot by. Keep your subject in focus and place it in your viewfinder with a purpose.
Check out this beautiful Blurb book made by Sylke Uhlig revealing the beautiful images macro photography is capable of producing.