tips & tricks | 10 macro photography tips

10 macro photography tips

“When you learn, teach; when you get, give.” – Maya Angelou

I’m excited to announce that I’m starting a new series on my blog called, tips & tricks. I’ve learned so much about photography and design from others (whether it be something I’ve read on the web, a course I’ve taken, or advice from another artist), that I wanted to regularly share with you some of the many things I’ve learned on my creative journey!

Many of you have asked how to take better close-up photos after following my macro monday series.  I love close-up photos!  And I think macro photography opens up such an exciting world to explore! So, I begin this new tips & tricks series with 10 tips for better macro photography.

01 | Use either a macro lens, extension tubes, or close-up filters

People often ask me why their photos often appear so blurry when they try to get close to their subject. The answer is you probably aren’t using the right lens! A regular kit lens will not let you focus really closely on a subject because it was simply not designed to do so. Hence, you need a macro lens (a 100mm macro is great, but pricey), extension tubes (which go between your camera body and your lens), or close-up filters (very inexpensive, but not the best optical quality). I personally use a set of kenko extension tubes paired with my 50mm f/1.4 lens. The prime lens gives me really sharp photos, and I simply move in closer to get closer.

02 | Set your camera to manual focus

Trying to focus on something that is really close with automatic focus can drive a person crazy. The lens will often whirr and whiz endlessly, trying to find a focus point.  Setting your camera to manual focus, and then manually choosing a focus point will prove to be much less frustrating.  

03 | Set your camera to continuous mode

With moving objects (whether they are moving insects or flowers blowing in the wind), setting your camera to continuous shooting mode will provide you a better chance of getting at least one of your shots in focus. I also try to brace myself against something, so that the camera will be as steady as possible. 

04 | Use a tripod

For tack sharp macro photos, a tripod is a must. If you are willing to sacrifice some noise, you can raise your ISO to reduce camera shake for a sharper photo without using a tripod. However, for subjects that are in dim lighting, or when you’d like your subject to be completely in focus (f/11 or higher), a tripod is highly recommended. In general, for handheld macro shots, if your focal length is 100mm, then your shutter speed should be 1/100 sec or faster.

05 | Seek bright, overcast light

Aim for bright, overcast light or covered shade to really bring out the beautiful details and texture of your subject. If your lighting is too dim, the magnification of the subject from a macro lens makes it really difficult to get a sharp photo. Plus, if the light is too strong, as with direct sunlight, the shadows that are produced may be very harsh and unattractive.

06 | Pay attention to your backgrounds

When subjects are so close, backgrounds are much more evident and can ruin an image. Try changing the angle at which you shoot, so that the background is cleaner when you take your shot. I have even tried putting a large leaf behind my subject and moving my subject just to give it a less distracting background.

07 | Shoot with different apertures

Depending on the subject and the message I want to convey, I will shoot my subject with different aperture settings. For example, if I want to convey a feeling of softness or delicacy, I will use a wider aperture for an ethereal feeling. Sometimes I want the entire shot to be in focus, so I will choose a narrower aperture. One thing to remember, try not to use too wide of an aperture for macro photography, as the extremely close distance may result in only a sliver of the subject in focus. On most occasions, I try to keep my f-stop no lower than f/3.5. 

08 | Shoot early in the morning

Although most people don’t like to crawl out of bed in the wee morning hours (including myself), the air is much more still, the light is softer, and you can catch wonderful shots of dew. Plus, early morning light is great for backlighting.

09 | Bring your subject inside

Wind is the enemy of macro photography. If at all possible, bring your subject inside. Pick your flower and put it in a vase at home. If brave enough, capture your bug and photograph it indoors (in a container, of course). If you are new to macro photography, working in wind can be extremely frustrating as the slightest movement will cause motion blur. Practice indoors in a more controlled environment first. 

10 | Experiment with different subjects

Macro brings a whole new world into view — literally! Flowers and insects are beautiful, yet obvious subjects. How about photographing water droplets, reflections, wood, rust, fabric, the body, snowflakes, and one of my favorites — food!

I hope these tips are helpful. Have fun with macro photography — I’m excited to see and hear what you come up with!

I would love to hear what else you’d like to learn or know more about! Please feel free to ask questions or leave some ideas in the comments section below, on my contact form, or on my facebook page. Check back to learn more tips & tricks!


40 comments

  1. Interesting tips, especially re: background. I’ve often thought I’d taken the greatest macro shot only to discover after downloading that the background kind of ruined it, just as you said. Looking forward to more of your tips!

  2. Thanks so much for posting this! I have a 100mm macro lens and I can never seem to get my macro shots right. Though I have found my macro lens is great for photographing portraits (of food) and I now prefer to use that for most of my other photography. But now with your tips I can practice macro a bit more and use the lens for what I bought it for!

    • Ha ha — so glad you liked this post, beachcomber! :) I hope it’s helpful and you get the chance to shoot some macro — plus it’s great for taking pictures of all those etsy crafts you’ve been buying lately ;)

  3. Pingback: design | font love | neelywang | photography + design

  4. Very nice! I knew all these. The one I struggle most is lighting and inside shooting. I’m an outside person. :D I need to buy new flasher because I broke one last year.

  5. Pingback: Messing with Macro | Living Lightly


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