Macro Photography: Tips and Techniques

Do the details of a photo catch your attention? They can be photographed through macro photography, which is a type of photo that captures image details that are not visible to the human eye.

It can be very interesting to see small subjects become big wide images, such as insects and water drops. In the macro photo of a ladybug, for example, we can visualize the eyes of the ladybug and the parts of its body with colors and all details.

Another interesting type of macro photo is images of small flowers and parts of plants that give us an expanded dimension in ways impossible to be seen by the human eye.

Tips of Macro Photography
Macro Photo of an Insect

Taking macro photos can be done with the macro function on cameras, a.k.a. macro mode, both professional cameras and smartphones support macro photography. This camera mode needs to be combined with macro photography techniques.

In this post you will discover great macro photography tips and techniques for taking beautiful macro photos.

Let’s get started!

The importance of choosing a simple photo subject

The main rule for taking good macro photos is to make it as simple as possible by isolating the subject of your photo. “Subject” doesn’t mean the topic of your macro photos, such as “macro photography of insects” or “macro photography of flowers”. The photo subject means the object, thing or living being that you will photograph.

Tips on How to Compose Macro Photos
Macro Photo of a Butterfly Sitting on a Flower

It can be small animals, water drops, souvenirs, plants, ice crystals, ice cubes and many other things. Those are just a few examples, be creative and search for small elements to photograph!

Also, don’t worry too much about searching for a good photo background. Usually, the backgrounds of macro photos have a simple arrangement that complements the photo subject without distracting the viewer. The backgrounds of macro photos should be clean and simple.

For example, if you’re taking macro photos of an outdoors plant and there are dry branches or any other elements around that are making the background messy and cluttered, remove them from the photo scene (physically, if possible). Always avoid too much color.

Camera tripods for image stability

It’s really important to get a Tripod for granting good results when taking macro photos, even if you’re using your smartphone’s camera. With a Tripod, your photos will be more sharp and clear. Also, using a tripod will help you a lot when focusing on the photo subject and will avoid shooting blurry or shaky pictures.

Just remember that the wind can be a little tricky to deal with, even when your camera is attached to a Tripod because even the small movements of a flower when the wind blows results in blurry photos. So try to choose a place without too many wind currents.

Macro lenses for image size magnification

A photo is considered macro when the size of the subject is photographed with an aspect ratio between 1:1 and 10:1, that is, when the photo subject size in the photo is magnified 10 times or more when compared to its real size. To achieve those results, you need a macro lens for your camera.

How to Take Macro Photos
Macro Photo of a Flower

There are macro lenses both for Professional Cameras and for smartphones. The most commonly used macro lens models are those with a 1:1 magnification ratio and a focal length of 90 and 105mm. You can also opt for shorter focal lengths such as 50 or 60 mm, but you will have to get closer to your photo subject for getting better results.

Camera flash and shutter speed settings for macro photography

Now you will see how to set up the camera shutter speed and the camera flash for macro photography. Some of the tips below work on Professional Cameras only. If you use your smartphone’s camera, you can search on the Internet for tutorials on how to set up a smartphone to those specific settings because there are different ways to do that based on the phone brand and model. Also, we show you how to set up your smartphone for this type of photography ahead in the post.

Camera Flash

When you need to magnify an image a lot, the ambient lighting alone usually isn’t enough to take good macro shots. So it’s recommended to use a pair of side flashes, ring flashes, a directed flash with a diffuser or a ring LED lighting system.

However, you can get good macro shots in natural lighting, if you set the camera aperture (f) to f/2.8 or to f/4 and there is a lot of sunlight around, the flash light won’t be necessarily needed.

If you are using a flash, it is recommended that you also use a flash diffuser. Any white, translucent material you can place between the flash and your photo subject can work as a flash diffuser, that’s good because diffusers make the flash light size much larger and less harsh, so the colors of the photos become more vivid.

Macro Photography Techniques
Macro Photo of a Caterpillar

Shutter Speed

Taking a macro photo is often not an easy task. Capturing an image of flowers or insects on a plant being blown by the wind is a real challenge. Therefore, a high camera shutter speed is required. Set the shutter speed to 1/250 sec or faster. With a macro lens of short focal length, you can take beautiful pictures even with a shutter speed of 1/40 sec (which is slower).

The advantage of using a slow shutter speed is that you can avoid the black background that may appear when you use flash. At the beginning you can start with a faster shutter speed. With practice and time, you can gradually lower the shutter speed and keep testing it combined with the flash light.

How to take macro photos with a smartphone

For taking macro photos with your smartphone, the first thing you need to do is check if your smartphone has macro mode. You can search on the Internet for tutorials on how to set up your smartphone to macro mode based on its brand and model and see if you find anything.

If your smartphone doesn’t have macro mode, use its built-in camera zoom to magnify images. Be careful and observe how your camera’s zoom magnifies the images when you get too close to an object because sometimes the image can lose quality. To avoid that, stay a little far from the photo subject.

Tips on How to Take Macro Photos
Macro Photo of a Mushroom

You can also get a mobile zoom lens for your smartphone because it will be easier to take macro photos, but you should never zoom in too much to avoid losing image quality and image focus. If your smartphone doesn’t have a zoom lens, bring your cell phone closer to the object and then test the focus until you get the best image to take the photo.

It’s recommended to take macro photos during the day if you’re using a smartphone, especially when there is a good amount of sunlight. That usually happens in the early morning or in the afternoon.

With the help of a magnifying glass, you can direct the sun rays towards the focus subject of your photo, making a very nice effect!

Conclusion

Great! Now you know the importance of choosing a simple photo subject for macro photography, how camera tripods grant you image stability, what macro lenses are, how to set up camera flash and shutter speed for macro photography and how to take macro photos with a smartphone! So don’t hesitate to put what you’ve learned into practice!

You can also share your thoughts in the comments below!

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