Macro photography is a specialty. It requires a certain appreciation for the small things to capture tiny fragments of life. The best macro subjects are practically invisible to the naked eye.
Skilled macro photographers notice the tiniest bug when they enter a garden of flowers; they see frost on the windshield of their car; they observe the morning dew on leaves. They stop to look for intricate pieces of “the whole,” sometimes abstracting their subject, and other times telling a more literal story.
Here are some helpful tips on getting started with macro photography from some of our favorite Moment Macro users:
When it comes to editing macro photos, I like to apply an editing tool that allows me to clarify the small details in this type of photos, so that I can emphasize them in a beautiful way. In many apps this tool is called “clarity” or “structure”. A recommendation that I would like to mention because it has worked for me (and it’s not a joke haha) is that when I press the shutter to take the photograph, I hold my breath so that even the slightest movement of my body can’t cause blur or sweep. With this type of photography, the focal points are greatly reduced due the closeness you have with the object.
Most of the time, I don’t plan shots. When the weather is right (for example, frost or dew) I go outside to shoot. I always carry my lenses in the pocket of my jacket so I am prepared for any kind of situation. In autumn I go out more often because the textures are awesome. I don’t always seek out textures, but 99% of my textural photos are from nature shoots. The ones with frost or water droplets are shots I try to find when I am out and about. I try to capture textures you normally wouldn’t see with the naked eye.
When I’m shooting macro, I am not simply looking to capture the “thing”—I am focused on composing a photo that captures the story of that particular moment and how the subject is interacting with the light and shapes that will share the frame. It’s really about context at the end of the day. My macro approach focuses away from telling the whole story and uses the details to create pieces of a puzzle that the viewer must put together. I try to create more abstract macros that leave the viewer wondering what is happening, where something is or what it even is. It’s not about showing a pretty flower … it’s about asking whether it’s a flower at all.
With macro, you don’t have to move much to get a different perspective. A lot of the time, I get several shots I really like that are totally different from each other. Weather and seasons and time of day can make the same old photo subject look totally different. You have to get up close and personal to see things differently. Most people might just shoot subjects at waist height and above, but if you kneel down, you’ll be introduced to a whole new world of things.
Since the macro lens requires a steady hand, mental focus, and just the right distance, I sometimes end up in some Twister-style positions to get the shot. I always try many angles on the same subject because sometimes it’s hard to tell if a shot really has captured a focus point and nice light. It also gives me lots of options to edit from. For example, when I find things like lichen and tiny mushrooms, I flip my iPhone upside down so that the camera is as close to the ground as possible to get a level perspective.
Insects are fun to shoot, but they are pretty tricky. I try to move very slowly and make sure that the phone and lens are getting as close to them as possible while I try to keep my body further away. That sometimes keeps them from flying off. Bees are nice because they are usually pretty distracted, gathering pollen, and ignore you. Non-bee flying bugs are pretty hard. My main advice is to slow down and keep trying. Also, given that the depth of field is so thin, I recommend lots of shots in hopes of getting one with the right sliver of focus. Even when the insect is willing to stay put, I often don’t get anything good because it doesn’t take much breeze or movement from the insect to get the focus to shift. I try to accept that there will be lots of failed shots on the way to the perfect one. And sometimes those failures can be interesting too.
Macro shots are some of the most rewarding images I believe you can get. When shooting macro, I like to have a color canvas so the details explode. You can do this by focusing on one or two key colors to highlight your subject. Any form of natural light is crucial for your macro shots to really shine to get those details and colors to pop. Find natural color; ditch the filters. I love filters just as much as the next person, but for macro, those natural colors will push through in your shot.
Whether you are a novice or professional photographer, try shooting macro next time you are out and about. You may just find a new favorite style of photography that you never knew existed.