Three Tips to Shooting Better Macros

At some point, the allure of macro photography in all its intricate detail entices us all to either buy or rent some glass that has the power to take us to the enchanting 1:1 ratio where we can see things full size!  When you do take the plunge though, there’s a couple things to keep in mind when capturing macro-scale photographs:

Shell in the Sun

#1 – Stay sharp or stay home – Nothing loses the appeal of macro enthusiasts more than an image that is out of focus, at the macro level.  There are notable exceptions of course, but we are zooming in close to see the details, so unless they are sharp, we just aren’t interested!


#2 – Keep it simple – Too often, people will jump in and try to capture something highly detailed in a macro shot.  The problem is that often times you are dealing with a very shallow depth of field (low apertures in the 2.8 – 1.4 range), which means detail is lost either in the foreground or the background, or both!  This can be appealing in some cases, to have the fade from sharpness to blur, but in others, it’s not as effective, which means you’ll have to deal with focus-stacking.  It’s kind of tricky, so when starting out, stick to simple compositions like flower buds, water drops, and other such objects of interest (even a quarter’s edge can be appealing).

Leaf and Water

#3 Be aware of your background – Even though the background is often way out of focus, the color or tone of that background can make or break your photo.  Make sure it’s either a complementary color, or sufficiently blurred as to be indecipherable.  This shot I took on our street, with the road and vehicles beyond the branches.  They are so out of focus though, it’s literally impossible to tell the difference.

Raindrops on the Street

So, what types of scenes sound appealing to your macro instincts?  Consider buying a macro lens (or renting) and taking one out for a test spin.  With these three tips (and others) you will be well on your way to taking and making phenomenal images!

Yellow on Yellow

Don’t forget to sound off in the comments with your own tips, tricks, thoughts, and shots on macro photography!  Happy shooting and we’ll see you back here gain for another round of photo goodness!


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2 comments for “Three Tips to Shooting Better Macros

  1. George S. Harkness III
    March 23, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Thanks for the information! Very insightful and helpful. Is there a way to achieve this shot without the lens mentioned in this article?

    • March 23, 2011 at 10:21 am

      Not sure I understand, but if you want to take macro photos, a macro lens is needed. There are filters that can approximate a lens (I think Canon calls it a “close up filter”), but the optical quality is just not on par with a lens engineered to capture macro images. The images won’t be as sharp, it won’t likely go to a full macro scale resolution and your background won’t be as faded because your current lens likely won’t have the shallow aperture setting needed to accomodate the needs at such a close distance.

      Hope this helps.

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