macro photography tricks

macro photography lens

Want to get a few macro photography tricks? This post covers basics tips on macro lighting, background, and equipment. There's also a section at the end, dedicated to tricks on insect photography.

I've collected a bunch of macro tricks from my own experiences. Then I combined them with some tricks from other very talented and famous macro photographers that I have learned from.  

They really aren't secrets, but some of them are not real widely known to beginning macro shooters. These tips for taking macro photos could be called tricks if you consider they aren't known by the majority of photographers.  

A trick is defined as a "cunning or skillful act or scheme intended to deceive or outwit someone."

Picture of cone flower

get the macro lighting right

Photography has often been defined as "painting with light" and the importance of lighting in macro photography cannot be over emphasized.  

Not only the amount of light to give you the right sharpness and depth of field, but also the direction, contrast, and quality of light work together to reveal your subject in way that makes your photo have impact or not.

quick tips on macro photography lighting

1.  Get enough light.  Duh, this sounds obvious but more light gives you more options.  Shooting at lower ISO, getting more depth of field for focus and the ability to use a higher shutter speed for sharpness.

2. Modify the light.  If it it aint just right, fix it.  Use a flash, use a bounce reflector, change the time of day for your outdoor shoot, use a light box or add an accent light, maybe even move your subject to a better location if possible. Here's more on macro photography lighting.

Front macro lightingFront lighting

Back macro lightingBack lighting

Here is an example of how modifying your macro photography lighting completely changes your image. I simply turned off my main light, adjusted the exposure and got the back-lit photo on the right as a result.

control the background

This includes the colors, sharpness, contrast, light and amount of sharpness you want the background to have.  This involves the angle you choose, your control of lighting both your subject and it's background, the depth of field, the distance to the background and any changes in the background itself.

Brown macro photo background
White macro photo background

The photo on the left has the brown cardboard background that I use when photography black-colored cameras, lenses, and other accessories.  Changing the background to a white background with a back-light made it a much improved photograph.

Using a fresher lime without the distracting dark, aging skin would have made it a little better still.

quick tips on your macro background

  1. Change your camera angle.  Even a slight change in the angle you take can completely change the appearance of the background.
  2. Use your own background.  I rarely do this with my nature macro shots but it is easy to do and a lot of nature photography instructors teach this technique. With macro photography it's very easy to carry a few different cards with various, appropriately colored tones to slide into place behind your subject.

When doing studio macro photography, I still try to make the background have a natural feel.

pick the right macro photography equipment

I've written quite a bit about the many tools available to you-some of it carry over from the film days of photography and now especially in the new world of digital photography.  There is a balance between getting the right tool for the job and not wasting money on equipment and accessories that aren't necessary.

So these maybe might not be considered macro photography tricks at all, but these ideas should help you get started. Here's more on equipment for macro.

quick macro photography tricks on equipment

  1. Keep it simple.  The simpler your set-up is, the more you can concentrate on lighting and composition.  You won't get great macro photos unless you are smart about using the right settings, framing in your image aesthetically, and lighting it right.
  2. Consider the options.  Learn a bit about your Macro Photography Equipment and accessories before you start.
  3. Optical options.  Go to Macro Photography Lenses for more information on your optical options for macro photography.

macro photography sharpness

  1. Use mirror lock-up.   Residual camera shake is possible from the mirror flipping up just before exposure is made with a DSLR.  This is usually not a big deal for most modern cameras and only rarely comes into play with short exposures.
  2. Use a fast shutter speed. By handling the lighting and camera settings correctly a fast shutter speed will eliminate motion blur from your camera and/or your subject.
  3. Use the self-timer.  This is just another alternative technique to keep the camera steady.If you are using a tripod, don't use the regular shutter button.  Either use the self-timer function or a remote or cable release to avoid camera shake.

Macro photography tricks are like any other digital photography tip.  You've got to pick the right ones for the photographic situation you are in.

tricks for shooting macro photos of insects

Flowers and Bugs. Not only do they go together in nature, but they're also the most popular photography subjects for macro shooters. Here are some insider secrets to getting great close-ups.

  • Take your time. If you're in a hurry, delay your insect photography for another time when you have enough time. Bugs often fly off just when you're getting ready to snap away. Be patient, they usually come back to the same area.
  • Smaller bugs don't get spooked as easily as big bugs and tend to stay put because they are more likely to tolerate cameras lurking nearby.
  • Set your alarm early for 2 reasons. Bugs move slower when it's cooler before the hot sun warms them up. Secondly, the air is calm and you'll avoid the challenges that come along with macro photography and the wind.
  • Avoid the harsh shadows of the direct sun. While it can give you nice fast shutter speed, the sun's harsh rays often create distinct shadows. Try finding an open shade area or use a diffuser.

Shoot more macro images. Shoot better macro images.

Article published by Bruce Lovelace

Well Known Macro Photographers 

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