macro photography

Macro photography is a great kind of photography to try for 3 reasons. We'll cover those first, then jump right into the first question beginning photographers usually ask:  "What are the best camera settings to use for macro photography." At the end of this post are plenty of links to helpful posts on specific topics on shooting closeups. 

amaryllis close-upFlowers are a popular macro photography subject and easy to make look beautiful

why macro photography is great for beginners

Here are 3 great reasons on why you can start with close-up photography as an enjoyable branch of image making and learn a lot while having fun.

  1. You can shoot macro photos anywhere you are, anytime of year, and you don't need a lot of room.
  2. The camera gear you need can be very simple-No you don't have to use an expensive macro lens.
  3. Pixels are free! You can try different approaches to the same subject and see your results instantly.

Macro Photography advantages

best camera settings for shooting macro photos

Here are the 3 best camera settings to use to get off to a great start to shoot your macro photos.

1. SET YOUR CAMERA TO MANUAL FOCUS. Your camera's autofocus is a useful and convenient tool that works terrific in a lot of situations. Macro photography is not one of them. By its nature, close-up photography gives you a very shallow depth of field. The range of things in sharp focus is limited. You need to be pinpoint accurate on what you want your camera to focus on.

manual focus lens settingShoot macro with your camera set to manual focus.

2. USE YOUR SELF TIMER. There are some times when you can shoot macro while hand holding your camera, but most of the time you'll be using a tripod. Using your self timer will allow your camera to remain perfectly still during the exposure. That's better than causing image blur with a slight jiggle of your camera caused by pressing the shutter button with your finger.

self timer settingUse your camera's self-timer for better sharpness.

3. SWITCH TO LIVE VIEW. You can check your focus, at least to some extent, by using the zoom in feature of your camera's LCD screen. That helps you make sure you've got the sharpness right.

These are the three settings I highly recommend. Most macro shooters use aperture priority too. They want to be able to set their f/stop number to a small lens opening to get a good depth of field. When you use aperture priority your camera will choose the best shutter speed to give you a good exposure.

how to find out more about macro PHOTOGRAPHY

You're probably looking for even more information about macro photography than just the basic settings for a beginner.  This article will lead you to whatever you want to know. You see, I'm a big fan of shooting up close and there are quite a few how to posts and about shooting macro on this website.

Whether its shooting tips, macro equipment and accessories, ideas on what to shoot or macro lighting, it's all here for your consumption.You can take several different paths:

  1. Use the search box top right off this page.
  2. Go straight to the list of macro articles.
  3. Click one of the links or just ask me a question.

Flowers and bugs are the two most common subjects photographed when shooting close-ups, but there is so much more out there for you to have a blast with. You create an entire macro photography gallery of images of a lot of non-traditional macro photo subjects.

Macro photo of purple flower

Flowers are great because we find them to be so beautiful and there are plenty of them around. Even in the winter, conservatories, arboretums, and botanical gardens make great places for a macro photo excursion.

the truth about my own macro photography experience

I have a confession about close-up photography. Before writing this series of macro articles - (scrolls down to the bottom), I had not done any real close up photography since I first experimented with photography as a hobby when I was a young boy.

It wasn't really super close-up macro  by definition. My father had a set of screw on close up filters for his Beseler Topcon SLR. These cameras were made before Canon or Nikon ever produced an SLR.

Wow, things have really changed with digital macro imaging!  Working on this site which I named Digital Photography Tips  forced me (in a good way) into studying and experimenting.  I've re-discovered how much fun it is to play around with close-up photography.

I am having a blast and I am sure you will find some useful information in all of these articles. Just check out all of the photos and articles listed at the bottom of this intro page.

Close-up photo of a weedMacro photography of a weed

A true macro lens has the capability of achieving at least a 1:1 magnification. That means that the size of the image on your sensor is actually life-size, or in other words the same size as the object you are photographing.

Most of my previous articles giving tips for taking digital photography were focused on portrait posing, rules of composition, lighting and photo exposure.

I gave myself a macro photography assignment and only one hour to complete it. I had recently purchased a budget-priced set of extension tubes made by Opteka and wanted to get a few decent photos to start a section on my web site on this topic.

Macro photo of a GeraniumGeranium Closeup

When I originally researched taking close-ups, I considered screw on filters, extension tubes and macro lenses. I read many reviews on and other sites.

I saved a lot of money by not buying an expensive macro lens or high quality extension tubes. I can get better quality photography with these extension tubes than I can with screw on filters.

Articles giving tips on this type of photography always advise you to use a tripod. I took that advice for most of the images I captured. In this picture of the budding pink geranium, I needed the tripod to prevent getting a blurry picture. My shutter speed was 1/20 second even though I set my camera ISO to 800.

I also took some pictures of butterflies using these extension tubes. They were quite busy moving from flower to flower on our butterfly bush. I didn't have enough time to set the tripod and focus on one flower with the hope that one would land and stay in the exact spot for more than a fraction of a second.

Marigold Close UpMarigold CloseUp

Taking pictures of ordinary objects at very small distances opens up a whole new world of picture taking opportunities.

Of course flowers always make a great choice for subject matter. You still must consider your lighting and use good composition techniques to get great images.

One of the biggest photo mistakes people make with close up photography is to get distracted by concentrating on the subject and they forget to look for an interesting way to compose it.

Use the rule of thirds when you can; look for diagonal lines and remember to consider whether a horizontal or vertical composition works best.

house flies close-upThis is not a photoshopped closeup.

Looking for some good macro photography ideas? Look no farther than your own backyard. I used the extension tubes described in the Macro Photography Techniques article listed below.

These very small flies were busy working on reproduction activities and stayed still for this handheld, lay down-on-my-belly photo of the common dandelion.  A friend of mine accused me of Photoshop manipulation on this photo.

It really did happen as you see it.  I just got lucky and had my camera ready.

I used a Canon 20D DSLR with the extension tubes and my 85mm f-1.8 lens. Exposure was 1/500 sec at f-4 to freeze any motion caused by the warm summer breeze that day.

Notice that at this close distance at f-4 the depth of field was very shallow. The fly's head was sharp, but the wing closest to the camera was slightly out of focus. Look around your environment for common subjects that might be very interesting for your close-up photography. There is an endless supply.

more articles on macro photography  

Accessories.  Several gadgets and gizmos that are useful for shooting close-ups.

Macro Photo Ideas. Looking for inspiration on what to photograph with your macro photos. Here is some inspiration.

Lenses for Macro.  To use a dedicated macro lens or alternative macro equipment.  That is the question.

Artistic Macro Photos. Create macro photography art. Sample artistic photos and an opportunity for you to submit your macro photography art.

Macro Photography Tips. If you'd like to read some more digital photography tips on this topic, try this article.

Extension tubes for Macro Photos. Affordable and easy to use, these accessories often come in a set of 3 to give you several different levels of subject magnification.

Close-up Photography Equipment for advanced macro photographers, equipment choices are abundant. This includes bellows, reversing rings and several options for macro lighting equipment.

Abstract Macro Photos. Using close-up photography to create abstract photos. Can you guess what the subject was in the original photograph? Want to make other viewers make guesses about your abstract macro photo?

Close-up Photography Technique. If you are interested in what close up photography equipment to use, read this article.

Close Up Photography Lighting. To see some examples of great close up photography lighting technique, visit this gallery with comments.

Indoor Lighting Tips. What is the best lighting for shooting photos of tiny translucent spheres inside? I accidentally got a cool photo because I made a mistake in lighting my photo.

Close-up Photography for Beginners. Don't know where to start. Read this article for beginners on how to do close-up photography.

Close-up Photography Tutorial. Illustrated tutorial with photos of a set-up for inside macro photography with a point and shoot camera and an external flash for equipment.

Natural Lighting with your macro photography. Two illustrated photos and explanations of how they were taken.

Macro Photo Tricks.  Not so secret perhaps but worth reviewing to improve your results.

Famous Macro Photographers.  There is a  alot of macro talent out there.  These talented photographers are worth a bit of study.

Definition of what makes a photo macro. What is really means to qualify as a macro or close-up image.

Macro Water Drop Photography.  Not the action-freezing splashes that have swept across the internet.  This is close-up photography of water drops clinging to things and being photographed as still life.

Light Box for Close-up Photography.  You can build one of these to save some money or you can buy a collapsible one that's very affordable too.

Summer Close-up Photography.  Got an ideas for some good summertime close-ups?  Samples and your chance to submit your own photos and thoughts.

Photo Assignment-  Photograph that beautiful amaryllis plant as it blooms in 15 minutes or less.

Affordable Diffusers for Macro Work.  You have several options when it comes to softening the light for more appealing close-up photos.

Tripod for Macro Photography. Usually when you're shooting macro photos outside it centers around insects and flowers. That often means you have to get down low, close to ground level.  What's the best tripod for macro photography outside?

Keep shooting. Keep learning. Keep improving

Article published by Bruce Lovelace


Bruce is the publisher of Better Digital Photo Tips. Read more on the About Page. He's been known as The Traveling Photographer ever since he started his location photography business in 1994.

View some of Bruce's photos on Instagram.   Visit the Facebook Page. Watch him on YouTube.  Bruce runs photo workshops for kids and adults, and provides one on one digital photography coaching.

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