Tips For Macro Photography – The Extreme Close-Up

Marco photography has always fascinated me because practitioners of the art/craft continually amaze me with the small details of our gigantic world.  Much like a Seinfeld bit, Macro photography typically consists of finding an everyday object and photographing it at such close proximity that the perhaps mundane — now taken out of context — is startling and interest-piquing.  Marco photography can be extra enjoyable and elucidating, as you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the myriad of minute details your camera records.  Icicles hanging on a tree branch or side of house can become surreal when viewed through macro photography.

Macro Photography Tips
Photo by Jerry Kirkhart

Avoid Camera Shake

When you shoot Macro, your Depth of Field is extremely shallow, so critical focus is paramount to get a more than good shot.  And what’s the main culprit for soft focus in marco photography?  You guessed it, camera shake.  To avoid camera shake you’ll need to shoot at a higher shutter speed, use a tripod and/or a cable release.  Also, never, never, never use the Auto Focus setting when doing Macro photography, because the computer can easily be tricked (not that it matters if you have a huge memory card, but why waste the time?).  By manually focusing your lens, you have precision control of what tiny – but now huge – details will be the center of attention.

Macro Photography Tips
Photo by Hamed Saber


With macro photography, you can (and should) take your time to get the composition precisely perfect (or perfect for what you envision), so don’t hesitate to move up, down and all around the subject of your gaze.  Unless you’re shooting a bumblebee or a humming bird, you have no time constraint, so using bracketing to get the best exposure to match the flawless composition.  Bracketing, if you didn’t know, is taking at least three of the exact same photographer at different exposures (over, neutral and under) to get color accuracy & vibrancy, shadow & highlight detail and depth of field that you can compare and make the most dynamic selection.

Macro Photography Tips
Photo by Aitor Escauriaza


Here are some quick things to remember, sort of a checklist, for macro photography:
1. Simplify your image as much as possible.
2. Fill as much of the frame as possible with your subject.
3. Over-compensate for sharp focus.
4. Experiment with various angles to find the most aesthetically pleasing.
5. Be very aware of the background (which will be out of focus) and eliminate anything that will be distracting. 

Macro photographs show you details of the world that are more often than not overlooked, because even the simplest subject can seem more than important and poignant when its surface details are being examined at such a high magnification.  Remember, by looking closer – borrowing a phrase from American Beauty — you’ll see that you have a whole new array of subjects to photograph.

Top image by Steve Wall

Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a writer, photographer, screenwriter and director living and working in Los Angeles. He studied film production and screenwriting at the University of Southern California, and continued to expand his photographic knowledge through classes at the Art Center College of Design.


  1. says

    This is a great article, and I LOVE your photos. What I love about your macros over most that I typically see is that you do in fact get crazy close-up and the detail is amazing, but you don’t lose context by making it so garishly close that there’s nothing in a photo but a molecule on a gnat’s eyelash, which in the end doesn’t mean much to anyone. I’m inspired! Thank you!

  2. says

    Initially I had Olympus Camedia C-5060 for macro photography and it was quite hard to have background blurred – now, with typical DSLR with macro lens it is quite opposite – I have to choode aperture range at least 5.6-8 to have an object sharp enough.

  3. says

    Thanks Chris for the great tips and wonderful article! The problem I face when taking a macro image with my compact camera is that it doesn’t exactly focus on the subject. Only when I half-click the shutter button multiple times, it tends to focus on the subject. But a better idea, as you have explained in this article, would be to move the camera in multiple ways and see if the subject gets the required focus.

  4. doby says

    Inspiring article! I’m starting to learn little by little about Macro photography. So challenging but so much fun!

  5. says

    I am interested in the “eye piece extention”. At age 64, getting up and down from ground level with my D90 and fantastic tripod is a chore. Sure could use one of those…. where do I find it?

  6. Jon White says

    Couldn’t agree more about gear. You can get so caught up in what gear to use that you don’t take the time to focus on composition.

  7. krishnendu adhikary says

    sir i am 4m india,i am a little bit macro photographer,i need more learn an practice about macro photo grapy.plz help me sir..

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