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.

Jerry Kirkhart – DPW Macro Walk
Jerry Kirkhart - DPW Macro Walk

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 macro 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.

Aitor Escauriaza – Rampa
Aitor Escauriaza - Rampa

Composition

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.

Hamed Saber – Snail in Harijan
Hamed Saber - Snail in Harijan

Checklist

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.

Steve Wall – Drops of Spring
Drops of Spring

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.