Tips for getting started in macro photography
Leaning macro or close-up photography is a fun and rewarding way to explore the world around you. Technically, there is a difference between close-up and macro photography. By definition, macro refers to photographing a subject in a 1:1 ratio or larger. In other words, making small subjects look at least life size.
Your lens may have a macro setting on it, or you can try using extension tubes combined with a normal lens which will allow you some magnification. Close up filters screw onto the front of your lens and are an inexpensive way to get started shooting macro, but a dedicated macro lens is the best option.
True macro lenses are available in a variety of focal lengths. Most macro photographers prefer a lens between 90-105mm that have 1:1 magnification. There are also shorter focal lengths available such as the 50mm or 60mm macro lens, but the disadvantage to these is that you will need to get closer to your subject. Getting too close to a living creature can be a problem because you don’t want to disturb them or disrupt their natural environment. Get too close and you will most likely scare them away.
Try adding different colored backgrounds by having a friend hold a piece of scrapbooking or art paper behind your subject. I have found that cloth napkins work well too. Remember to choose a simple background so it doesn’t compete with the main subject for your viewers attention.
It may be necessary to add some artificial light. Ring flashes or twin flashes are a good option and create a light that is not as flat as your camera’s pop up flash. Recently I have been using Lume Cubes and have been very pleased with the results.
Another accessory I have found helpful is the “Plamp” made by Wimberly. This tool acts as a third hand, helping you hold objects in place during a shoot.
Auto focus seldom works well in macro photography. Don’t be surprised if you find you need to switch to manual focus. If you have never shot with manual focus, it may take a little practice so be patient and keep working at it.
Stabilization is key. Use a tripod and a remote shutter or the camera’s self-timer. Blur is exaggerated at high magnification or at very close range, so keeping your camera as motionless as possible is a priority.
Macro photography puts an emphasis on pattern, texture and detail so subject choice is important. Common subjects include insects, plants, small toys or other mini objects. Abstract macro is a sub genre where the photographer represents their subject in a non-literal way. Try photographing peeling paint, a rusty piece of metal or a kitchen cheese grater to achieve an abstract effect.
Here is fun and inexpensive way to create an abstract macro:
Cream or milk - The more fat content the better
Dish Washing soap (I used Dawn)
Vegetable oil (optional)
Set your plate on a level surface and pour a thin layer of milk in the plate.
Put a few drops of food coloring into the milk
Apply a bit of dish soap onto the end of a cotton swab then dab it into the milk and watch a tie dye effect occur.
Photograph the abstract now or try adding a bit of vegetable oil to create a different effect.