10 Macro Photography Subject Ideas

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Are you looking for some interesting and out of the ordinary project ideas for your close up or macro photography? Want to break away from the usual flowers, leaves, plants and mushrooms? Tired of bugs, butterflies and spiders? All of those can make great close up subjects, but certainly not unique ones. Here are a few macro photography project ideas that may inspire your creativity:

macro photography ideas

"photographer" captured by Joseph Blasco (Click Image to See More From Joseph Blasco)

1. Cutlery. Knives, forks and spoons can make great macro subjects. Arrange like pieces together to create lines and patterns.

2. Feathers. Feathers are beautiful close up. The central shaft creates a strong line which may be curved or straight, while the rest of the feather provides a soft texture. Use bird feathers that you find or purchase, or pluck one out of your down pillow or duvet!

3. Water droplets. This one is a classic, but be creative, and find your water on unusual surfaces like a wire fence, a cobweb, or a rear-view mirror. Early morning dew makes almost any subject magical. In the Spring or Fall, your can look for frost instead of dew.

4. Glass. Close up photos of fine crystal glassware can yield wonderful abstracts filled with curved lines and reflections. For added fun, place glasses side by side, or one behind the other to create lines where they overlap. You can fill the glasses with colored water for even more creative images. Finally, you can add a sheet of clear, but textured glass (available for purchase at stained glass craft stores) in front of your glassware. The possibilities are endless.

5. Foil reflections. While you have your glasses full of colored water, why not pull out a sheet of kitchen foil, or some shiny silver craft paper? Use your macro lens to shoot down into the foil and capture the reflections of the colored water in its folds and creases. This exercise is a tricky one, and requires patience, but the results can be very rewarding.

6. Fruit and vegetables. They’re not just good for your diet! Fruit and vegetables make great macro photography subjects. Try kernels of corn on the cob, citrus slices, or go for more exotic fare like dragon fruit. You can place translucent slices on a lightbox for a clean, bright white background. You can also photograph the fruit or vegetables on plates in complementary colors.

7. Rust and peeling paint. Fascinating rust patterns can be found on an old car, or even a metal garbage can in the park. Peeling paint graces old fences and walls. Most people pass by such items without a second glance. Not you! Break out your macro lens, and reveal the hidden beauty. Just beware of harsh shadows if you are photographing in bright sunlight.

8. Car details. The sleek lines of shiny chrome and trim on a polished car can provide hours of photographic entertainment. You can photograph your own car, but don’t be shy about taking your camera to an antique car show. Car owners are usually proud of their vehicles, and won’t mind your photographing the details.

9. Animal bits. The texture of fur on your pet dog, or the wrinkled skin of an elephant at the zoo, can make a great close up shot. Paws, claws and teeth are fun too, as long as you keep out of harm’s way. Finally, eyes always make compelling subjects. Shoot close ups of the eyes of your dog or cat (or a person, too!).

10. Tissues. For some high key abstracts, and a really unusual subject, try photographing a tissue. With a little imagination, the lines and shadows formed by the soft folds can create some intriguing images.

For a bonus, take a fresh look at ordinary objects around your home, such as light bulbs, shoe laces, book pages, clothes pegs, straws, holiday ornaments, or pencils. Try to find interesting patterns, lines, shapes, and colors, and create a little close up magic.

I hope these ideas inspire you to get out there with your macro lens and start shooting!

About the Author:
If you want to learn more about taking macro photographs, be sure to check out my two eBooks. They are filled with helpful tips, useful information, and spectacular, full color images to inspire you to create better close up photography.

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8 Comments

  1. JP says:

    I can add a few as well, as macro photography is something I’m really interesting in trying:
    - Electronics (boards, connectors, transistors, etc)
    - Hot wheels (for a mini car show)
    - Beach sand and corals
    - Boats, yachts, etc (you can get close to all of those shiny, polished surfaces

    Thanks for the article, definitely feel inspired.

  2. Don M. says:

    Macro photography is my newly found passion. I have always hated taking “people” pictures,they do nothing for me but when you’re the guy with fancy looking camera/lens combination at the popular people gathering events you’re almost doomed to take the obligatory pictures. But macro is where my heart is and when I look through the view finder or screen I discover a whole new world to capture. If there is a down side It would be the necessity for some special equipment but you show me one photographer that isn’t ready for more new gadgets or lenses I’ll show you fifty that are. I use a Canon 5D MK II and my preferred macro lens is Canon’s EF 100 f2.8 IS USM. I use a Novoflex Castel – XL focusing rail which is mounted on a Manfrotto 488RC0 ball head and a Manfrotto 055MF4 magfiber tripod. Once I became familiar with the equipment the results where nothing short of amazing. Another great thing about macro photography is that you don’t have to leave your house or your back yard to find truly interesting subjects. Now I’ve inspired myself so I’m going outside a shoot some macro pictures of newly fallen rain droplets as suggested here in the terrific article.

    • H.W.Carter says:

      Don, I hear you on the obligatory picture taking, which is why I (nearly) never take any of my “real” cameras to a social gathering, particularly family. Mother’s pink Olympus point+shoot suffices just fine and nobody expects me to be the photographer. I see Canon makes a tripod mount ring for your lens – if you don’t already have it, get it, it’ll make the landscape/portrait transition completely painless.

  3. Greta S. says:

    My fave is flowers, especially with bees on them. I only have the macro filters, but with a little learning curve they work fine for now until I an afford an actual macro lens.
    After reading this, I want to go back out with my camera! Thanks :)

  4. Glad you enjoyed my article! I just love shooting macro. I can add one more idea that I’ve recently discovered. I had been shooting coloured water reflected in foil, as mentioned above. Sometimes, I would add water droplets on the foil to add interest. I found that the droplets wouldn’t always stay where I wanted them, and their shape was usually the same: round and uniform. So — try honey! If you drizzle some honey in an interesting pattern onto the foil, it’s loads of fun to photograph — you don’t even need the coloured water any more. The honey takes on and holds interesting shapes, and has its own (slight) colour and texture. Happy shooting! :)

  5. H.W.Carter says:

    I’m a sucker for #7. 30 years ago one of my first forays into macro involved a basket of very weathered clothes pins and b&w film. A couple of those old shots remain favorites. I’ve taken hundreds of pictures of textiles for a friend who is writing a reference resource on the subject, and not a few of those are quite fascinating and beautiful (plus there is something to be said for shooting indoors instead of kneeling on rocks or lying in wet grass!) I second @JP on the electronics too.

  6. Don M. says:

    Boy am I glad to see that I am not alone on the subject of macro photography. I’m not sure if it’s approiate to ask for suggestions here or not but what’s the worst that could happen,not get posted. Anyway here’s my question. I’ve tried several times to capture rain drops on various foliage without any really good results. I’ve tried every angel conceavable and I’ve even tried using indirect off camera bounce flash without any luck. What am I not doing? The pictures are just so-so.

  7. I just met a photographer from Sydney who has got into Marcro. He uses a 1.8 Canoon 50mm prime, along with extension tubes. He captures small insects – spiders, ants, etc. He also uses a home-made snoot to direct the internal flash light to the subject. The end result looks like a creature fro a Sci-fi movie – stunning.

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