How to Find & Photograph Great Macro Subjects

If there’s one type of photography “wild west”, it’s macro photography.

principles of macro photography

Photo by Vida Dimovska; ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/100-second exposure.

While most other subject – flowers, sunsets, the aurora borealis – already have thousands of great shots from pro photographers, the opportunities to take new, unique, and exciting macro shots are endless!

Here are a few tips I learned on my macro photography journey and how you can find your best macro shots!

Your First Step: Zooming In (Hint: not with your camera)!

There is a whole new world right in front of us that we do not see! Tiny little details, patterns, and shapes that we are blinded from seeing. The reason is simple. We’re taught from an early age to see the “forest” – not the trees.

Just think of it. When you walk into a room you see chairs, couches, a TV

set, a keyboard, and plates. You don’t notice the specks of dust on the keyboard or the details of the wood finishing on your chair!

Your first step to macro photography is training yourself to see these details. To force your eyes to zoom in on all the details lying right on front of you!

macro photography techniques

Photo by Julie Jablonski; ISO 100, f/5.3, 1/30-second exposure.

To start seeing the “trees” instead of the forest.

Find One Specific Subject

As with any type of photography, your first step is to define what subject you are shooting. Once you’re “tuned in” with the minute details in front of you, take time to decide what exactly you want to shoot.

What is it that you want to capture?

Is it the details of the wood on your chair? The texture? The color? The lines? The answer to this question is what you have chosen as your subject.

Once you have decided your subject, think of the composition rule of simplicity. You want one specific point of interest. Then, you want to compose your shot to really concentrate on that subject.

macro photography 101

Photo by Ed Suominen; ISO 80, f/2.8, 1/125-second exposure.

The Point of Focus is Imperative

When shooting macro, the point of focus can dramatically alter how your image appears. Take careful consideration when deciding where to focus your image. Depth of field is greatly magnified when up-close. A simple couple millimeters produces an entirely different visual effect.

ways to shoot macro subjects

Photo by Ronan Jouve; ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/50-second exposure.

I would recommend shooting macro shots with several different points of focuses. This will give you a few options to choose from.

Use Keen Observation Skills

Try to notice all the tiny details within your frame. The lines, shapes, patterns, textures, and colors. With the subject pinpointed, you want to choose the angle that accentuates these elements and gives the most visual impact.

Intrigue the Viewer

If your photo provides a viewpoint and framing that makes the subject too obvious to viewers, there is no real incentive to continue viewing. Instead, viewers will be bored and move on. You must intrigue them!

This can be done through:

  • Different perspectives.
  • Unique backgrounds to bring out features of your subject
  • Defocusing for abstract effects
  • Orientation and how your frame is positioned (Sometimes a minor rotation will pack a strong visual punch)
stunning macros photos

Photo by Grant MacDonald; ISO 100, f/2.0, 1/2000-second exposure.

Always Observe the Background

Your background can make or break your shot. Think of your background as the “voice” of a speech. Sure, you need a great speech to deliver an effective message. However, without a good presenter, the speech will always fall flat.

A good rule of thumb is to choose backgrounds that accentuate the features of the subject without detracting from it. Complementary or contrasting colors work well as backgrounds to bring out the subjects color.

beautiful macro photography

Photo by Rodrigo Soldon 2; ISO 200, f/4.5 1/160-second exposure.

A good trick macro shooters use is to bring colored cards on shoots. If, for example, you’re shooting a flower, you can place the color card that accentuates the flowers features behind the flower.

Scouting for the Dust

One great exercise is to choose a small area (around 20 cubic feet) and spend an hour finding every great macro shot you can. You’ll probably get bored after about 10 minutes. However, if you keep pushing yourself, you’ll find that your creative brain-juices will find new photo opportunities you would’ve missed otherwise!

Remember, no normal person spends their days observing the specks of dust on their keyboard. With macro photography you are taking the viewer to a new world they have probably never explored. Use this opportunity to awaken and excite them with your new world!

About the Author:
Simon Takk, creator of phototechniques, shows others how to open their eyes to the breathtaking photo opportunities all around them.

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3 responses to “How to Find & Photograph Great Macro Subjects”

  1. Steven Gill says:

    Very informative, lucid, and interesting. Great, thank you !

  2. Paul Moertl says:

    Clear and concise. Very informative. Thanks.

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