What is Macro Photography?

Macro Butterfly

It’s likely that you see macro photography everywhere, but you don’t know it. In fact, photographers dedicate their life’s work to macro photography. Macro photography is simply photographing small objects or organisms up-close. You have probably seen dozens of National Geographic or Discovery up-close photographs of tiny organisms. What their photographers are doing there is in fact, macro photography.

Macro photography is not for just the industry professionals. Macro photography is not seasonal either; you can literally shoot snowflakes, raindrops, leaves, flowers, animals, bugs, humans, or whatever your heart desires by just using your imagination. You could play around with macro photography in your own home by photographing the food you make in your kitchen or even a light or ornament on your Christmas tree.

It’s awesome to look at a picture of an object you could not normally spot with the naked eye, but just think, you could be taking these ridiculously remarkable photographs yourself! It’s crazy to think that one small object can be the inspiration for a photographer’s entire career. You can do it too. You are going to want to learn the basics, first, though. Let’s discover more about macro photography, dive into the elements involved with macro photography, and figure out how you can get started, and what you’ll need. You will be a macro photography master in no time!

Macro Eyeball

Cheaper Photography

Macro photography is the cheaper of the different forms of photography. Photographers on all different types of budgets can purchase the gear that is needed for macro photography. What’s even more fun about this form of photography is that you can explore your studio editing skills just as easily as other forms of photography, yet you can play around with different compositions and create an entire gallery on one subject. For example, you could take your water drops and change out the contrast, the saturation, and the color hues, to make each duplicate photograph its entirely different subject. How cool is that?

Why do they call it Macro Photography?

One might often wonder, “Why isn’t it called ‘micro photography’? There is a simple explanation for that: because you will use a macro lens for this kind of photography (even some point-and-shoot cameras have this capability) and you’re going to use a couple different ratios – a 1:1 ratio for the lens to capture a lifesize image of the object; or, a 1:2 ratio to capture a small object at half its original size, or double, depending on your objective. The 1:1 lens is often very affordable for those looking to explore macro photography.

Macro Leaf

Macro Photography Elements

No matter what the subject of your macro photography may be, you are going to have specific elements that will have a bigger impact than other elements. You can express different elements the way you would like them to be, and alter them to be just the way you would like it. For instance:

Association of the Object and Shape

The eyes see things the way they want to be seen, which is the association of the object. For instance, a butterfly is seen as a beautiful and delicate creature. You are going to want to use different angles in order to manipulate your photograph in an angle whichever which way you would like it to be seen.

Lines and Texture

Macro photography makes creating lines, zigzags, and curves into art. You want to pay attention to the lines your subject conveys and use that as a key element in your work. The texture is the condition of your subject or object. Tell the viewers what it would be like to touch the object through your photography.

Macro Shell

Color and Patterns

We all know that certain colors are going to make your viewers feel a certain emotion: red is anger, gold is prestige, yellow is freshness, olive green is peace, and dark blue is power. Use color to evoke whichever emotion you would like to evoke in your art.

Patterns are the rhythms, symmetry, and otherwise design qualities you would like to convey in your macro photography. Use this combination to bring out an overall aesthetic to your photography.

Which Camera is Best for Macro Photography?

You will even find that your camera lenses macro capability is measured in the distance it can be from the front of the camera lens. More specifically, your DSLR camera lens macro capability will be dependent on the lens, and not with the DSLR camera.

You are going to have an advantage with a macro lens, and that advantage is going to be more pixels. Your subject will be bigger in the frame and give you crisp, clear, detail. Remember, though, your macro lens should be 1:1 or greater. So if your subject is a centimeter by a centimeter, it will be the same on the sensor.

Macro Ladybug

Consider the Focal Length

You are going to want to figure out what your distances between you and your working subjects are. So, the longer the focal length, the longer the distance between you and your subject. A 100 mm macro will give you twice the distance between you and your subject than a 50 mm macro will give you, and so on. This is extra helpful when shooting subjects that may be dangerous to be close by.

Some other features to consider are going to be your minimum focusing distances, it’s depth of field, and image stabilization. Remember to count all features when deciding on which lens to buy for your macro photography work.

Macro lenses cost about $500-$1,000, which makes them far more expensive than using diopters or extension tubes with an existing lens. However, a true macro lens offers several benefits. When shopping for a macro lens, one aspect that you need to pay particular attention to is dust resistance. While all lenses get some dust, you don’t generally notice them. However, because you tend to use macro lenses to shoot close-up subjects, the dust inside the lens can become more in focus, ruining your pictures.

Macro Techniques

The closer you get to a subject, the harder it becomes to get sharp pictures. Use these techniques to prevent your macro pictures from being shaky or blurry:

  • Use a tripod. All still-life macro photography should use a heavy tripod.
  • Remote shutter release or timer. Vibrations are magnified when working close up.
  • Precise focusing

Sometimes, even choosing the highest possible f/stop number isn’t enough to get the depth-of-field that you need, especially if you want to compose your picture with your subject at an interesting angle to the camera. One way to overcome this limitation is to use focus stacking.