10 pro macro photography tips: take stunning nature photos up close

Macro is a kind of fantastic photography that allows you to get a really big shot of your subjects, reveal incredibly intricate details that you would otherwise have overlooked, and turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

However, it can be difficult to know where to start when you are just starting to take close-up photos, and you will definitely have to overcome some obstacles along the way.

• Read more: The best macro lenses

This is why we have teamed up PhotoPlus: Canon magazine Professional nature reader and macro photographer, Oliver Wright, and below you’ll find his most essential tips, tricks, and advice, along with some of the fantastic shots they may have taken that day.

Based in Garforth, Leeds, Oliver has adopted Canon’s latest full-frame mirrorless cameras, taking fantastic macro images of wildlife, plants and flowers with his Canon EOS R5.

A climbing accident in 2010 was the catalyst for Oliver to realize his passion for photography, especially wildlife. Fast forward 11 years and he organizes events and shoots promotional videos for Canon. He has had several highly regarded images at the British Wildlife Photography Awards and is the perfect pro at teaching macro tips. Learn more about Oliver on his website and Instagram.

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(Image credit: Matthew Farrugia)
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(Image credit: Matthew Farrugia)

01. Use manual mode

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Oliver set his Matthew’s Canon EOS R6 camera and player to manual mode, so they could adjust exposure settings without being affected by the camera’s built-in metering systems. This meant that if the light changed, their images would get brighter or darker, so it was crucial to check the rear LCD screen or the viewfinder for a decent exposure. They also set up Raw shots to give them some leeway if the exposure was bad when it comes to post-processing.

02. Key camera settings

(Image credit: Avenir)

Although he photographs at sunrise, Oliver likes to go to areas that are still shaded. This is because once the insects (like dragonflies and damselflies) are touched by the sun, they start to heat up and become much more active, which obviously makes the shots crisp and stacks of focus a lot. more difficult. Shooting in the shade requires a tripod and high ISO, which Oliver set to 1600 to start. It also set the aperture to f / 5.6, which helps ensure that the depth of field is not too shallow. This resulted in a shutter speed of 1/60 sec, fast enough to freeze the immobile insects.

03. Trigger cable

(Image credit: Avenir)

The simple act of pressing the shutter button on your camera can cause vibration, which is easily detected as camera shake at high magnifications. Using the two-second self-timer would leave too much time between shots when saving a focus stack, as it would give the insect a chance to move between frames. For this reason, Oliver uses a Canon TC-80N3 remote cable shutter release, so that he can shoot many remote shots without physically touching his camera body.

04. Try focus peaking

(Image credit: Avenir)

Focus should be extremely precise when shooting close-ups with macro lenses, as your depth of field is extremely limited. Even high aperture values, such as f / 22 and f / 36, will provide shallow depth of field when the focus point is so close. This means that focus stacking is important if you want to get a small, crisp subject. To see exactly which area of ​​the insect is in focus, Oliver uses the focus mode on his R5, which overlays a bright red, yellow, or blue outline around all areas of sharp focus.

05. Canon EOS R5

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Oliver’s favorite camera is the Canon EOS R5. It has a huge 45 MP sensor for incredibly detailed images and can shoot at a blazing speed of 20 frames per second, making it perfect for photographing wildlife and insects. It can also shoot 4K video at up to 120 fps and has in-camera focus bracketing, which is perfect for Oliver’s macro work. Built-in sensor stabilization and low noise, even at high ISOs, have become essential for its work, which uses natural light instead of flash for a more natural look.

06.Use a “lamp”

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Oliver carries two tripods with him in the morning. One is to pull on it, the other is to support a clamp – a double-ended, hinged clamp that he can position to hold small twigs or branches. Oliver has a Wimberly’s pliers, which he used to hold up a bit of a dead stick the damsel above was perched on by a pond. Because the plant was already dead, Oliver had no problem cutting it neatly and placing it in a better position for photographs.

07. Focus rail

(Image credit: Avenir)

The depth of field is incredibly shallow when shooting at high magnifications, even when using high apertures such as f / 22. To get crisp macro subjects, Oliver uses a focus rail mounted on his carbon fiber tripod with a five-way head, giving him amazing control when composing. The focus rail allows it to precisely move the camera and lens a bit forward or backward to adjust the sharp focus band.

08. Extension tubes

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Oliver uses a set of Kenko extension tubes to increase the distance between the lens and the camera body. This shortens the minimum focus distance, allowing you to get closer to your subject. The set comes with three adapters: 12mm, 20mm and 36mm. You can use a mixture of the three until your focus distance is perfect.

Read more: The best extension tubes

09. Focus bracketing in the camera

Cannon

(Image credit: Avenir)

Oliver Focus stacks his images and merges them to create macro images with incredible sharpness from front to back. Its R5’s Focus Bracketing mode can take up to 999 photos in a fast burst, with all images at different focus increments, which greatly eases the focus stacking process and allows it to create a series of photos stacked without a tripod.

10. Macro lenses

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To get closer to his subjects, Oliver uses the Canon MP-E 65mm f / 2.8 1-5x Macro Lens. Most “real” macro lenses have a reproduction ratio of 1: 1, which means that the subject will be rendered full-size, that is, the same size as if you placed it on the camera. the camera. The 65mm MP-E starts at 1: 1, but can go up to five times that magnification, allowing for images full of shots of incredibly small subjects. However, it becomes more difficult to use at these incredibly high magnifications.

• The best macro lenses

Cannon

(Image credit: Avenir)

Oliver’s other main macro lens is the Canon EF 100mm f / 2.8L Macro IS USM, which can shoot up to 1: 1, or even larger with Oliver’s handy extension tubes. Unlike his MP-E 65mm macro lens, which can shoot at 5x actual size, Oliver sometimes prefers to use this lens because it has better working distance, fast USM autofocus system, image stabilization and a larger front element. After trying the Canon RF 100mm f / 2.8L Macro IS USM mirrorless version, it will soon move on!

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Stewart C. Hartline