The do’s and don’ts of macro photography

Are you interested in macro photography? If so, you will enjoy yourself. With your macro photos, you’ll see all the intricate details your eyes missed in real time.

And as a macro photographer, you’ll find subjects like no other. From exquisite flora to extraterrestrial fauna, you will encounter them all. We promise you’ll start looking at the world in a different light.

Want to dive into the world of micro beasts? Here’s what you need to be aware of.

Macro photography things to do

First, let’s dive into the things you should be doing with your macro photography.

1. Find intriguing topics

As a macro photographer, you have the right to take pictures of pretty flowers and beautiful butterflies, but try to look beyond those subjects. It’s best to look for overlooked things like spring buds, mushrooms, small insects, worms, and unusual reptiles. The textures of autumn leaves, bird feathers, ice crystals, snowflakes and water droplets also make great subjects.

Make your subjects stand out by paying attention to the background and lighting conditions.

2. Try different angles

Your macro photos are a hit if they elicit a reaction from viewers. To grab viewers’ attention, you have to be willing to try different angles and perspectives. Usually, head-on shots of insects and reptiles have a better impact. Also watch where the light falls on your subject – the wings of a dragonfly glinting against the sunlight are sure to grab your viewers attention.

You can also check out different perspectives, from bird’s eye view and bird’s eye view to everything in between. Acrobatic skills can be useful as a macro photographer.

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3. Focus manually

If you’ve used a macro lens before, you probably know how shallow the depth of field is. Added to this misfortune, your lens’ autofocus mechanism doesn’t always get it right. So how do you nail your focus and bring your subject to life? Switch to this M mode on your lens and focus manually.

Since the macro lens allows you to get very close to your subject, it’s easy to miss your focus. The best way to handle this situation is to move back and forth slowly until you see your subject in sharp focus, then shoot. Remember to zoom to 100% and check the image quality on your camera screen.

4. Fill your frame

Macro subjects are tiny, and your main job as a macro photographer is to capture them big. One of your macro lens specialties is that it can focus very close, so don’t hesitate to get closer to your subject. But be careful not to frighten your tiny subjects. A mid-range macro lens like the Canon 100mm f/2.8 is excellent for this.

The biggest advantage of having a high resolution camera for macro photography is that you can crop your photos tightly while still maintaining enough resolution to enlarge them. Of course, most newer cameras have a resolution of at least 24 megapixels, so that’s fine.

5. Use natural light as much as possible

Your macro subjects are so small that even a puff of wind is enough to move them. In order to avoid blurry photos, your shutter speed should be fast. Also, your aperture should be in the mid-range because your macro lens’ depth of field is shallow. So unless you’re shooting in daylight, you’ll need some extra lighting.

Powerful external flashes are great accessories for lighting up your macro subjects, but they can also harm tiny creatures. So feel free to increase your ISO and tweak the noise in your post-production software. Or, try taking slightly underexposed photos and edit the details in software later. Having a sturdy tripod can also help.

If you must use a flash, be sure to use an appropriate diffuser.

6. Shoot in RAW

Shooting in RAW over JPEG has many advantages, especially when it comes to adjusting white balance and extracting detail from shadows and highlights.

With your macro subjects, you need all the flexibility possible. Unlike other subjects, these tiny creatures can change quickly between different lighting conditions. For example, a frog may be in full sun one moment, and the next it may be jumping into a shady spot under the bush.

7. Try Focus Stacking

Want your macro images to be super sharp like the ones you see in magazines? Then your best bet is focus stacking. It’s not a complex technique, and we have step-by-step focus stacking instructions for you.

Things not to do in macro photography

Now for the things you shouldn’t do…

1. Choose the wrong time of day

You probably know all the rage around blue hour and golden hour photography. But, unfortunately, your macro subjects don’t care how beautiful these two times of the day are, they follow their own timeline.

Every little creature has a favorite time of day when they are active. So you should plan your day around that. For example, bees and butterflies tend to be active during the hottest part of the day, and creatures like frogs and salamanders prefer the evening. On the other hand, early mornings are perfect for photographing fresh flowers glistening with dewdrops.

2. Disturbing wildlife and its environment

Naturally, you’ve put a ton of effort into creating the perfect images, but manipulating your subject and their surroundings is a no-no. For example, think about how a salamander – which likes to live in the dark, under a log – will feel if you flash a bright light on it. Likewise, it is not acceptable to bring an insect into your studio to photograph it.

Please don’t take your subjects for granted just because they are small. Also, remember that those leaves, rocks, and sticks may be there for a reason. So, avoid changing them too much. Stay on the trail when in the woods.


3. Leave it all behind

Photographing in nature is unpredictable and labor intensive. You must therefore be prepared to spend long hours outdoors. You may want to bring enough food and water with you. At the same time, remember to bring all your waste with you.

As cliché as it sounds, try to only take pictures and leave only your footprints.

Take macro photos that are out of this world

When dealing with the smallest creatures on the planet, try different techniques to portray their beauty. More importantly, stick to them. It will also help if you research your topics beforehand and learn more about them. Knowing your camera and lens settings is also crucial.

Macro photography can be very demanding, but it can also be rewarding. Follow our tips here and you’ll soon start taking great macro photos.

Stewart C. Hartline