But as many beginners soon realize, macro photography is not an easy task. Perhaps because they are often used to taking macro photos with a compact camera, which involves entirely different dynamics, when they attempt to do the same with a DSLR, they painfully realize that some things are suddenly much more difficult. The in-focus zone is extremely thin; the tiniest movement can cause blur; and composition suddenly becomes much more problematic.
The general rule of thumb is this:
The closer you get to 1:1 magnification, the more difficult it becomes
At 1:1 magnification ratio, the tiniest detail in composition (a darker stem; a faded shade of color on a petal) can make it or break it. Not to mention, at 1:1 there is no room for hand-induced blur and the depth of field is very, very short.
So, here are 5 simple but incredibly efficient and important tips, that will help you get the best of your macro photos:
1. Start with stationary objects
Most beginners associate macro with insects - they have seen incredible photos of bug eyes, spider legs, and what not, and they want to do the same. It's definitely something to aspire to, but these are extremely complicated photos, involving a lot of hard work, experience, and the necessary element of luck. Until you master your skills, start with stationary subjects. There is a whole world waiting already at home, you don't need to go further away from your kitchen
|You don't need to go farther from your kitchen to find intriguing macro subjects|
I can't emphasize this enough! Forget all the 1/focal length rules. At this magnification, with such short depth of field, it is very difficult (
3. Composition, composition, composition
When you shoot e.g. a portrait, it's easy to be bit more lax. As long as you get a nice, flattering expression from the person you're photographing, and the background isn't busy, you got it. But in the micro world, every detail counts! 1cm closer to one side or the other, half a hair shorter depth of field, can make it or break it. Again, if you use a stationary subject (now you probably begin to see why it's so important in the learning process!), it's easy to think things through. Remember all the things we said about composition, and try to apply them here.
4. Experiment with light
If you have an external flash, use it! If you don't, get one! Seriously, an external flash (or more) should be in every photographer's bag. The idea is to fire these remotely. If you can't afford anything more expensive, get a simple slave flash (small ones sell for only a few bucks), and voila! You can trigger it with your camera's flash (just remember to set it to manual). You can get all sorts of fun shadows and dramatic lighting, that greatly affect the mood of a macro photo
|An external flash can do wonders for your macros or close-ups|
5. Quick-n-dirty bonus tips for outdoors/moving subjects
Yep, my 5th tip is actually a collection of tips about moving subjects. After you practice indoors and with stationary objects, you will surely want to try outdoors. Here's a few things to keep in mind:
- Anticipate action
If you chase flies and bees, you will get frustrated. Try instead to anticipate their moves. Learn their habits. Bees will be attracted to certain flowers. Find a nice sunny spot where you see plenty of them buzz around. Then focus (metaphorically and literally) on an attractive-looking flower. Sooner or later, a bee will buzz around it. Be(e) ready!
- Fast shutter speed and ample depth of field
You will need plenty of light. Or high ISO. Or both. But make no compromise. Focus is crucial, and so is shutter speed.
- If it's windy, forget it.
Honestly, it's not worth it. A slight breeze will be OK, but if you try to take macros of flowers or insects even in moderate wind, you will soon realize it's a thoroughly frustrating procedure.
- Be patient!
Finally, the most important piece of advice: Be patient! Rome was not built in a day, and the same applies to macro photography - perhaps one of the most demanding kinds of photography there is. Be prepared for a lot of frustration before you get your masterpieces!