Macro photography definition

Macro photography is a technique of taking photos of objects at close range to capture details that are typically not very noticeable to the human eye. Many photographers use this technique to take pictures of the tiniest objects to get the most exciting results – like a very detailed shot of a snowflake.

Macro photography picture with snowflake

If you want to learn how to take macro photos, you should consider having the proper equipment and camera configuration.

Macro photography settings

Macro photography can take a lot of time and effort to master, but the result is worth the effort. Macro shots are characterized by a clear and sharp foreground subject and background with a shallow depth of field.

It is essential to set the proper macro focus – although autofocus is effective for most types of shooting, it can be pretty tricky when you try to take a close-up photo. It is better to use the manual focus mode using Live View or Focus peaking in such cases. These options allow you to view the scene even at very high magnification, so it would be easier to get a sharp shot right away.

Macro photography picture with branch

To achieve a shallow depth of field, you need to ensure the following two key points:

  • First, choose the widest aperture available on the lens. In most macro lenses, this is f/2.8, which is much wider than most zoom lenses.

  • The distance between the subject and the camera is the second step in achieving a shallow depth of field. The closer the subject is to the camera, the shallower the depth of field.

Macro photography equipment

Macro lenses can be regular, with a focal length of 50-60 mm, and telephoto, with the focal length starting from 100 mm. They differ from ordinary non-specialized lenses. They can project tiny objects onto the camera matrix in full size and focus at a minimum distance at large focal lengths. In addition, color and optical aberrations are as low as possible.

There are several ways to change the focal length of an existing lens. For example, you can increase the distance between the lens and the body with extension rings or additional lenses with a special close-up screw. Additional lenses are ordinary magnifying glasses that are screwed onto the lens like a filter, available with different diopters: +1, +2, +3, and +4. The image is enlarged by a particular magnification depending on the lens used.

Macro photography picture with frozen water

In terms of lighting, an ordinary built-in flash produces a lot of light, but it’s direct, which is not always the best solution for highlighting shadows. In that case, you can use ring flashes – they surround the lens and provide an even, soft light.

Another essential accessory that is overlooked by many is the macro tripod. Considering that the depth of field is minimal or is done at a certain magnification scale, it is not always possible to get a high-quality photo when you hold the camera. The tripod should have the ability to set the camera at a minimum height, as many objects for macro photography are on the ground or at low altitude.

Macro photography tips and ideas

When taking macro photos, it is impossible to overestimate the importance of the background. If it’s overloaded, it will distract the viewer’s attention from the main thing. Rather than shoot at the first point that comes to your mind, move around a little. It will help you take your time and explore the object you want to capture from all possible angles.

Butterfly macro photography example

There are times when you want to increase the depth of field and keep the entire subject sharp. This can be problematic as when most of the frame remains in focus it can be distracting. It’s better to use flash instead of changing the depth of field. With it, you will highlight the main object on the photo while enjoying a wonderful depth of field and making the background really dark or even black, which can help you get more interesting shots.

Given that nature photography is the most popular part of macro photography, you can start with taking photos of such things as:

  • Plants (leaves, flowers, etc.)

  • Water (rain, ice)

  • Butterflies

Macro photography picture with leaves

And, of course, don’t be afraid to experiment! If the photo is not perfect, you can always improve it by editing. The more you practice, the easier it would be to get a better result next time.