By Vanguard Pro Mike Moats
Here Mike shares his top six tips for macro photography
1. Find the character
When you are shooting, go slowly and take the time to study each topic with interesting features. All scenarios that contain flowers, leaves, trees and bugs have the potential to reveal elements of character. The character is reflected in the distinctive shape of an object, the remarkable lines, the exceptional contrast, the unusual pattern, the unique texture or the special light. Finding character in nature is about creating images that differ from the ordinary and mundane that most photographers capture.
2. Know your surroundings
One of the benefits of macro photography is that the environment constantly changes with the different seasons of the year. The life cycle of the plants we photograph changes monthly. Study and learn the patterns of the environment in which you are, so you will be in the right place at the right time.
3. Are you creating art or simply documenting?
When you photograph a flower, does it tend to appear documented, like something you would see in a flower identification textbook? In documented photos, it shows the flower and the environment in which it grows with all the disorder. Are you creating artistic compositions with a clean background that allows the flower to stand out? Find the right camera angle with the least distracting background that allows the flower to stand out, creating a more artistic composition.
4. Do you think before shooting?
Once you find a subject and place your tripod and your camera to take the picture, you think: Have I seen this subject composed in this way before? If you have done it, then do not shoot. We all study the work of other photographers, and we have all seen thousands of images of flowers and other macro subjects. If you think you are copying the composition, look for a way to compose the theme to make it different from everything you've seen before. If you want your images to stand out, then stop copying others and create your own unique way of viewing a subject.
5. Software for post-processing
By following these tips, you can produce some unique and artistic photos. You may have found a subject with a great character, and you have composed it in your own original style, but when it comes out of the camera, it lacks life. Digital cameras are not designed to produce finished photos, that depends on the photographer. You need an editing software to bring your photos to life by adding depth, contrast, colours and a dramatic feeling. Two of my favourite programs are Nik Software and Topaz Programs. By using these programs, I have taken my photos to another level that really attracts the viewer's attention.
6. Equipment for the macro photographer
My most successful image I've photographed was in 2004 with a Fuji S2 SLR digital camera. That camera is from generations ago, in the digital era of cameras. Any digital SLR camera you have today, regardless of the price, will capture large macro images if used correctly. As for the objectives, I use Tamron's macro objectives, but all companies produce good quality macro objectives. For your macro objective, I would recommend a longer focal length, such as a 180 mm range. A lens with greater focal length gives more working distance between you and the subject, which is important if you are photographing living subjects such as butterflies, dragonflies, frogs, which can flee if they approach. Other options would be in the mid-range macro lenses, such as 90mm, 100mm, or 105mm, which will work well, but will not give you much working distance between you and the subject.
I do not recommend the 50mm or 60mm macro lenses because the working distance from the subject is only close, which can scare away living subjects, and makes it difficult for the back and knees when the subject has to be lowered in soil. I do 100% of my shots on a tripod, which guarantees that I will have good sharp images.
About Mike Moats
Mike is a professional photographer from Michigan. His articles and images have been published in Outdoor Photographer, Natures Best, Nature Photographer, Photolife, PC Photo, Shutterbug and many more, and his images have won local and international awards. He was kind enough to share some of his expert advice on making great macro images.