By Matt Doogue
It goes without saying that macro photography is one of the most challenging genres of photography, but it doesn’t have to be.
Do you find it hard to get your subject in focus? Does your image lack depth of field? Is your lighting too harsh?
These are just some of the questions I was faced with when I started out with macro photography.
In this ‘Top Tips’ blog, I’ll be listing some things that you can do to help get that perfect shot.
Focus is probably the most crucial part of any photograph, especially for macro, and this can be a challenge.
- Shoot in manual focus. This will allow you to have more control over your camera and where the point of focus is within your photo. Set your lens to whatever magnification you require. On 1:1 macro lenses such as the Canon 100mm 2.8 I will set my magnification at its max (1:1) and leave it. I then rock myself slowly back and forth and watch as the point of focus moves over my subject, when it hits that sweet spot I hit that trigger.
- Use a tripod and/or a focus rail. When I’m shooting flowers I tend to use my Vanguard Alta Pro 2+ tripod, it allows me to get almost at ground level with my camera, I then manually focus on my subject and take the photo using a shutter release or remote. The tripod is perfect for keeping everything steady and nailing that focus.
Depth of field
Another crucial part of macro photography, this determines how much of your subject is in focus, how much light is available, and how the bokeh will be rendered in your shot.
- Experiment with your depth of field. I tend to stay between f5.6 - f9, but sometimes shooting at f2.8 can provide beautiful bokeh, whereas f10/f13 can produce really sharp subjects.
Photography is the art, application and practice of creating durable images by recording light and lighting is everything with macro photography.
- Use a flash. Adding flash to your macro gear will completely change your shots. Using flash allows you to increase that depth of field without having to sacrifice light. It also helps freeze your subject, and, if like me you get a bit wobbly every now and again it can help stop blur.
- Diffuser. A bare flash head can show really harsh lighting in your images; by adding a small softbox you can cast softer light over a bigger surface area. Experiment with different materials, or construct your own D.I.Y flash diffuser, there are plenty of videos on YouTube showing you how.
- Natural light. Modern cameras can handle high ISO extremely well, push those boundaries and use natural light in your images for creative lighting. Sunset and sunrise especially.
Time of the day
The time of day you choose to do your macro photography can really affect your chances of getting some keepers.
- Go out early. Getting outside early increases your chances of finding subjects whilst they are still warming up, this means they don’t move around as much, giving you more time to compose your shot and get your lighting right. A rising sun can create some beautifully backlit photos.
- Go out late. In the evening subjects are starting to settle down and so are more approachable. The lighting is less harsh if you’ve chosen to use natural light and the setting sun can cast beautiful light over your subject.
I hope these tips help you with your macro photography journey. It’s a challenging genre, but the rewards are worth it.
Award-winning photographer Matt Doogue is a passionate conservationist, tour leader, public speaker, outreach teacher and mental health ambassador. Matt’s work has been published in most of the UK’s leading photographic titles, and in 2014 he appeared on BBC’s Autumnwatch. In his spare time he regularly visits schools to educate children of all ages on the importance of our natural world.