Stuck for something to shoot? Trying your hand at Macro photography means you don’t need to be standing on top of a mountain or leaning perilously over the edge of a building to get a great shot.
Indeed, as long as you live in a reasonably standard house or – better yet – have a garden, you’re in a great place to create some incredibly striking shots using your macro skills.
It takes a little time and effort, though – simply having a decent macro lens isn’t going to cut it. Picking the right subject, finding a good background and – crucially – lighting everything properly will make an enormous difference. Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. You’ll always find us in the kitchen (at photography parties)
We can guarantee that your kitchen is stuffed with interesting things to photograph. Macro photography is all about pattern and texture, and the closer you get to some of the bits and bobs in your kitchen, the more you’re going to find to snap.
Think knives with serrated edges, the pattern on your worktop, the Chinese writing on that drawer full of chopsticks you’re never going to use – all of these everyday items can make for incredible photography.
And that’s before you start raiding the cupboard for interesting-looking food.
2. Setup is everything
Macro photography is a great reason – fine, excuse – to start bringing together the pieces of your first home studio. You might be able to knock together frames using existing work surfaces in your home – a plain white wall can work wonders – although unless you decorated your home using Casualty as inspiration, you’re unlikely to have many plain white surfaces.
One technique that’s worked for us is using an off-cut of worktop as a starting point for macro photography: it allows you to work wherever you like and work from any angle you like.
3. Actually, background is everything
Just because macro photography has very limited depth of field doesn’t mean you can ignore the background of your shots.
The first option is to decide your kitchen is sufficiently pretty (and flawlessly put together) that you can find a background that supports the angle you want to shoot from. That means no power sockets in the background, clean lines and no horrible grease build ups (we all have them).
The second option is to go for a constructed background. This could be as simple as a big sheet of plain white paper (getting a roll of it is the best bang-per-buck), or using a small photographic light tent.
The latter has the added bonus of diffusing incoming light, reducing your reliance on light modifiers. Which brings us to…
4. No, wait, lighting is everything
Effectively lighting your macro compositions is the difference between success and failure. Perhaps even more than in portrait photography, macro photography lighting is critical.
For one thing, if macro is all about texture, being able to position lights in such a way that you can pick out said texture is really important. Controlling the light is also important when it comes to directing where and how shadows fall in your images.
Of equal importance is controlling your lens’ aperture. Many macro lenses, such as the sensational OLYMPUS 60mm f/2.8 Macro M.ZUIKO, have big maximum apertures.
In natural light, and especially normal household light, you’ll always be working towards the bigger end of the aperture range – which means very limited depth of field. Indeed, the closer you get to your subject (the whole point in macro photography), the more limited your depth of field will be, until it reaches a point when you really can’t tell what’s going on.
Using even a single powerful strobe, such as the OLYMPUS FL 600R, will give you a really strong burst of light that will allow you to stop down quite a long way, and the depth of field difference between f/2.8 and f/16 is really significant. Shots with absolutely minimal depth of field are like newspaper stories you can only read the first line of – using bigger lights will let you give people more to sink their teeth into.
Need more help? Head to our events calendar and check out our workshops, demo days and photowalks to find the perfect event to help you refine your skills, learn new techniques and pick the brains of the best.