The macro photography is one of those disciplines full of challenges and opportunities, and that has a lot of magic because we discover a different world, however, it may be at our fingertips. Professional of the field and author of a book that we reviewed a few months ago and where he confesses that all his photographs (some of which have won international awards) are made without moving from his province.
Of this type of photography we have already spoken on many occasions, including a complete guide in three episodes and numerous articles on lighting in macro photography, the different possibilities in terms of accessories that exist, how to choose the ideal objective for macro photography, how to realize it with objectives inverted and even how to set up a home studio.
In a more recent article we review the basic aspects about macro photography so we recommend you to review it too, but this time we are going to focus on offering you a series of tricks and practical tips to improve your results, especially if you are starting in photography macro. So let’s go to it.
The best place and moment
Although any subject is good for this type of photo (and sometimes it is enough to approach to discover surprising things that usually go unnoticed), if you like macro photography it is very likely that one of your favorite subjects are insects, those tiny animals that close they are very surprising.
And of course you are also interested in flowers and plants, another very popular topic in this discipline. Therefore, the best place to find both subjects is, of course, places such as parks and gardens (if it is a botanical garden better than better). But, of course, it is not always the best time for these environments.
In fact, as you can imagine, the best seasons to find these elements in their maximum splendor are spring and summer, when the good temperatures make the insects are active and the plants sprout and flourish. Therefore, the ideal is to look for them in times when the outside temperature exceeds fifteen degrees (approx.).
When it is cold, plants are much less attractive and insects are much scarcer, although if you are able to locate them in their resting places (which is usually very difficult) you will be able to photograph them more easily because they stay still longer. For all this, photographers specialized in this discipline choose to get up early in the spring and early summer to try to “hunt” insects when they are not very active. By the way, if you wonder if it is better to have a sunny day or another cloudy day, the second option is usually better because the light is much softer, but the best is to take advantage of any opportunity, whatever the weather.
Choose the shutter speed well
As you can imagine, in macro photography it is very easy for the image to be damaged by our pulse when holding the camera or any small vibration that occurs in the subject to be photographed. Therefore it is crucial to use a high shutter speed, especially if you are a beginner.
As a general rule, it should always be shot above a value of 1/250 sec, although if we are going to use flash, it will depend on how fast the latter is synchronized. Also, in that case, we can also shoot below that value since the flash will help freeze the movement. In fact we can even make relatively long exposures (for example 1/30 sec) to get the background of the image appears with enough light and the subject has the expected sharpness thanks to the flash of the flash.
Of course that will require a certain mastery of the technique of shooting with flash, so it is best to start shooting at a high speed and, when we get experience, gradually lower the shutter speed by combining it with the use of flash.
No fear of using the flash
No doubt the lighting is crucial in this type of photos because, as we said before, to avoid trepidation we will have to shoot at high shutter speeds and use closed diaphragms to have a certain depth of field level. That is why many times we will have to resort to the use of flash, especially to portray insects, although as we know it is an artificial light and, often, little controllable.
Of course the ideal is to have some kind of flash for macro photography(there are quite affordable solutions like this one from Polaroid ), but even the pop-up flash built into your camera can work well to provide an extra light that enhances the photo and helps to avoid an image with little sharpness.
Of course, if you are going to use a non-specialized one, you should take two fundamental measures. The first is to use it as a fill-in flash to prevent the background of the image from being underexposed and without detail; the second is to use a diffuser, that is, any white and translucent material that, placed between the flash and the subject, can soften the strong light of the flash.
Focus manual or automatic?
Traditionally it has always been recommended to directly discard the autofocus but, as we have sometimes is a good alternative to take shots of subjects that move quickly, such as insects in their most active phases, especially if we have any of the latest models that have very sophisticated monitoring approaches.
For almost all other situations it is usually more advisable to use manual focus, learn to use it quickly and correctly (practice, as you know, is very important) and use the tools that help us, such as the focus Peaking.
Tripod, yes or no?
Another item that is usually recommended but that should not be taken literally. Logically, if we are talking about getting the maximum sharpness in a complicated shot it is clear that the tripod should be a recurring element but, once again, it depends on the situation. For example, in the case we mentioned in the previous section (that is, photographing insects in full activity) the use of a tripod is not recommended at all.
Think that the time you lose placing it may be enough for the insect in question to decide to fly to another site. Even it is possible that it does not do it but that, for little wind that there is, the flower in which it has posed moves just enough so that the photo leaves trepidada anyway. Therefore, unless you are portraying a completely static scene, as something inanimate in a studio, the use of the tripod is not always recommended in macro photography.
Beware of depth of field
As we have already mentioned, when shooting from close up we will almost always be photographing in situations in which the depth of field is very scarce. This can make it very difficult to achieve the photo we want, even if a small movement on our part causes the focus to deviate from the correct place. To avoid this, logically, we can use a more closed diaphragm (such as ƒ11 or ƒ22 ) that extends the depth of field as long as light conditions allow, and there are also more complicated techniques (and not suitable for all situations) such as resorting to stacking images.
Although the best strategy is to use depth intelligently, for example, photographing flat elements in a perspective that makes your entire body at the same distance from the focal plane. Of course, we can also use the opposite resource, using the scarcity of depth of field as a creative resource. A good example is the typical photo of an insect whose head is in focus and protrudes from a completely blurred background.
Eye with perspective
When making macro photographs, as in many other disciplines, it is important to take care of the perspective from which we photograph. A very typical error of the beginner photographer is to make the photos from above at an approximate 45 degree angle of the insect or flower. This perspective is not that it is wrong, but it will probably result in a fairly conventional photo and, therefore, may be boring.
That’s why it’s convenient to look for less common angles and shoot looking for unusual perspectives (from below, from behind …). For this it is very useful to take advantage of the drop-down screen that many of the current cameras have, which helps to achieve this and also to avoid, for example, that you have to throw yourself to the ground to achieve a contrapicado plane.
Search for a good composition
If you are new to macro photography, the more you enlarge the more satisfied you will be of the result, but have you achieved a better photo? Making the insect that appears in the photo appear bigger is not always the way to improve the image. In fact, it is easy for you to get a bit more beautiful or more interesting away and, although the “bug” in question looks smaller, it may be better represented in its natural environment.
Logically, macro photography is not free of the need for a correct composition for the image to work and, particularly, it is very important to be careful with the background. So you know, take care of the composition so that the photo works beyond its more or less interesting content.
And with this we have finished with our tricks to dare with macro photography but, as always, we appeal to you to complement the article with your experienced tricks in your photo shoots.