Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Getting started with macro photography is as easy as picking up a camera and taking photos. There is really nothing to it.
If you love taking photographs of small things such as plants, animals, insects, and jewelry, macro photography is as easy as getting up close and personal with your subjects. It’s an extremely rewarding type of photography that anyone can do with an affordable camera and absolutely no skills.
The best way to get started with macro photography is to learn the basics, figure out exactly which type of lens and camera is going to capture the best photographs, and understand the true definition of macro photography. With just a little bit of research and a handful of hours practicing at home or around town, you can easily master macro photography and impress all your friends with beautiful photographs.
What Is Macro Photography?
Macro photography at its core is the photographing of small subjects, such as bugs and flowers, extremely close up. There is no definitive subject of macrophotography. It can be anything from an earring to a caterpillar, or even just the close-up shot of someone’s eye.
Macro photography can be done inside or outside of a studio. There are really no rules, and so long as you magnify your subject in such a way that makes it larger than life, you’re succeeding in macro photography.
You may have tried macro photography before and not even know it. If you’ve ever stopped to take a close-up picture of a flower in a garden, you’ve done macro photography. But when it comes to professional up-close photos, macro photography is all about taking pictures in which your subject is equal to the size of your camera sensor or even smaller.
In fact, this is the official definition of macro photography, meaning if your camera sensor is 1 inch or smaller, you should be taking a photograph of a subject that is 1 inch or smaller. The general rule is that you’re taking a picture of something that fills your frame.
But then again, this is a very stuffy definition of macro photography. It’s really all about magnification and exaggerating a small subject. A lot of people use the term macro photography to refer to taking a picture of anything small and close-up. And hey, if that’s the type of macro photography you’re interested in, that’s great too!
How Do You Do Macro Photography?
Taking macro photos is actually a little more complicated than you might think. Doing macro photography involves more than just pointing and clicking. You need to worry about getting a proper depth of field, focus on the most crucial aspect of your subject, and have the right equipment to get the job done.
Here, we have outlined some of the best tips on how to do macro photography and enhance your profile as a photographer.
Step 1. Practice A Lot.
Becoming an excellent macro photographer is just like becoming a race car driver. You need a lot of practice. Once you have the proper equipment and a fairly good idea of what you’re trying to do, go out and do it.
The best thing about this is that everything you see can be a subject for macro photography. Even in your own backyard, there are flowers, rocks, bugs, maybe some scraps of garbage, and there could be a toad or two. Use everything as a model until you get comfortable with your camera, your camera’s settings, and your capabilities.
Step 2. Master Depth Of Field.
Learning about depth of field is critical to becoming a master macro photographer. If you’re not sure what depth of field is, it’s essentially the region of sharp focus. In plain English, the closer that you bring your lens to your subject, the shallower your depth of field will become. This is what causes your image to be crystal clear or blurry.
You need to master the depth of field in order to get your subject in focus the right way. Of course, a standard digital camera isn’t going to be very handy for this. But, if you’re using a professional DSLR camera, you should be able to increase the depth of field to get a better photograph by customizing your aperture.
This is a lot of camera lingo that you’ll have to learn on your journey to becoming the ultimate macro photographer.
Step 3. Master Manual Focus.
Macro shots are best done in manual focus. You will need to experiment with manual focusing to get the best depth of field and the clearest images of your subject. This is why we always suggest that a beginner photographer ignores the autofocus capabilities of their camera and instead learns how to master the manual focus. In the end, you’ll get much nicer pictures.
Step 4. Understand Stabilization.
Learning how to keep your camera stable and balanced is critical to taking quality pictures over and over again. When teaching yourself how to take great macro shots, start off by using a tripod or whatever you possibly can to keep your camera as stable as possible.
It’s important to understand that because you are operating at such a high magnification, any slight movement will create a dramatic blur. You need to keep your camera motionless to get the best shots.
As a pro tip, try moving your subject rather than the camera when going for different angles. If you can get your camera stabilized using a tripod, keep it focused with your subject framed and move your subject around instead of messing with the camera when you want to get shots from different angles. This will save you loads of time.
Step 5. Keep Your Workspace Clean.
Once you begin taking macro photos, you learn very quickly that everything shows up in your picture. From tiny hairs to fingerprint smudges, everything is visible in highly magnified photos. For this reason, you always want to keep your workspace clean.
Of course, this isn’t easy to accomplish outside when taking pictures of wildlife. Getting the perfect, unobstructed shot of a grasshopper can prove difficult. But this is just one of those things that you’ll have to master with time and practice.
What Camera Do I Need for Macro Photography?
There are two main types of cameras available to photographers right now. We will go over each type of camera, that way you can understand which camera is best for macro photography.
Digital Cameras: Digital cameras are the cheapest option when it comes to any type of photography. However, a digital camera does not have the same level of precision or magnification as other types of cameras. It is a good option for those who are just starting and are on a budget, though you may feel quickly limited by the fact that you can’t equip the best macro lens.
DSLR Cameras: DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. These are the best macro photography cameras on the market. Yes, they are more expensive, but they also offer far more options for you to experiment with macro photography.
Even a moderately priced DSLR camera is going to produce superior images compared to a digital camera or a smartphone. A DSLR camera allows you to switch between different macro lenses depending on the situation, and this is critical when needing different focal lengths.
Plus, a DSLR camera is compatible with all the newest photography equipment, from tripods to straps. These cameras also offer the best in processing power, memory for storage, and easy uploading via Wi-Fi or NFC, transferring RAW images straight from your camera to your smartphone.
What Lens is Best for Macro Photography?
Finding the perfect lens for macro photography is a huge deal. You can take up-close photographs without a lens, but you won’t get results anywhere close to what you could achieve if using a proper macro lens.
Yes, there are lenses designed specifically for macro photography. These lenses are specialized and sophisticated and can focus in such a way that a tiny subject is turned into a life-sized model. The best lenses for macro photography can achieve a magnification ratio of up to 5:1, which means the final image will be about five times the size of your subject.
The average focal length for a macro lens is going to be around 50mm. Anything between 50mm and 60mm is going to be great for plants and inanimate objects, as you can take photos of these things from an extraordinarily close distance.
That said, if you’re planning to take photographs of wildlife, you’re not going to be able to get right on top of them. You’ll need a macro lens with a focal length of at least 100mm. This will allow you to take photographs from farther away. This is important because you don’t want to scare away the very thing you’re trying to take photos of.
At the end of the day, macro photography is a very fun hobby. It’s inexpensive, it’s easy to learn, and it doesn’t require a whole lot of experience. Pick up an affordable mirrorless camera or DSLR, equip yourself with a specialized macro lens, and learn the settings and how to use depth of field to your advantage.
Before you know it, you’ll be submitting your macro photographs to National Geographic!
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