Hello and Welcome to Snap Creative Photos, where Creativity Has No Limits.
My name is Gary Cooper and I am a Creative Lighting Photographer who specialises in Head Shots & Portrait Photography. I have been writing and recording posts all about photography to help people with a passion for photography and people who are looking to have photographs taken in the future, be more prepared and informed.
Today I want to share with you my 7 Top Tips When Starting Macro Photography. I will cover two main areas which are photography gear and settings. I will also share what I use when out and about but as always I will never recommend a product or service unless I truly believe it is value for money.
So lets get started with my 7 Top Tips for Macro Photography
Tip Number 1 – Lens Of Choice is Important
So you may think that this is pretty straight forward, go to the camera store or website and type in Macro Lens right? Well when searching for this on Jessops website today, it came back with 65 options. Lets look just for Nikon and I now have 17 to choose from.
Its all about the Magnification Ratio. 1:1 is classed as the true macro lens where other lens which say macro may only be 1:3. So what does it all mean? Short version is that 1:1 means that you are in the world of the subject you are photographing and 1:3 would mean you are further back, more like a birds eye view of the subject. If you go the other way of 4:1 that means you would enlarge the subject by 4 times the actual size of the subject.
As always it will be down to what you want to achieve from macro photography and if you are on a budget which means you have to have a lens that does more than macro photography. My lens of choice is the Nikon 105mm 1:1 – I wanted to jump straight into macro photography but also use the lens for portraits.
So my Top Tip is to check that the Macro Lens has a 1:1 magnification ratio.
Tip Number 2 – A Tripod is a Must
Yes that’s right, grab your tripod as you will regret it otherwise. You will need a tripod that can adjust its legs separately and allow you to get low to the ground. I use the Manfrotto Go190 as the legs fold out flat and the middle pole can hold your camera out vertically and horizontally.
The key thing to look for in a tripod for macro photography is that it is nice and sturdy but also allows you to be flexible with positioning due to the nature of trying to capture subjects that are hidden away. You need a tripod as you will be wanting to remove as much camera shake as possible to give yourself a nice sharp image.
So my Top Tip is to make sure the tripod you use has lots of parts that can adjust the angle of the camera from the legs to the tripod head.
Tip Number 3 – Lighting is Everything
Being a Head Shot & Portrait photographer, lighting is so important and getting the light perfect when taking macro images is just as important. The options you have in the camera is to increase light coming onto the sensor, is to up the ISO but this can bring grain and not the sharpest of results when you really want a crisp image.
You could drop the shutter speed down to 1/10th of a second, that is where the tripod will be a must, however any bugs or even wind in the air will mean although the camera is not moving the subject will and then that creates blur. Lastly you can open up the aperture to F2.8 which is fine if you only want a small area in focus.
The answer is to bring some light and it does not need to be a large light. Lets remember, the subjects normally are very small and will not need big studio lighting. I use a Manfrotto mini 8 LED light set up. I also pair it up with my Joby tripod to hold it in place as the tripod is flexible and adjusts to the landscape around it or it can be light enough for me to hold it in place.
So my Top Tip is to use a light source to make your subject stand out and give you more control to set the camera how you want to capture a fantastic image.
Tip Number 4 – Shutter Release Support
The aim of macro photography is to show people a whole new world that is right under our nose. You will want to show off this amazing world in focus and its important that you give yourself every chance you can to get that image. You don’t want to get home and load up the photos onto a bigger screen only to find that the images are not as sharp as you would like.
Ok so lets look at the two main options you have. First up is the camera self timer. Set this up so when you hit the shutter button, you will then have a image captured. The second option is to use a wireless or wired trigger release setup.
Although it means carrying extra gear, I do prefer to take a trigger release, I use the Nikon wired trigger release. It just helps to have an extra option in case low light means you can not get your shutter speed above 1/100th of a second.
So my Top Tip is to know how to use your cameras built in self timer or better still have a trigger release system that you are happy to use.
Tip Number 5 – Choose the Right Aperture
I have spoken about shutter speed and lighting but now lets look at how Aperture can play a role in taking your next macro photograph. The key question that you need to have in your mind is ‘How much of the image do I want in focus?’
We know that although F2.8 will let in loads of light to the sensor, it also means that the image will have a very narrow depth of field which will mean only a small wall of focus. At the other end of the scale, F22 will let in limited light but help you keep everything in focus.
So when you have a three dimensional subject, like a ladybird, using F2.8 means part of the ladybird will not be in focus. Now you might want that to add to the image you wanted to create. If you want more of the ladybird to be in focus, then F8 to F11 can give you that but still have a blur to the background.
You could get really creative, if you have a subject which does not move, and use an editing technique called focus stacking. I will put together a post on this in the coming weeks.
My Top Tip is to not forget that Aperture controls the depth of field which means a low F number will equal small focus area where as a high F number will equal large focus area.
Tip Number 6 – Which Focus Mode to Use
Do you go for auto focus or manual focus? Which ever you choose you should use single point focus to help you move the little square over the exact point you want to have in focus.
Auto focus is great to let the camera lock onto the subject and makes this one less area to worry about. Manual focus is great for having all the control when the camera just is not getting it on point for you.
I like to use manual mode and live view on my Nikon D750. Live view on the flip out screen can be another great way to get a view that might need you to be higher then the camera eye view. But the main point is that when you use the live view screen, you move the red square to the area you want to focus on and then zoom in on the screen, which will then show you if that area is in focus. Manually change the focus of that area to give yourself a nice crisp image.
So my Top Tip is to use Manual focus with the added support of Live View mode to zoom in on the subject and ensure its super sharp.
Tip Number 7 – Check your background
That’s it, that is tip number seven, check your background. As with any photograph, ensure you pay attention to the whole image. The subject and the background need to work together to finish off the end image.
My Top Tip is to take a moment just before you press the shutter button to check in on your background as you will regret it when you get home.
Well that is the 7 Tips When Starting Macro Photography that I believe will get you off on a great start with your Macro Photography. As always, ensure you know how to use your camera and what the settings can do to make your life easier.
I hope you have found this post useful and if you have any Macro Photography questions, then please do email me at NoLimits@SnapCreativePhotos.com or drop a question in the comments below. If there is any subject you would like me to cover then please do let me know and I will happily cover that for you.