One of my favourite quotes came into my head the other day when I was out walking…
Taking pictures is savouring life intensely, every hundredth of a second. Marc Riboud
The word intensely seemed to take my thought pattern to Macro photography. During lockdown, I’ve been shooting a lot of macro on film so I thought that I would share some of my tips with you here for shooting macro on your digital camera… do go and explore this arena – there’s a whole fascinating other world out there waiting for you.
Front of camera
There are specific macro lenses readily available, however before you invest heavily in good quality macro glass you may like to look into diopters and extension tubes. Diopters are basically magnifying glass that you screw on to the front of your lens. There are different strengths available and generally come in collections of four. Extension tubes are available in different sizes and they fit onto your camera between the body and your lens. Both are excellent starting points and will give you a good idea where you want to go with your macro photography.
Steadying your camera
As you get closer and closer to your subject, any slight camera shake will tell it’s tale in your photograph. If you do hand hold your camera, then make sure you shoot at faster shutter speeds. You can invest in a tripod or something like a Joby Gorillapod if you’re planning to do a lot. Do consider a shutter release cable or a remote shutter release. Either of these will help steady your camera even more.
Take your time to look.
Explore the subject before you through your camera – you will find a whole microscopic world that you may not notice with your eyes. Just be with your subject. Take time to enjoy yourself
Get on the same level as your subject.
This makes for a more pleasing photograph, rather than a magnified birds eye view.
Take a waterproof something to lie if you’re shooting out and about – enough said…
Consider the light.
Take time to explore what light you capture with which settings. You may be wanting to capture scientifically crisp and correct images or you may be looking to find a magical outcome. Either way light is key. Scientific style, will call for front lighting with little reflectors to fill in. The magical light can be captured with Bokeh – the effect of a soft out-of-focus background that you get when shooting a subject, using a fast lens, at the widest aperture, such as f/2.8 or wider. More on light below…
To achieve Bokeh is easy using these steps:
- The faster the aperture the better – f2.8 or greater. Shoot with your lens wide open, whatever the focal length
- For better results use fast prime lenses with a long focal length – this creates greater bokeh
- Increase distance between subject and background and move closer to your subject
And finally think about the background
This ties in with the last point really. If you are wanting Bokeh then make sure that there is some light falling in your background… say sunlight on leaves. The highlights will be picked up as bubbles. Top tip – take a spray bottle of water with you and mist where the sunlight falls on the leaves. Going back to light, try experimenting with time of day and also time of year. There is nothing better than the golden hour in late Summer or early Autumn.
My favourite types of macro photography is done out in the countryside or woodlands. A Spring woodland has a magical light for gathering Bokeh highlights. I can get lost behind my lens for hours. Pure rêverie.