Macro Photography Tips for Beginners

If you have a compact digital camera (or point-and-shoot as they are usually called) then these macro photography tips for beginners will help you get some great shots.

In fact, your point-and-shoot has some very sophisticated features including macro mode. Technically, the images your camera makes in macro mode should be called 'close-ups' as true macro photography means the image you make is life size or bigger which won't be the case with a compact camera. However, you can still get some high quality shots and discover new realms of creativity.

When your camera is set to macro mode you will find that you can focus much closer to your subject. The distance will vary depending on make and model so you need to read the manual for the precise distance.

In macro mode the camera will automatically select a wide aperture which will throw the background out of focus leaving the foreground sharp as in the photography below of a poppy. Even so, sometimes you can adjust the aperture - bigger numbers give smaller apertures and vice versa. So if you want just a tiny bit in focus, use a big aperture (therefore a smaller number). This is known as depth-of-field - the smaller the depth-of-field, the more you lose the background. This will give you the most pleasing shots.

Close-up of a Red Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) (Photo by Anne Darling)

Once you have take a shot, check on the LCD to see if it is focussed as you want it. Once you have the focus right, keep taking shots from different angles, higher and lower, and move around your subject if possible. The perfect shot is usually arrived at after many attempts so keep going.

Close-up of Magnolia Grandiflora (Photo by Anne Darling)

Macro Nature Photography

With macro nature photography such as flowers, the slightest movement from you will cause blur on your final image and there is also a danger of internal camera camera vibration, more so with a digital SLR. If you have a tripod this will make a big difference. You can buy small, light-weight table-top tripds at low cost and they are great for macro nature photography as you can slip one in your pocket.

Another way to minimize movement is to use the self timer, with or without a tripod.

Close-up of a Fly on a Rose (Photo by Anne Darling)

Insect Macro Photography

With a shallow depth-of-field, very little of your image will be in sharp focus so it is important to make sure the camera is focussed on the most important part of the picture. In the image below, I focussed on the fly, and the shallow depth-of-field threw everything else out of focus. In insect macro photography it is preferable to focus precisely on the insect's eye. If your camera allows it, focus manually as you will get sharper results.

Art Macro Photography

Art macro photography is appealing to many for the simple reason that it is comparatively easy to make interesting abstract images when you are that close to your subject.

Compare the image above with the other poppy image at the top of the page. They are both shots of the same flower but by choosing a different composition for the one above, I have made a more abstract shot with a 'painterly' feel it. If you would like to read more about abstract photography click the link.

Macro Photography Lighting

For macro nature photography, your images will be best when there is plenty of light without strong shadows. This is particularly true when photographing flowers as the delicacy of the petals can be lost when there are hard shadows. So try to pick a day which is bright but a bit overcast or hazy or else just be patient and wait for clouds to come overhead.

You can use the built-in flash if you need to but you might like to diffuse it with some thin tissue-type paper taped over the flash to act as a diffuser. Another idea is to use a reflector instead of the flash to increase the amount of light on your subject. You can pick these up quite cheaply at any good photography shop.


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