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How to Shoot Creative Macro Leaf Photography

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Related course: Macro Magic

Leaf photography might sound limiting, but it’s a very creative genre. You can use macro photography to emphasise the beauty of even simple leaves.

Strengthen your creativity and your macro leaf photography skills with our guide.

Gather a Variety of Leaves to Add Creativity

With a variety of leaves to shoot, you’ll have more opportunities to express yourself creatively. You’ll also get a better idea of your unique macro photography style.

Every macro photographer has preferences when it comes to colours, angles, and details. The more subjects you have, the easier it will be to figure out what you’re most interested in shooting.

Gather leaves of different colours, shapes, and sizes. Don’t be afraid of using old or dull-looking leaves. The most insignificant leaves might inspire you a lot!Colorful leaves on white background

Take Photos of Leaves Outdoors to Gain Experience

Besides gathering leaves, you also can take leaf photos outdoors. This will give you less control, which can be a good thing.

The less control you have, the more experience you’ll get. This is an easy way to become a more flexible and imaginative photographer.

Taking photos in a fixed location is also great for inspiration. You might find a leaf in a position that forces you to shoot from an unusual angle. This might lead to creative photos and new ideas.

There are many leaves that you can only find on specific plants. You might not be allowed even to touch these leaves, but you could be able to take photos of them.

Visit greenhouses and parks to find unusual and colourful leaves to include in your portfolio.

Waterdrops on a leaf
Photo by Min An from Pexels

Use Dried Leaves to Emphasise Dramatic Leaf Textures

Fresh leaves can be a symbol of hope and optimism. Old and dried leaves symbolise the opposite. You can use them to take moody and dramatic macro photos.

If you don’t want to use old leaves outdoors, you can dry them at home. You can leave them to air-dry or put them in a flower press to quicken the process. You might need to wait a few weeks or days to get the results you want.

You can also buy dried leaf packs on Amazon or eBay for quicker results.

Macro photo of transparent leaves
Photo by DRasa from Pexels

Use a Large Aperture for Soft Backgrounds

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to leaf photography. You’re allowed to experiment with different camera settings to find your preferred style.

However, if you want that general soft macro look, you’ll need a large aperture. This is also known as a small f-number, like f/1.4. The smaller the number, the blurrier your backgrounds will look.

In general, fast shutter speed is helpful if you want to take sharp leaf photography with a large aperture.

If you want to take abstract macro photos, you’ll need to do the opposite. The slower your shutter speed, the more abstract the effect will be. If you use slow shutter speed, even a few mild hand movements will create blurry images, so it is best to use a tripod.

Macro photo of green leaves

Avoid Unfocused Shots by Using Manual Focus

Autofocus is a brilliant camera tool that can save you a lot of time and stress. It can be a nuisance when you try to take photos of small details, though. Your camera might focus on something different and ruin your entire shot.

Try to use manual focus as often as you can in macro leaf photography. It will take some time to get used to, but you’ll develop an intuition for it pretty quickly. This way, you’ll be able to avoid unfocused shots once and for all.

Macro photo of leaves
Photo by Kenneth from Pexels

Take Photos in Natural Light to Add Depth to Your Macro Photos

Natural light is almost every photographer’s trusted companion. You can use it to create harsh, soft, and mysterious photos of anything you like.

There’s a variety of ways in which you can use natural light to take macro leaf pictures. You can hold the leaf against the sun to enhance its colour and highlight its veins. You can also cover it in different shadows to create depth.

The lighting technique you use depends on your style and theme. Try to experiment with as many techniques as possible to get the best results.

Macro photo of a green leaf

Keep Your Backgrounds Simple to Highlight Leaf Details

Backgrounds are an essential part of photography, but they don’t always have to look outstanding. The background is often not visible in macro photography.

It’s rare to see vibrant backgrounds in leaf photography. The reason is that you don’t want your colours to clash. However, if you’re going to shoot from an angle that reveals the background, make sure you pick simple colours. The simpler your backgrounds, the more natural your leaf photos will look.

A white background will give your macro photos a minimalist feel. A black background will make your images look moodier. If you combine a dark background with atmospheric light, you’ll get fine art macro photos.

Macro photo of a green four-leaf clover
Photo by Djalma Paiva Armelin from Pexels

Shoot Through Cling Film or Tracing Paper for a Dreamy Macro Effect

Many lenses and lens filters can help you take dreamy macro photos. Lensbaby often produces lenses made for specific effects. However, these can be pricey and impractical if you just want to experiment with macro photography.

You can use DIY filters instead. All you need to do is cover your lens in cling film or shoot through tracing paper.

Cling film will make your photos look abstract and hazy. For a dreamier effect, add another layer of cling film in front of your lens.

Tracing paper will create an ethereal or ghostly effect, depending on how much light you use. You can place the leaf directly on the tracing paper or ask someone to hold it for you. Make sure you shoot against a bright source of light.Macro photo of leaves

Use Drops of Water, Glitter, or Paint to Create Eye-Catching Bokeh

If you have individual leaves, you can cover them in drops of water, glitter, or paint. You can take this to the next level by using a shallow depth of field to add depth and to create bokeh.

A shallow depth of field creates more blur. This helps separate your main subject from everything in the background. It removes distractions and creates an aesthetically-pleasing composition.

You can achieve a shallow depth of field by using a large aperture like f/1.8. The blurrier the background, the more bokeh you’ll be able to create.

Make sure you shoot from an angle that creates depth. If you shoot right above the leaf, you won’t be able to capture the right bokeh. If you shoot from a low angle and focus on one drop of water, you’ll create lots of interesting bokeh.

Macro photo of waterdrops on a leaf
Photo by Egor Kamelev from Pexels

Focus on Alternative Parts of the Leaf to Add Interest to Your Shots

If you want your leaf photos to stand out, you need to think outside the box.

Take photos of the leaf from different angles. You can focus on the leaf stem. You can also create a super close-up of a raindrop on the tip of the leaf. The leaf itself doesn’t have to be visible at all times.

You don’t need to follow conventional photography rules if you want to get extra creative. Your final photos can look as abstract as you like!

Macro photo of a waterdrop

Photograph Patterns to Make Your Macro Shots Aesthetically Pleasing

It’s hard to pick a focal point in leaf photography. You’re already working with very little. You can make your shots much more creative by focusing on patterns and symmetry.

Most leaves have some sort of symmetry. If you make that your focal point, your photos will look aesthetically pleasing.

You can also get really close and photograph tiny patterns. This will highlight the beauty of the leaf and make your pictures look all the more appealing.

Macro photo of the texture of a leaf

Common Macro Leaf Photography Questions

What Settings Should I Use for Macro Photography?

Macro photography settings are quite simple. The larger your aperture, the more bokeh you’ll be able to create. If you want to capture as many details as possible, you can use a smaller aperture. Use fast shutter speed to ensure that there’s no motion blur in your final results.

Make sure you take photos in RAW mode to preserve more image data.

How Do You Photograph Leaves?

First and foremost, you should invest in a good macro lens. It is also helpful to take photos in a location with good light and a simple background. Place your leaf on a surface and take pictures from different angles.

Why Is Macro Photography Interesting?

Macro photography is interesting because it provides a new perspective on life. Most details you see in macro photography aren’t something you come across every day. Macro photography is also an opportunity to spend more time enjoying the outdoors.

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