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Macro photography is all about making small items look larger than life. Anything from insects, flowers, and plants can become the focus of your photos.

Sometimes, macro is referred to as micro-photography. There are similarities between the two, but they are not the same thing, as this post will show you.

Regarding technical aspects, macro is a challenging area of photography to be a part of. You have to work with very shallow depths of field and long shutter speeds. You might also find yourself working in tight spaces. Your attention to detail needs to be very high, and you have to have a nearly endless supply of patience.

Not to mention that your subjects might try to fly or slither away!

Our guide has all the information to help you start photographing the little things, or help you improve your skills if you’re already familiar with macro.

Macro vs. Micro Vs. Close-Up Photography

Although some people see these as being the same thing, or at least similar, there is a difference.

Macro photography is capturing something small and making it look larger than life. Close-up photography is getting closer to a specific subject, such as flowers, and using it to fill the frame. This article goes into great depth on this subject.

A close up photograph of an insect for macro photography

David Baxter

Camera Equipment

When it comes to macro, the camera equipment you need can be quite different from what you’d use to photograph landscapes, people, streets, or even the stars

The majority of photographers use a DSLR, and this is also the most versatile camera. We will concentrate on using them, but also touch on other possibilities.

Best Cameras to Use

When it comes to macro photography, the importance is placed on the lens, rather than the camera itself. This does not mean that the camera you use is not important. The camera can, in fact, influence your choice of lens.

Nevertheless, it is possible to shoot a macro photograph on a point-and-shoot camera with a fixed lens. But only as long as it can produce a minimum of 1:1 life-size ratio of the subject.

This extensive review article runs through DSLRs, mirrorless and point-and-shoot options for photographing this macro world.

Out in the wild photographing subjects for macro photography

5 Steps to Understanding the Crop Factor

One thing about your camera choice that could impact your macro photography is the crop-sensor. If your camera has a crop-sensor rather than a full-frame one, you’d be able to get closer to your subject.

The compromise here is that it would cut down on how much light your sensor takes in.

Due to the magnification of using full-frame lenses on a camera with a crop-sensor, the lens’ focal length changes, and becomes greater.

If you were to use the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM on a crop-sensor camera, it would multiply the focal length by 1.6x and force the 100mm focal length to a 160mm.

This would, in turn, get you closer to your subject.

A river scene showing the difference between a full-frame and crop sensor

Top Macro Photography Lens Recommendations

The lens is the most important thing to consider when working with macro photography.  This choice will depend on what kind of close up photography you would like to do.

If you are getting started, then choosing a general macro lens is a good place to start, and will give you time to get used to this new style. This article runs through the best lenses to use to capture this new, little world.

Top macro lens recommendations

A Beginner’s Guide to Macro Photography Accessories

Depending on what you are photographing, there are macro photography accessories to help you get the best out of your macro picture taking.

Extension tubes and adapters can be very handy but also things to help you arrange your subjects properly, such as tweezers, brushes and focusing rails.

Our article will take you through the many accessories you can use to improve your macro photography. Their usefulness is obvious in the various insect macro shots that they were used in.

A slider used for macro photographerWhen and Where to Photograph

When to photograph macro can be a daunting idea, but the answer is all the time! Every season has its own elements to focus on.

This article helps you to understand that researching, especially your local areas, can be very advantageous in the search of subjects and spots.

A close up of a mushroom on a forest floor

How to Light Macro Photographs

Whether you are photographing food or insects, your image might benefit from some extra light. These can be in the form of natural light, used with a reflector or from an external unit like a flash gun or ring flash.

This article shows you what is available and how to harness this added light to get the best out of your macro photography.

A DIY lighting setup for photographing insects

Types of Macro Photography

Macro Photography of Insects

The interesting world of insects is one of the most popular areas to photograph using macro photography. This area fascinates us as it allows these very tiny creatures to be photographed and enlarged to become huge monsters of fantasy novels.

This area is also one of the most difficult and time-consuming to photograph. You are dependent on these creatures doing what you want them to do, when and where you want them to.

This article looks at all the aspects to get you on your feet and running full-speed into the world of insect macro photography.

A close up of an insect sitting on a branch

Macro Photography of Flowers

One of the easiest areas of macro photography to start with that of plants and flowers. They don’t require any cooking like food photography and they don’t have a mind of their own like insects.

With a few simple rules of composition, you can get great results. This article will guide through the intricacies of macro flower photography, and show you how to get some amazing pictures.

A close-up of a seed pod resting on a flower petal is a great macro photography idea

Ivo Guimaraes

Macro Photography of Food

Food photography is about showing off kitchen creations. Usually, it’s the final stage that we see, where preparation and presentation come together to find harmony.

Macro photography focused on food is all about the details, textures and shapes. It looks directly at the ingredients or a small part of the finished product rather than the style.

This article gives a great in-depth look on how to treat food as a subject and photograph it with great success!

Photographing food up-close

Abstract Macro Photography

With any type of abstract photography, you are looking to create something interesting and creative from things we might see all the time. Macro photography is no different. It also focuses on things such as texture, composition, light and fully utilizing a very shallow depth of field.

This extensive article runs through just about all you need to know to get you deep into this photographic style.

Abstract close up photograph of a sheet of corrugated metal

Macro Photography of Eyes

There is no field more niched than that of macro eye photography. This field is a fusion of landscape, Astro, and abstract photography, which you will find from this great article about photographer Suren Manvelyan.

This field is by no means easy, or a small, speedy project to undertake in your free time. It is, however, interesting. Our article will show you a glimpse into what is possible to achieve with time, patience, and practice.

How to photograph eyes using close up photography

Macro Photography Techniques

How to Get Started

After choosing your camera, settling on lenses, and deciding on what area you want to photograph, it’s time to get started. Regardless of whether it’s insects or food that you’re photographing, each style will come down to practice and patience.

Here is a great guide to ease you into macro photography, showing you what to look for and focus on.

A close-up photograph of a snowflake

In-Camera Settings

One of the most important factors with macro photography is aperture. This gives you control over the light and the depth of field. Having a low aperture will allow you more control over the shutter speed, which is very helpful for moving objects, such as insects.

This comprehensive guide to in-camera settings gives you all the know-how for achieving stunning results.

Using a photograph of a dragonfly to show the difference in depth of field between two different f/stops.

Macro Photography Projects for Beginners

Everything that you can photograph could literally be turned into a macro image. You just have to let your creative side run wild and see the world in a different way.

Get as close to items as you can to see how your perspective changes. It is possible that new ideas and creativity could be born and something unique could be created.

This is a great article for inspiration to help get you started.

Creative ideas for macro photography

Composition

Lead Room Principle

There are different compositional rules when it comes to photographing living creatures in the great outdoors. Leaving space in front of the creature’s eyes can be very appealing, as negative or ’empty’ space helps force your eyes to what is important in the image. Having the subject look at the closest frame edge is unpleasing.

This article helps to give you insight on how to frame your subjects in the best way.

Compositional Weight Concept

The compositional weight refers to the visual elements of your image and how you can use it to balance photographs, creating visually appealing images. We use weight because different objects, their colours, darkness, and size have varying degrees of importance in an image.

To get the best out of your images, this weight needs to be balanced. Using two or more objects can create visual harmony, and other times focusing on one subject can give you the best results.

Compositional weight in flora photography

Diagonal Lines

Diagonal lines are compositional values that can subtly add movement to an image, or give depth to an otherwise flat image. They can have a relationship with the frames of the photograph, which helps draw in the viewer’s focus towards the most interesting part of the image.

This in-depth article helps you understand why and how to use these lines to make your images more appealing.

Using insects and a flower stem to show diagonal lines in close up photography

Macro Photography Post-Processing

How to Process Macro Photography

When you work with your macro photography, it is important to use the tools that help you get the best out of your work. Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are the industry standard when you need to tinker with your work. You may even have to go through the Raw software, which you can use to bring out details in the shadows and mute those highlights.

Here is a very detailed look from start to finish on how an insect photographer goes through his post-processing choices.

Post-processing insect photographs using Camera Raw

How to Use Focus Stacking

Focus stacking is a great tool to use in the photographing of macro objects. The basic idea is that you take multiple images, focusing your shallow depth of field on different parts of a subject. These are then layered or ‘stacked’ together so that the final result gives you an all-over focus. Here is a great, in-depth tutorial that you can use to start focusing your subject, in its entirety.

Using a fly to show an example of image stacking in post-processing

A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:

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Craig Hull

Craig is a photographer originally from the West Midlands (go Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath) currently based in Budapest. There isn't much photography he hasn't tried, but his favourite photographic areas are street and documentary photography. Show him a darkroom and he'll be happy in there for days. As long as there are music and snacks. Find him at craighullphotography.co.uk and Instagram/craighullphoto

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