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6 Cool and Unusual Macro Photography Subject Ideas

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Do you want to capture unusual or unique photos? The kind that really blow the viewer away?

We put together a list of 6 unusual macro photography subject ideas. These will guarantee you original macro photos.

ethereal photo of two tulip flowers close up

1. Photograph Ultra-Close Abstracts of Common Macro Subjects

If you’re looking to shoot unusual photos, then you must try capturing some abstracts.

ethereal macro photo of a yellow tulip flowers

You can use anything as an abstract subject. Rocks, trees, ice, grass; it all works.

My recommendation is to start with flowers. You’ll sharpen your composition skills while capturing some bright, colorful abstracts.

Start by shooting on cloudy days. Clouds diffuse light. This results in a wonderful, soft look. Plus, cloudy light makes colors appear more saturated.

Next, use your closest-focusing lens. If you have a dedicated macro lens, now is the time to use it.

abstract macro photo of a yellow and pink flowers in an unusual composition

If you’re looking to purchase a macro lens for abstract macro photos, I suggest one in the 100mm range. These lenses tend to be affordable. The focal length is perfect for creating an intimate feeling.

More colorful flowers work well, but you don’t want your subject to be so colorful the shot becomes chaotic. That’s why I love shooting tulips and roses. They’re colorful, but they’re just one color.

Now it’s time to think about composition. Instead of seeing your flower as a flower, you should start thinking in terms of shapes and lines.

It helps if you get really, really close to your subject. If you’re using a dedicated macro lens, this should be easy.

Finally, frame your photo with these parameters in mind. Use all the classic rules of composition (negative space, balance, the rule of thirds, etc.), but apply them to the shapes and lines in your subject.

unique photo of pink flowers in an unusual composition

2. Photograph The Center of Eyes for Powerful Macro Photography

This is an easy way to capture unusual macro images.

a close up photo of a persons blue eye

The type of eye doesn’t matter. Animals, insects, people–they all provide interesting photo opportunities. In fact, the more exotic the eye, the better!

To photograph an eye, you’ll want a dedicated macro lens or, at the very least, a lens that offers very close focusing. I’d suggest using a fairly wide aperture, as you want to maximize the amount of light captured by your lens.

You don’t need a lightning-fast shutter speed, choose something above 1/160s. At such high magnifications, it’s easy to create blurry photos through camera shake.

Make sure that your subject is totally still and positioned in the light. In fact, if you have your subject look into the light, their pupil will dilate; this will emphasize the colorful iris.

When shooting eyes, I recommend you get as close as possible. You want to show very little of your subject’s face. Skin and eyelashes just don’t look that interesting under a macro lens.

macro photo of an eye

I’d recommend shooting eyes outdoors, under cloudy light. Clouds bring out colors, which will make the most interesting part of your eye photos–the iris–stand out. Clouds also cause eyes to reflect less, making them less dark (and much more interesting for photography!).

3. Shoot Close-Ups of Food for Unique Macro Images

When you think about macro subjects, food rarely comes to mind. But food is actually a fantastic macro subject.

You can find it anywhere. If you’re looking to photograph food, you can just run down to your local supermarket–or, better yet, just look in your refrigerator!

close up photo of honey pouring on a waffle

I recommend you start by choosing your food items. Fruit is a great choice for beginners. The bright colors and intricate details make for some lovely photos. Vegetables are fun subjects, as well.

close up photo of a pile of blueberries

No matter what type of food you choose, the key is to keep things simple. You don’t want to shoot a mashup of five different food items. And you definitely don’t want to choose food with lots of color variation. All this will serve to do is distract the viewer from your main message.

When you’re just starting out, it may make sense to shoot a single piece of food. One raspberry, one cucumber, one kiwi–all of these foods offer a lot of potential, without creating an overwhelming number of compositional elements.

Once you get bored of photographing the outside of your food, try cutting it in half and photographing the middle.

unique photo of a slice of kiwi against black background

When it comes to actually creating a food photography setup, I’d suggest working indoors. Put the food on a table by the window, preferably where the light doesn’t shine directly. This will ensure you get some slightly more diffused light to work with.

Make sure that the table color contrasts with your food. It can often make sense to put down a plain tablecloth.

Position yourself so that the food is getting some nice sidelight or backlight. This will add a bit of drama and dimensionality to your images.

A wide aperture will give you a beautiful background blur, but the narrow depth of field may give your images a softer look. A small aperture, on the other hand, will give you a deep depth of field for capturing lots of detail, and a very sharp look overall.

If you’re going to shoot food indoors, it’s always a good idea to use a tripod. Since you won’t be moving the tripod much, you can go for one that’s heavy but sturdy (e.g., aluminum). This will save you money, but won’t hurt your photos one bit.

close up photo of wild strawberries

4. Capture Flower Stems for Energetic Macro Photos

If you want really unusual macro photos, then why not photograph flower stems?

It sounds weird. But flower stems are actually great macro subjects.

blurry abstract macro photo of flowers in an unusual composition

They’re long and straight, so they lead the eye through the frame.

And they’re generally a deep green color, which contrasts beautifully with a white sky.

I don’t recommend you fill the frame with just flower stems. But if you use a combination of flower stems and colorful flowers, you’ll end up with some great photos.

abstract macro photo of a yellow and pink flowers flower stem in an unusual composition

Start by shooting only on cloudy days. Clouds give you beautiful, soft light. And they’ll enhance the colors of your stems.

Use a dedicated macro lens. You need the stem to fill a good portion of the frame, and you won’t be able to do that without near 1:1 focusing.

Then find some flowers with long, straight stems. Tulips are a great option. The stems are large and easy to work with.

Play around with several different compositions. I like to use the stems as leading lines so that they carry the eye into the frame.

You can also try to place the stems along rule of thirds gridlines or along diagonals so that you generate an ultra-engaging photo.

abstract macro photo of white and pink flowers in an unusual composition

Pay careful attention to your background, as well. If you can get down low and shoot against the sky, do it.

A cloudy white background will make the flower stems stand out. You may struggle more with a background full of vegetation.

Finally, dial in a wide aperture before shooting. A wide aperture will render much of the photo out of focus. And I find this gives a nice abstract look when working with stems, so the stems seem to fade out of the photo.

5. Shoot Moving Flowers for Beautiful Blurry Macro Shots

Macro photographers are always focused on capturing sharp photos.

But you can actually produce some really unique shots if you’re willing to forego sharpness.

I’m talking about shots like this.

blurry macro photo of a flower, unique photos

They’re blurry, but they’re blurry on purpose. And they’re also abstract.

Get out to photograph during the golden hours or on a heavily cloudy time. You want the light to either be soft or golden.

You can use any lens for this, but a dedicated macro lens will afford you the most flexibility.

Choose a subject. You want something that has a simple but obvious shape. A darker subject works especially well, and it should definitely be colorful.

Get down low, so that your subject is framed against the sky. If you’re shooting during the golden hours, aim for a backlit subject. If you’re shooting on a cloudy day, make sure the background is blanketed with clouds.

Compose your shot the way you normally would. But try to include lines and curves if you can.

Then set your shutter speed to a lengthy value. Something in the area of 1/20s to 1s should do the trick.

Finally, press the shutter button while moving your camera in different directions. You’ll want to take a lot of different shots. This type of photography tends to be very hit-or-miss.

abstract macro photo of red and pink flowers in an unusual composition

Note that you should test out different shutter speeds. You should also try moving your camera in different directions. You can move your camera downward, upward, left, and right. You can even zoom in while taking the photo.

6. Photograph Small Insects for Gorgeous Macro Photography

If you want to capture some truly unique macro photos, why not shoot insects?

stunning photo of a dragonfly in flight

Insects are all around, they have lots of intricate details, and they’re colorful. And as a macro photographer, what could be better?

Plus, you have plenty of insect photography options. You can shoot dragonflies, bees, ants, spiders, and so much more.

Now, if you want to capture detailed photos of insects, you’ll need to use a long lens. The shorter the lens, the smaller the distance between the lens and your subject at high magnifications, and the more likely the insect is to fly away!

Longer telephoto lenses (in the 300mm to 400mm range) can work for insect photography, especially if they have a small minimum focusing distance. Longer macro lenses are a good bet, as well–lenses like the Nikon 200mm f/4 and the Canon 180mm f/3.5L.

All of these options will get you close-up shots of insects without scaring them off.

dramatic close up of a wasp against dark background

Insect photography does come with a few unique challenges.

First, even with a long lens, it’s easy to scare off your subjects. Shoot early in the morning, when the cool air and the heavy moisture in the air causes insects to stay in place. That way, you can move (slowly) toward insects, using careful, limited motions to get into position. And you won’t have to deal with insects flying away.

Second, you must ensure you include a sharp focal point in your insect photos. This involves choosing a depth of field that’s sufficiently deep. At the very least, you should strive to keep the insect’s eyes sharp.

Getting one set of legs sharp is also a good idea, though not as essential. Since you’re shooting at high magnifications, you’ll need a narrow aperture to pull this off. You can start at f/5.6, but check your LCD to see if f/7.1, f/8, or f/11 might be a better choice.

a close up of a wasp on a flower, unique photos ideas

Third, to deal with the depth of field requirements and early-morning light, I recommend using a monopod. This will keep your camera stable, even when the light is low and you’re shooting at a narrow aperture.

A tripod can also work, but it’s a bit cumbersome for shooting in the field. If you have very steady hands and a lens with image stabilization, feel free to handhold–but if your shots aren’t turning out sharp, bring out the monopod.

And that’s it. If you follow these simple recommendations, and if you’re willing to get out into the field and get your knees a bit dirty, you’ll come away with some gorgeous macro photos.

Conclusion

Now you know 6 unusual macro photography subject ideas. You’ll be able to expand your photography portfolio–so that you create some of the most original macro photos out there.

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