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Five Ways to Take Your Macro Photography to the Next Level

Macro photography can be incredibly rewarding. However, it can also be frustrating if you find yourself shooting the same photographs over and over again, struggling to improve. You find yourself uninspired. Trust me, I’ve been there.

1. Move in close (and keep going closer)

You might be tempted to shoot subjects such as flowers the way that you would a headshot – putting space around the subject, so that flowers are fully recognizable as, well, flowers. However, I urge you not to take a step back, but rather to take a step closer. If you can, think not in terms of “flower” and “background,” but in terms of shapes and lines.

If you have a dedicated macro lens, use it. Experiment with high magnifications and see how that opens up whole new worlds for you to shoot. Look for abstract compositions that make use of shapes and color.  Fill the frame completely with your subject.

2. Consider the light

Lighting is incredibly important in macro photography. However, you can boil things down to a few simple rules of thumb:

  • Photograph in the morning.
  • Photograph in the evening.
  • Only photograph at any other time of day if it’s cloudy.

Photograph in the morning and evening

When I say “morning,” I’m talking about very early, during what photographers often call the “golden hours“. Essentially, these are the first two hours after sunrise.

The same goes for the evening. If it is sunny, I suggest you wait until two hours before sunset. One hour before is even better.

3. Consider the angle

One of the mistakes that I made most when I was first starting macro photography was not thinking about my angle to the subject. For instance, I would point my camera down at a 45-degree angle, so that I would capture subjects as if I were a few feet in front of me as I walked.

4. Think about the subject quality

This tip is very simple – before taking an image, look your subject over. Is it at its peak? Or is it on its way out, wilting, or dying?

If the latter is the case, then try to search for a better-looking flower. Unfortunately, such elements can really detract from an otherwise excellent image.

Also, look for things like bugs, dirt, and torn petals. These are all indicators that you should search for a better subject.

Though it’s worth noting that sometimes wilting flowers can make for very interesting images. Just be sure that, if you are photographing a subject that’s on its way out, you compose with that in mind.

5. Consider the background

One final tip for really enhancing your macro photographs is to think about the background before taking that shot. This is probably the most important of all these tips because careful attention to background can make for incredibly special images.

What should you consider?

First and foremost, look for backgrounds that are simple and uncluttered. A background that doesn’t distract is often enough to ensure a great image. However, it can also pay to be creative, by shifting your position so that colorful elements, such other flowers, or a sunset, sit behind the subject.

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