Macro Photography Tips: Small Wonders on Neighborhood Strolls
Get tips to snap your very own macro photography shots of plants, flowers, or anything else that catches your eye!
We're always impressed with the quality of photos that show up in trip reports and in our photo contest submissions. This week, when we spotted Lisa Elliott's photo study of a dandelion in her backyard trip report, we asked the WTA member and trip reporter to share her secrets. While we're all trying to get our fresh air from apartment balconies and in backyards, here are some ways to shift your focus from big vistas to the small natural wonders.
We've also got tips for photographing all those birds you've been watching out windows.)
Story and photographs by Lisa Elliott
Have you pondered how photographers get those great macro shots?
Take a look at the simple dandelion. As we have come to terms with their endless spreading and have learned to appreciate and understand them better, we now know they serve an important role in the environment and to our dwindling bee population.
Kids also get excited about macro photography. With their natural curiosity, it may lead to them discovering and wanting to explore the fractal world of many other plants and lead eventually to becoming good stewards of the environment.
Here are a few tips on how to get started and take a great macro shot.
Macro photography can be accomplished with with either a cell phone or an expensive digital camera. These two types of cameras operate comparatively the same for the beginner. When set in auto mode you just point and shoot. Automatic settings take the guess work out of photography and many times you get an amazing picture.
The first thing you will need with either device is time, an abundance of subject material and the willingness to get to know your camera a bit better. That’s why we chose our friendly dandelion as the subject.
Here are the other materials you will need:
- camera tripod if available
- various colorful kitchen background materials
- a spray
Taking macro photos does not require any expensive outlay of cash. All the backgrounds seen in the above photos are from the items on the left. The photo on the right shows my set-up. I use the glassware as a ball and socket I can swing the subject around and push and pull back and forth. In this way I simply experiment around with camera settings and use what I have available to start and go from there.
Once you gather a few materials, time to start experimenting.
10 Tips for the Digital SLR
- Choose simple and easily available subjects
- Experiment with Manual settings and your camera’s built-in light meter
- Take multiple shots using a variety of shutter and aperture settings
- Keep the camera in a stationary place if possible. Tripod set-up is best but a tall counter also works.
- Use the camera for an initial auto-focus then set on manual focus.
- Fine tune your subject’s focus, depth of field and focal plane by moving it with your hand either away from the camera or towards you while you look inside the view finder. (This is why a tripod is very handy to have) In general if you focus on the closest area there are a few degrees that will fall into focus behind it.
- Keep your laptop handy for quick downloads in order to adjust your outcome. I move back and forth between shooting and checking my shots on the laptop
- Bracket exposures length and shutter speeds a few clicks at a time
- Be patient, experiment with a variety of backgrounds placed in the distance, drop a some droplet of water for the effect of dew.
- Avoid cropping. It does not yield good results try to use good composition of your subject and background before defaulting to cropping
- True macro photography garners a multiplication ratio of 1:1 ratio or higher
General tips for those new to manual operation. Your shutter should not go below 30 on your built in meter unless you are using a tripod. The tripod also frees up your hands to adjust your subjects focus, look in the view finder and press the shutter release all at the same time.
10 Tips for Cell Phone Macros
- Choose simple and easily available subjects
- See if your cell phone has a macro setting
- Use an aperture if available of 4.5 or less up to 1.4 if camera allows you
- Focus by moving the subject not your phone
- Take multiple shots
- Use a variety of backgrounds
- Plan for composition
- Avoid windy areas if outdoors
- Be patient
- Avoid cropping
Share your shots in a trip report
Whether it's water droplets on a blade of grass, or a bit of lichen clinging to the tree in front of your apartment building, share your macro progress with us in a trip report for your Backyard or Neighborhood.