Up Close and Personal: Exploring the World of Macro Photography
Updated: Jul 3
Recently, a member of a photography group began telling the group about her macro photography adventures. She shared tips and techniques on our group’s Facebook page and shared some of her experiences with us during our weekly Zoom meeting. I love macro photography—let me back up—-I love looking at photographs that are considered macrophotography. Another member of our photography group takes impressive macro shots of insects. His pictures look like they should be in a science book; they are that good. Let me tell you- when you see a fly super up-close, it makes it harder to swat them! Nevertheless, when it comes to taking a macro shot, I’m not that much of a fan—yet. Looking at her images and listening to her experiences was intriguing. Soon other members began taking macro shots, and I was amazed at what people were posting. So, I decided, maybe it’s time to branch out to learn how to master a new type of photography.
Macro lenses can be expensive, and if you are not there yet, in my opinion, it doesn’t pay to buy an expensive lens. So, start cheap and easy. You can purchase a macro extension tube on Amazon for less than $50 and get amazing results. I have two macro extension tubes and am pleased with the quality of the images I have taken. You can also purchase conversion lenses that go on top of your camera lens. I bought a Raynox Super Macro Conversion Lens and found that the quality was much better than the extension tubes. The Raynox lens is simple to put on your lens, and I attached it to my Tamaron 18-200 mm lens.
On the day I captured these images, it was cloudy/overcast. I used a speedlite (external camera flash) so that I would have better lighting. It also allowed me to keep my shutter speed faster. I photographed some flowers and bugs in my garden but wasn’t looking for perfection. I wanted to practice some of the techniques I learned and learn more about this lens. Here’s what I learned about macro photography from my adventure in the garden!
(*) Tie your hair back. If you have long hair as I do, it’s best to pull your hair back. I know it’s not directly related to photography, but if your hair falls in front of your eyes when your head is bent over, what will you see?
(*) Use a monopod. My photo colleague mentioned this, and it comes in handy to have a monopod. I have one but did not use it during this photoshoot. No matter how steady you think your hand is, it’s not. And when you use a macro lens, the focus shifts quickly. One movement of your hand and that flower petal is out of focus. The next time I am out taking macro shots, I am using my monopod.
(*) You will be close to the ground. I photographed some taller flowers but also photographed dandelions, daisies, and a dandelion poof. When a flower is close to the ground, you cannot stand over it and get a macro shot—it doesn’t work like that. It would be best if you were pretty close to your subject so that it is in focus. So, this means you might be sitting near or on the grass. And if you like to do squats, then macrophotography is for you!
(*) You never know what you will see, and changing your angle changes what’s in view. When it comes to macro photography, you see everything. What you think might be a speck of dirt may be a small bug. A few of the flowers I photographed had very tiny insects that were not visible until I looked through the camera. I captured a daisy from the left side so that I could get half of the disc flowers along with the petals. When I captured that same daisy from the right side, I noticed a small orange bug within the disc flowers. Most likely, I wouldn’t have seen this bug without the macro lens.
(*) You can learn a lot about bug behavior. While photographing a leaf, a baby Yellowjacket landed on it. I watched through my camera lens as the Yellowjacket rubbed its face before eating the foliage. Most likely, I wouldn’t have seen that if I didn’t have a macro lens.
(*) Wear bug spray or tick repellent. Since you have to be so close to the subject, that may require you to go further into other shrubberies—a great place to get a tick or get bitten by another bug. Make sure you wear some bug or tick repellent to prevent this. If you aren’t into wearing the chemical-based repellents, anything featuring tea tree, peppermint, or lavender works. Check your local nurseries for non-chemical repellents.
(*) You may spend hours taking pictures. I can spend hours taking photos, whether it’s macro photography or not. However, with macro photography, I found that I spent a lot of time photographing, but didn’t come back with many pictures. Why? Most of the time was spent by (1) trying to find something unique to shoot in macro, and (2) getting that perfect focus takes some time if you aren’t using a monopod and have shaky hands!
(*) Macrophotography can be frustrating. I love taking pictures, but as I mentioned earlier, I am not big into macro photography. Subjects get out of focus fast, and if you want to photograph a bug, you need to be close, which often leads to the bug flying away. You spend a good portion of your time with your head bent over or in positions that make your body hurt later on.
(*) Macro photography can be frustrating. I love taking pictures, but as I mentioned earlier, I am not big into macro photography. Subjects get out of focus fast, and if you want to photograph a bug, you need to be close, which often leads to the bug flying away. You spend a good portion of your time with your head bent over or in positions that make your body hurt later on.
After spending some time in the garden, I found that macro photography with patience and perseverance can be fun. One of the positive things about macro photography is that it slows you down. It's not just snapping away. You are stopping, examining, focusing, and shooting at a slower pace. This helps to appreciate and connect with your subject more. I feel that if I spend more days photographing in macro, I will come to love it!
Thanks for reading!