You may already know what you want to photograph: bugs, flowers or stamps. You may have seen awesome photo’s of fungi, spiders and butterflies and want to replicate those. This is all fine, but you don’t have to limit yourself. Macro photography can reveal amazing images taken from many things, even those within reach right now.

Finding a suitable subject requires:

  1. Focusing our attention on the detail our brain usually ignores
  2. Recognising potentially interesting: patterns, colour, novelty etc
  3. Working out how to capture an object, so its potential is revealed.

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If you are starting out, keep it simple

Start with subjects that are easier to capture (fewer complications). You will be more likely to have a positive experience and get practice. Then when you are comfortable with the basic practice, you can continue to improve by taking on more difficult subjects.

To help beginners, I’ve listed some of the things that will make your life easier.

Subject Size: Start with the biggest small things!

Photographing a flower is only a little different to regular photography, but capturing an aphid on that flower is challenging despite both coming under the categories of close-up or macro photography.

When framing a tiny object, you can easily go past the point where you wanted to stop or bump the camera, so the subject is no longer in the frame. The smallest vibrations become noticeable. The depth of the field becomes razor-thin, making focus difficult Optical effects un-noticeable at a large scale can ruin your image on a small scale.

Subject Movement: The slower, the better. Dead is great.

You’ll be surprised how quickly even an ant will move through your frame. You want a subject slow enough to frame, get focus and take an image before it goes. For faster subjects, you may have to click and hope. Fortunately, digital space is cheap. You may want to take advantage of ‘burst’ mode if your camera has it.

Depth of field: Flat and parallel to the camera.

A shallow depth of field has the same issues as a shallow shelf. A long object only goes along the shelf or is stood on its end. (In both cases, parallel to the wall behind the shelf). Same with a macro subject, rather than falling off a shelf, it falls out of focus if not parallel to the back of your camera.

To carry this analogy a little further, something big and flat like a painting will sit on a shelf. Likewise, butterfly wings, if parallel to the camera, will stay all in focus.

You can get around the depth of field issue using a technique call focus stacking, but for this, you need focus rails to mount your camera on. I’ve designed some focus rails. I’ll release these in another Instructable.

Before you start

Macro photography requires a particular mental approach to succeed and be enjoyed. This is because each shot needs to be carefully considered. Each shot takes time. It’s fiddly. Error margins are small so that the failure rate is high. However, accepting this as a given and taking a methodical approach its possible to sit back and enjoy the process and its rewards.

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