Shooting in Macro Mode
10 Tips

June 18, 2019
Posted in Photography
June 18, 2019 Marianna OLE

Digital macro photography is a fascinating, exciting, fun, and popular genre. Photos are taken in this way stand out among all other images because it is always interesting to see details that were previously invisible due to their size. In 1899, W.H. Walmsley first proposed the term “macro” to his colleagues.

Macro photography is the art of photographing tiny objects so that they can be seen. In the role of “models” are flowers, insects, any small objects.

How to determine whether your macro is macro or not?

It is defined by the ratio of the scales (1: 1, 1: 2, and so on) and MMR (the most significant percentage possible increase in comparison with the actual size of the object that the camera can offer).

There are many types of macro lenses. Their scaling factors are varied. For example, a model with 1: 1 settings will provide an image with more details and better resolution than 1: 2 or higher.

A broad audience is keen on macro photography and can work with any camera capable of creating close-up photos.

Here 10 useful tips that will help improve the macro shooting.

  1. Choose the right camera
  2. Pick the right lens
  3. Use macro rings
  4. Use close-up filters
  5. Use ring flashes
  6. Diaphragm
  7. Set up the shutter speed
  8. Choose the right background
  9. Be patient
  10. Use a tripod


“There is one thing the photograph must contain –
the humanity of the moment.”
Robert Frank
  1. 1.Choose the right camera.

Almost all cameras, even in mobile phones, are equipped with a special macro mode. But, if you plan to work in the genre fully, change the approach to the choice of technology. If you are in macro photography, you will need a unique macro lens and DSLR equipment that can transmit 1: 1 images in full size. 

Modern digital cameras have highly sensitive sensors. It provides many features that help control the shooting progress. If you do not have an SLR camera, it is worth buying it.

2. Pick the right lens

In macro photography, lens quality is more important than camera settings. A right macro lens is a device with a 1: 1 magnification factor, but there are also impressive 1: 5 models on the market (for example, the Canon MP-E 65mm F / 2.8 1-5x Macro Lens). It means that you can increase the size of the image five times, compared to the original.

In photographs taken with cameras with full-frame sensors, a four-millimeter ice crystal will occupy only 2% of the frame; more filling will be required. Thus, a 1: 1 lens is not enough for it. You can use additional accessories with it, such as macro extension rings. 

3. Use macro rings

Macro rings are hollow tubes that are fixed between the lens and the camera, increasing the distance. So the front structural element will be as close to the subject as possible, which means that the increase will become significant. If it is not possible to use a macro lens, the rings are a suitable replacement.

However, they also have disadvantages.

First of all, it is light loss, depending on the length of the device. Macro rings with one segment – about 12 mm, two – 20 mm. The depth of field decreases as you get closer to the subject, and it will be more challenging to get the result in focus. But anyway, the result is better with a macro ring than with a standard zoom.

Photo by Pixabay

4. Use close-up filters

Their effect can be compared with the work of a magnifying glass. They scale the object, but the image will lose quality because of the light entering the lens. Filters are cheap and will be a good help for fun experiments if you do not have a macro lens. 

5. Use ring flashes

Ring flashes are widely used in macro photography. They eliminate the adverse side effects of a combination of shutter speed/aperture settings and a small amount of light. To compensate for the darkness in the image, install a ring or any other source, for example, External Flash.

The flash built into the camera is not the best solution, because it makes the image of the subject flat and dull. There could be ugly shadows if the item is located close to the front edge of the lens.

The main thing in macro photography is not equipment, but the right theme and subject. Many objects look fantastic at close range: insects, drops of water, flowers, coins, eyes, or small things with a complex shape.

Choose some and go-ahead to experiment!

6. Diaphragm

In macro photography, it is vital to choose the correct aperture value. When shooting 1: 1, the area in focus is minimal. To increase it, you will have to work with a very narrow hole. The highly specialized macro lenses can shoot at F2.8, but F4 or F5.6 is much better.

Consider the compensation for the lack of light – external flashes or change the shutter speed.

Photo by Marianna Ole

7. Set up the shutter speed

It should be set so that the final image is not blurred due to camera movement or handshake. The shutter speed would depend on the settings, whether, and the tripod if you used it. When shooting stationary objects (coins, for example), you can mount the camera on a tripod and work at low shutter speeds without losing sharpness.

But for models that are moving (butterfly, flower in the wind), it is necessary to increase the shutter response.

8. Choose the right background

The background is no less important than the object in the foreground. Please note that there should be distracting elements in the background. Those elements will give an impressive bokeh and enhance the effect of the photo.

Photo by Josiel Miranda

Bokeh is the effect of a soft out-of-focus background. It is the pleasing or aesthetic quality of the out-of-focus blur in a photograph.

Try to find the right scenery. You can put black or white fabric as a background to isolate and emphasize the object.

9. Be patient 

A macro photographer needs a lot of patience to get a good photo. It is worth spending time concentrating on one subject than to change themes endlessly. Try to shoot from different angles, from several points. Try to be silent and not to interfere with the small living creatures you are photographing. 

10. Use a tripod.

Buy a tripod or even several different models. Not all tripods are designed for macro photography, so it is essential to make the right choice. The tripod should have a ball head.

There are a few universal models, for example, Slik ABLE 300HC, Benro A-1680T, or Manfrotto MK293C4-A0RC2 293 Kit CF 4S Tripod Ballhead.

Summing Up

There are many types of the macro lens, such as Nikon 105 mm, Canon 100 mm, Tamron 90 mm. There are cheaper models, but then you have to get close to the object. If you can not get a full-size camera, consider Nikon (D5300, D7200), Canon 70D, or the more expensive Nikon D750, D810, or Canon 5D Mark III.
Anyway, the result depends only on you. Improve, experiment, and continue the search for beauty in the details.

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Marianna OLE

Marianna OLE

Hi, guys! I published my first article online in 2010, being really far from Singapore. During all these years, I've traveled a lot, designed a lot, and met tons of amazing people. And I have stories and moments to share. Did I improve my writing skills from 2010? Probably 😊 But only you, my readers, can tell me about it. You ask me many questions about website design, WordPress development, photography, and my personal interests. So, here you can find answers to your questions because I'd like others to benefit from your curiosity 😁 . I am grateful for your questions and lessons, and I am ready to move on!

Comments (2)

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    Forest Helwick

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