Just in case you’re not sure, macro photography refers to images in which the subject is presented at a larger than normal size, like a ratio greater than 1 to 1. An extreme close-up is the equivalent of looking at something with a magnifying glass. Details that are normally invisible suddenly jump out and can offer an increased appreciation of the subject. Flowers, for example, can be wonderful subjects. So, before you attempt this form of photography, here are a few simple guidelines you can follow to become a pro macro photographer!
Focus on the Foreground
Close-up photography demands that the objects closer to the camera be in sharp focus and not the background. Therefore, always choose to have the parts nearest to the camera in focus and let the background and parts furthest away from the camera go out of focus. It looks less like a mistake than a picture when the foreground is out of focus. There are always exceptions though and one I can think of is an extreme close-up of a face. If I had to choose between the eye(s) being in focus or the nose, I would always choose the eyes, because they are a more important part of the face.
Choose Your Lighting Carefully
Use appropriate lighting to suit your subject and background. Though strong sunlight is best, there are cases that demand muted lighting conditions. They could cause problems with too much contrast, making beautiful colors difficult to render. So, the byword is to do a quick overview of your subject and tailor your lighting to capture it in the best way possible.
Use the Zoom and Self-Timer
One of the benefits of digital cameras is that many of them are capable of doing excellent macro photography. In certain cases, some cameras can come amazingly close to the subject, while in others, the zoom is used to magnify the subject and fill the frame. Generally speaking, the shutter speeds will be very slow and a stable platform is a good idea. Additionally, using the camera’s self-timer will prevent any camera shakes that can easily ruin a shot.
The second challenge of macro photography for the photographer is to provide uniform lighting to the subject. This can become quite difficult when the camera is extremely close to the subject. Often, flash cannot be used effectively, as it will either alter the color of the photo or, more than likely, cause an overexposure by being too close to the subject. In these cases, it is best to turn off the flash and provide another source of light.
Let the Sunlight and Reflectors Help You
Use small pieces of reflective cardboard and a mirror to light the subject evenly. The tripod stabilizes the camera. When outside, sunlight and one or two small mirrors acting as reflectors can be used successfully to remove shadows. Indoors, good results can be obtained with everyday household lamps and with simple reflectors. Another variation involves wrapping the cardboard with shiny aluminum foil to increase its reflectivity.
Use the Zoom Wisely
If your camera has a zoom lens, you may not have to be extremely close to the subject. This is particularly useful in cases when it is impossible to light the object properly. An optical zoom allows you to move the camera back, light the subject properly and still get a full-frame image. Beware of camera shakes when using a zoom to do close-ups though. It is often advisable to stabilize the camera by using a tripod.
Experiment, Experiment, Experiment
A digital camera is one of the best ways to take macro pictures. Some cameras are able to get as close as an inch (two to three centimeters) from the subject. The added bonus of being able to see the image instantly means that it is possible to improve it easily if needed. Experimentation is the best guide, so go ahead, see what your camera can do! You could try taking a picture of a flower lit by natural light. You could also try using a white piece of cardboard that will spread the light and eliminate harsh shadows. What’s more, you could take the picture using only halogen, a combination of flash and halogen or just flash. No one’s stopping you from experimenting. The results will often surprise you. So, what are you waiting for? Try it out today!
~ Zahid H. Javali