Did you know there is a whole new World all around you, waiting to be discovered? A World that is alive with possibilities for Photography, and it is right outside your home, just waiting for you to enter!
I’m talking about the Macro Photography World. For years, I thought I was very aware of what was around me, but it wasn’t until I became a lover of Macro that I realized there was so much more there, a whole network or metropolis of living creatures that are complimented by equally beautiful Flowers and Plants that are also a Macro Photographers favorite.
Macro Photography can be hugely rewarding as you get to spend quality time in the thick of nature, learning every day about the world we live in, and also learning how to get shots that really work. This never comes easy, especially to begin with, and the Macro Road is one that certainly requires great deals of patience.
Be prepared to enter an amazing and enjoyable World where you will take lots of shots in order to get those select few that make you say, “Wow!”
Get Down to Your Subjects Level
Always use Manual Focus and practice moving forward and backward very, very slightly to achieve perfect focus. This takes a lot of practice to get right, but once you realize the narrow field of focus you have for Macro, this technique will be valuable.
This is the biggest hurdle to overcome with Macro in my opinion. I was lucky to be blessed with lots of patience with certain things, especially looking at Nature! Be prepared to take lots and lots of shots of a single subject and only have very, very few that are keepers.
I’ve literally sat or laid down in one spot for hours in awe of what’s around me. You find lots of subjects will naturally come to you if you just sit peacefully and wait, rather than running around shooting wildly at the bugs.
The wind can get up and ruin your chance of that great shot, but don’t get annoyed. Just wait it out and you will get another chance! The longer you watch an insect for, the more chance you have of seeing it do something amazing! From insects laying eggs, cleaning their eyeballs, or catching prey.
Love Natural Light
At this stage in my Photography, I’m a lover of natural light and a hater of artificial light. The softness and beautiful tones of Natural Light are unbeatable in my opinion. I always try and maximize the natural light I get into a shot by being in a position that doesn’t interfere with the Natural Light and try and find a spot that gets a bit more light and is not extremely shaded by leaves, trees etc. Even in heavy shade, you can still get a good Macro shot. remember that post processing can always lighten a shot that was impossible to achieve from the Camera.
An example of my work was this Mushroom shot that was taken in a very heavy shade. Setting were f/4, 1/60sec, iso640. This gave me an average result from the Camera, but with post processing I was able to get the light I was after!
I often shoot up to iso800 in heavy shade, and using noise reduction in post processing works just fine. In normal conditions, I would shoot around iso200 and with a shutter speed of around 1/100 sec.
I would also advise using and learning your Camera in Manual Mode. This gives you 100% control in all situations. The light levels are constantly changing every second and this can greatly affect your results, so you will find yourself constantly changing your Aperture, ISO and Shutter speed to maximize your results!
Minimal Editing, Maximum Result
I’m still a beginner in post processing so I try to edit cleverly with something that will clearly benefit the shot, and not just from habit. Have a look at your shot in detail from distance and from close up. Try to work out if there is anything subtle that can be done to bring your image to even more life!
Remember some shots will not need much post-processing at all. Sometimes this can make your shot worse instead of better! Try different things and save multiple copies with different edits.
Simple things in Photoshop like Dodge and Burn I find to be a valuable tool so that you can control individual areas of light and darkness to suit.
I’m a firm believer in traveling very lightly and being comfortable while doing Macro Photography. I usually only travel with my Nikon D7100, Nikon 105mm Macro Lens and a bottle of water to stay hydrated! I never use Flash or Tripod and all my shots are handheld with Natural light. (practice at having a steady hand!)
I’ve tried using Extension Tubes and Reversing Rings, but I still believe a dedicated Macro Lens has more versatility and is more rewarding once mastered. So when people ask what they should buy to do Macro, I always say, “Buy a Macro Lens!” A 105mm is ideal and I bought mine second hand for $750. A very worthy investment.
Grant Beedie is a 35yr old Scottish Amateur Photographer based in Christchurch, New Zealand. His specialty is Macro with Insects and Flowers being his main focus. Photography has become his main interest for 3 years now and he has spent a huge amount of that time learning about Photography, including reading books, following other Photographers work and just getting out there and taking lots of shots.
Living in New Zealand since 2004, Christchurch (the Garden City) is a Macro Photographers dream, with vast city Gardens hosting hundreds of Plant and Insect species.
Grants favorite subjects are the New Zealand Praying Mantis, Bumble and Honey Bees and various Flowers including Dahlias. “The New Zealand Native Mantis is a joy to Photograph. They tend to not mind you getting close to them and they will stare right down the barrel of your lens for long periods of time. If you watch them long enough you will see them catching pray at lightning fast speed. This is Nature at its best and I’m always like a little boy and full of excitement when Photographing them”. See more of his photographs at 500px or Facebook page.