with Courtney Slazinik
Macro Photography: A Photographer's Approach

I think the best investment that I made photography wise, aside from my camera, is my macro lens. About 2 years ago, my husband bought me the Nikon 105mm f/2.8G as a gift. It is my favorite lens when photographing things just for fun. So, today, I’m going to talk a bit about how I approach macro photography.

What is macro photography?

First off, simply, macro is close up photography. Macro photography has been defined as an image that is life size or larger as it appears on the image sensor or actual film for film cameras (135mm). For example, if you take a picture of a wedding band (on a full frame camera) the image captured on the sensor (or the actual film for film cameras) would be the same size as the actual wedding band. On the screen, or printed, this image could be much, much larger depending on how large the image is viewed or how large the image is printed. This is a 1:1 ratio. True macro lenses have a 1:1 ratio. When this image is printed larger or viewed on a computer screen, it appears much larger than true life and much more detail can be seen than by the naked eye. (Referenced Wikipedia for definition).

Why I love macro photography

I really love macro because I can really take my time and enjoy it. For the most part I don’t feel rushed because I choose a down time just to play. For me, it is relaxing. I love nature and the majority of my macro work is of anything that is living or once living. I love to take pictures of plants, flowers, insects, spiders, you name it! I had a flower in mind to take pictures of for this post, but I didn’t get by a flower shop this week. So, while the kids were playing outside, I decided to take the opportunity to take some pictures of this dried up leaf. These are in abundance in my part of the country right now!

How I approach macro photography

First off, since it is a leaf, it is portable, so I picked a good spot in open shade to place it. Our house is gray, and it proved to be a nice reflector and bounced a little additional light onto my subject.

Then I started taking pictures. I usually start off a little further back and tend to get more up close and personal as I see pretty textures that I want to photograph. I don’t pick an aperture to start out at. I tend to take a few pictures, and make decisions as I see the subject through my lens. I started out pretty wide for macro and closed up as I needed a greater depth of field.

105mm   f/3.5   1/2000   ISO 800

I inch around the subject quite a bit or in this case, I just moved the leaf so that I could control the lighting. I move in and out as I see something interesting. Here I changed the angle a bit and moved in closer. As I move in closer, I also adjusted my aperture so that I could keep as much of the subject in focus as I could.

105mm f/9 1/400 ISO 1000

When I’ve made my way around the subject, I change the subject’s orientation. This isn’t always possible, but with most still subjects, it is easy to manipulate.

105mm f/9  1/400sec ISO 1000

I love abstract macros.

105mm f/6.3   1/500   ISO 500 (for both images)

And after I was satisified at photographying this leaf at all different angles. I decided to play with the lighting. I think it needed a little drama.

105mm f/6.3   1/1600   ISO 500

And a little more drama.

105mm f/3.5   1/6400   ISO 320

In conclusion:

1. Choose your lighting!

2. Move around your subject at every angle (or move your subject). Every side and from above (and below is a good angle when photographying flowers).

3. Don’t forget to change up the aperture . This is very important in macro photography because the depth of field tends to be very, very shallow when shooting macro images.

4. Think abstract!

5. Don’t be afraid to change up the lighting for a completely different feel to the image.

What is your favorite subject to use in macro photography?

  • October 26, 2012 at 10:57 AM

    very fun shots! I’m going to have to put the macro on, and go play. Thanks for this.

  • Jen
    October 26, 2012 at 1:32 PM

    This was great! Now that the weather is getting colder, I’m back to wanting to take up close images indoors. I need to experiment. I got a new lens last Christmas that I haven’t utilized enough of yet. It’s perfect for this kind of thing.

  • October 26, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    Laura, this was wonderful and full of great information. You are motivating me to give Macro another shot. :) Thank you.

    • October 27, 2012 at 9:03 PM

      Get it out girl! I love, love, love mine. Usually inanimate objects cooperate much more willingly than my 6,4, and almost 2 year olds! haha!

  • November 6, 2012 at 5:42 AM

    These photos are SO gorgeous! It’s impressive how you can bring out the beauty in a simple leaf.

    I bought a macro lens awhile back and just got to trying it out on my camera. When I try to take a picture, my camera body just sounds like it’s trying to focus over and over, but it never gets in focus at all and takes the blurriest pictures I’ve ever seen. Do you know what I’m doing wrong?

    • Laurie
      November 6, 2012 at 7:16 AM

      My lens searches a lot of. I think that is just the nature of a macro bc the dof is so shallow. I manually focus when doing macro work. Try that out! It is easier than it ounds!

      • November 6, 2012 at 8:57 AM

        Thank you! I’ll give it a try. I think I’m just freaked out by manual mode … but it can’t be any worse than what I’m getting with automatic! ;)

    • Tamara
      June 28, 2014 at 12:01 PM

      I had the same problem when I first got mine. My camera just kept focusing in and out. I posed the problem on one of my photography forums, and everyone said the same thing. MANUAL FOCUS. Plus, a tripod is a must.

  • November 16, 2012 at 9:32 AM

    Thanks for posting your advice and you sure can make a dead old leaf look beautiful! I’ve posted about blogging and photography tips too today and have this here linked to it, for inspiration!

  • May 10, 2013 at 5:53 PM

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  • Peeter
    April 18, 2015 at 3:16 AM

    Macro lenses are lenses that allow close up work for your photography. They can also make lovely portrait lenses. There are a few tips to using macro lenses. http://dailycome.com/macro-love-for-your-photography-work/

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