As a macro photographer, I have the luxury of being able to “stage” my photos, shoot inside during bad weather, and set up my images in any small corner of my home. However, what do you do when you want to immerse yourself in nature and capture the beauty outdoors?
Read more: An Introduction to Modern Macro Photography
Here, I share my best tips for shooting macro photography outside, when you cannot control many factors of your environment.
No.01Keep your eyes open.
Really slow down and look around. Before you start shooting, choose not only your subject but also your focal point. What about your subject is inspiring you? Sometimes you will have a bunch of the same flower to choose from – when selecting, look for unique or quirky features of the flowers.
I also pay attention to the quality of the flowers, keeping the mood of my image in mind. So sometimes I may want a dead or dying subject if I want a dark and moody image. On the other hand, if I’m shooting a bright, airy image of a rose or a daisy, I probably want to select one that’s in good shape and without browning petals.
No.02Watch the light.
It doesn’t have to be golden hour. Look for reflected light or interesting pockets of direct light. Shade is always an easy bet as well.
Make sure to be careful of your own shadow. You can use it to your advantage to shade your subject, but if it’s ruining your shot make sure to change your angle.
If you are moving in and out of shade and sun, make sure to change your settings to update your exposure accordingly.
Read more: 7 Creative Ways to Use Outdoor Light
No.03Expose for the highlights.
In portrait photography I know it’s a really common idea to “expose to the right” however in macro I prefer to expose for the highlights. This means sometimes my images are underexposed but I would rather have that than have blown highlights. I find that shadows are easier to recover in post-processing than highlights.
No.04Watch your angle and your background.
If you cannot move your subject, what you CAN do instead is move yourself. Change your angle if it’s not working for you. When choosing my location to shoot from and my angle, I pay attention not only to my subject but also to my background. I want to make sure I don’t have any distractions or ugly split backgrounds.
Aperture plays a big role here as well. If my background is looking ugly or it’s too close to my subject, I open my aperture wider to blur the background more.
No.05Be mindful of the breeze.
Sometimes you have to wait for a lull in the wind. Sometimes I can block the breeze with my body.
No.06Don't limit yourself to flowers.
I also love shooting leaves and greenery, the occasional bug, and even neat textures or building elements. Keep your mind open to new ideas and see what inspires you.
If you want to get creative, bring along some “props” for your shoot. I love shooting in the early morning because there is gorgeous dew everywhere, but you can also add your own fake dew with a water spray bottle.
It’s also fun to shoot through elements – you can use what is in your environment, like other flowers or leaves, or you can bring your own prism or other material to shoot through.
One of my favorite things to do is go on a little photo walk, exploring a local garden or even my own yard or neighborhood. It can be such a relaxing way to unwind and you will end up with beautiful art as an added bonus! I hope you give this a try and shoot something just for yourself, and enjoy being in nature while doing it!