In our latest Professional Photographer to the Rescue post, leading wildlife and nature photographer Heather Angel shows our apprentice essential camera tips and skills for taking close-up photography of insects and other small subjects.
Meet our professional photographer
Heather Angel has been one of the UK’s leading wildlife photographers for four decades, tackling subjects from blue whales to water fleas. Her two passions are China, which she’s visited 32 times, and macro photography. She’s just finished her 59th book, Digital Outdoor Photography: 101 Top Tips.
Meet our apprentice
Julie Richardson discovered photography four years ago, when she met her partner Dave. He was using an Olympus E-420, but since then they’ve both converted to Nikon DSLRs. Julie’s been bitten by the photo bug and has completed a darkroom course and BTEC in photography. She loves close-up photography.
Was Julie’s camera set up properly for close-up photography of flighty subjects? Close-up photography and macro shots require a slightly different approach to everyday photographs.
To get your subjects sharp you need to eliminate any blur from camera or subject movement, and be super accurate with your focusing – your normal focus mode might not be the best choice.
Raise the ISO
Julie had her camera set to ISO100, for best quality. However, because we were shooting in overcast daylight that was weakened even further as it came through the butterfly house’s roof, Heather suggested ISO800.
The quality she’d get from her Nikon D5100 at this ISO would still be good, and the faster shutter speeds of about 1/250 sec cut the risk of camera-shake or blur from the subject moving. These are both big causes of out-of-focus areas in macro shots.
Set the right focus points
Julie had her camera set to Auto-area AF mode, in which the camera chooses a part of the scene to focus on (usually what’s nearest to the camera).
Heather advised her to switch to Single-point AF mode, because then she could control exactly what the camera focused on. If necessary she could select a different AF point with the navigational controller if the subject wasn’t central. With close-up photography you need fine focus control.
PAGE 1: Meet our professional photographer and apprentice
PAGE 2: Close-up photography tips from our professional photographer
PAGE 3: Final tips from our professional photographer
PAGE 4: Our professional photographer’s recommended gear
PAGE 5: Shot of the Day
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Free macro photography cheat sheet