How can you make small things look good? The secret to creative close-up photography isn’t in the things, but in how you approach them. And especially how you frame them.
Learning lists of rules can help you think about photography, but they can be more confusing than useful while you’re trying to do it. Aim instead for the sweet spot between theory and practice, and you can make both work well for you.
In this guide we’ll explain some easy ways to strike that balance with your close-up photography and show you how to make interesting pictures from just about anything.
First steps in close-up photography
What makes a good subject for macro? In a word – anything. It’s possible to specialise and concentrate on one kind of subject, and we’ve included food in this tutorial as an example.
You’ll find other subjects and themes in the rest of this book, including traditional macro favourites like flowers and insects, but for general close-up photography, there aren’t any obvious limits.
Running out of inspiration is unlikely to be a problem for the close-up photographer. With close-up photography, it’s easy to start a snap-happy frenzy, looking for interesting close-ups and angles on everything close by, and with no developing costs, digital can make this even harder to resist.
So how do you limit the possibilities to make them manageable? One approach is to worry less about what you’re shooting, and concentrate more on how you’re photographing it.
Unless you’re trying to capture extremely rare objects, such as specific insects or animals, composition in macro is often more important than the object in the frame.
There’s more about composition in the rest of this tutorial, and by the end you should have a clearer idea about what works in a macro photo, and why.
As a rule, though, photo composition always comes first. It’s just as important with nature-based subjects as it is with more abstract shots.
If anything, it’s harder to compose nature macro shots well; because you have less control over the subject, you may be working in difficult conditions with poor light, and you’ll have less time to get the photograph you want.
So before you try working outdoors, one approach is to build up experience with more familiar subjects first, under more controlled conditions.
The aim isn’t so much to produce perfect documentary-style images of objects, but to get familiar with what your equipment can and can’t do.
For nature shots you need to be completely comfortable with the tools you’re using.
When you’ve spent some time working indoors, you can try moving out of the house, and start attempting some nature close-up photography.
Of course, you could dive in at the deep end and learn as you go. But with either approach, your photography will be much more successful if you spend more time focusing on composition than on the technical basics.
PAGE 1: First steps in close-up photography
PAGE 2: Using patterns in close-up photography
PAGE 3: How to make an interesting photo with anything
PAGE 4: How to disguise objects’ identities when close-up
PAGE 5: Close-up photography using food
Close-up portrait photography: how to shoot unusual portraits in stunning detail
How to photograph anything: best camera settings for macro photography
How to set your autofocus for macro photography
10 common exposure problems every photographer faces (and how to fix them)
Fine art photography: what you need to shoot amazing photo projects at home