Macro nature photography: tips for taking pin-sharp close-ups of flowers and insects

Macro nature photography: tips for taking pin-sharp close-ups of flowers, lichen and butterflies

Final macro nature photography advice from our professional photographer

Final macro nature photography advice from our professional photographer: devil's in the details Final macro nature photography advice from our professional photographer: devil's in the details

Devil’s in the detail
Ross says… The wonderful thing about macro photography is that it reveals things that we just don’t notice with the naked eye. But it can also reveal defects, which are only noticeable once you have taken a picture.

It is for this reason that you have to be really fussy when finding the right flower to photograph, so you have a pristine specimen. Watch out for obstructions and distractions as you review your pictures too.

This pair of Jan’s pictures go to prove what an improvement you can make when you ensure that a blade of grass is not obscuring the wing of the butterfly!

The shades…
When you’re shooting macros, it’s unlikely that your shadow will fall into the tiny area of the shot. Still, be aware of where it’s falling.

 

Final macro nature photography advice from our professional photographer: shoot flat surfaces face-on

Shoot parallel to flat subjects
You have no excuse but to get the whole surface sharp when shooting a flat subject like a gravestone. It is simply a matter of making absolutely sure that the camera is completly parallel with the stone.

Looking for the angle
Don’t bring in the support too soon… look for the right shooting position before setting up your tripod.

Keep on shooting
Once you have a butterfly framed up, don’t just take a single shot, take several. One will always be sharper than the rest.

How to get a clutter-free background
The background is just as important as the specimen itself, if you want perfect close-ups. These are just some of the tricks that Ross uses to ensure that he gets perfectly-composed studies with no out-of-focus distractions.

Final macro nature photography advice from our professional photographer: get a clutter-free background Final macro nature photography advice from our professional photographer: get a clutter-free background

Look for a specimen that gives you a really clean background with no competing tones – you are ideally looking for a background that is some way behind the specimen.

You should use the widest aperture you can sensibly get away with, but even then just because the background is well out of focus, it doesn’t mean that it is not a big distraction. These two shots taken by Jan were both taken at f/3.2, but the second one definitely works much better compositionally than the first.

Look for flowers along the sides of rivers; you can often frame them against the dark bank on the distant side of the water.

Use a reflector to brighten up the flower, so that it stands out better against the comparatively darker background.

The sharper the subject is, the better it stands out. I recommend taking between five to ten shots, as one will always be noticeably sharper than others.

If all else fails, add your own backdrop. For these shots of  a bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), I held a black reflector cover behind the bloom while I provided fill-in with a smaller silver pop-up reflector.

PAGE 1: Meet our professional photographer and apprentice
PAGE 2: Macro nature photography tips for planning your shoot
PAGE 3: Final macro nature photography advice from our professional photographer
PAGE 4: Our professional photographer’s recommended gear
PAGE 5: Shot of the Day

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