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Create stunning macro photography at home

(Image credit: Iwonka Sikorska)

We often associate macro photography with scenes from a meadow, insects or flowers. The spring and summer period is a time of very intensive activity because it’s the most fertile part of the year in this field.

(Image credit: Iwonka Sikorska)

Sometimes, however, there are those occasions where there is little or no opportunity to shoot in the field, with the weather’s indifference to our photographic desires often holding us back, especially over the winter, which generally offers very little assistance to macro photography.

There are those winter evenings that go on forever, and are generally grey and gloomy. But there’s nothing to worry about; you don’t have to put down your equipment for months on end or wait for the weather to improve. 

Here, I will try to show you that shooting at home can be not only pleasant, but also effective.

Setting up your macro shot at home

There are several benefits to shooting at home. We have full control over the entire exposition – both subject and camera – and the time and conditions to set everything up precisely. And there’s no wind! Everyone who’s attempted to take those outdoor shots knows that even the minimal amount of grass or flower movement results in a blurred photograph.

Now in home conditions, you’ve got better control over the light. You don’t have to worry about very harsh sunlight that can sometimes be a hindrance to your macro photography.

You can also use the fanciest and strangest gadgets available that support shooting, and no one will look at you strangely.

(Image credit: Iwonka Sikorska)

But what can you photograph?

Well, you can take lots of pictures, of course, but it all depends on what's playing in your soul.

These can be various items: textures, flowers collected from the pot or bought in a flower shop, water drops, ice cubes, fruit, various delicacies, the list is endless. All you need to do is just look around the house a little; you’ll certainly find many interesting subjects there!

But here we’re going to learn how to photograph flowers at home. Whether it’s day or night, you’ll be able to achieve a very similar effect to a natural soft morning light.

Equipment

The equipment that I used to take all the photographs is a Pentax K3, plus an Irix 150mm f/2.8 lens. A tripod is also absolutely essential in home conditions, and it’s important that it is solid and stable.

Lighting

If you have a macro lamp then that’s a great thing; but if not, it’s not a significant problem as it's enough to use two or three desk lamps, preferably with a power switch.

Diffusion material

You’ll need this for the lamps to diffuse the light. The light emitted from lamps is often too harsh; ugly reflections and unsightly hard shadows are created, and too much contrast causes the photograph to lose its detail. 

Diffusers can be made at very little cost; they can be sheets of white paper, cups of large yoghurt, polypropylene material such as an apron, or polypropylene films that add interesting colour effects to the background in addition to softening the light. I used foam that I put Nashi pears in from my local supermarket. 

I know from my own experience and that of many other photographers that my own home-made diffusers work best, and many additional materials literally cost pennies. But some of these materials can easily melt, so remember to fix them at a safe distance from the light bulb.

(Image credit: Iwonka Sikorska)

Diaphragm

This only needs to be something small – which you can also put together yourself by sticking a slightly creased piece of aluminium foil onto a piece of paper, for example. A white sheet of paper or a mirror works well.

Background

This can be a wall or any other handmade background, such as something that suggests gradient, glitter paper, coloured papers, shiny decorations, and so on – there are loads of things that can be placed into the background for a nice colourful bokeh effect.

Floristic sponge

This is also known as an Oasis, and is available at florists or garden stores. This is a very useful block of light porous material in which you put flowers, and you can create compositions at your discretion. The hard sponge should be soaked with water so that fresh flowers can last longer.

Flowers. In winter, fresh flowers can pretty much only be purchased at the florists, with larger outlets often having quite a wide choice. Dry flowers are best in autumn; maybe the house will also have some dried flower arrangements.

You’ll also need a flower washer to create a dew effect.

A place to shoot

You'll get great results during the morning, shooting the window glass when the light is still soft and delicate. During the day there can a lot of light around the home and you can easily afford to take pictures. 

The exact place doesn’t matter, as long as the light in your chosen location isn’t too harsh. In the evening you can choose any corner for the photo – the only thing you need to consider is access to a plug socket for connecting the lamps!

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Before...

Before... (Image credit: Iwonka Sikorska)
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...and after

...and after (Image credit: Iwonka Sikorska)

You can find more information about the Irix 150mm macro lens on the Irix website.

This article was prepared by Irix brand photographer Iwona Sikorska.

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