Five Tips for Better Macro Photography

The world of macro photography can look complicated to a beginner but it’s really not and in these five tips for better macro photography I’ll show you how you can improve your macro photography.

I got interested in macro photography in 2016 when I photographed a Zebra jumping spider in my garden, but I was never happy with the final image. After applying some simple changes to my macro photography techniques, I was able to get a much better result.

Figure 1: Before and after.

So, what did I do different? I changed five things in my macro photography to achieve this improvement and here are the following tips to help improve your macro photography. Here is a typical image of a Regal jumping spider, shot from above:

Figure 2: A typical insect shot taken from above.

Tip 1: Get Down Low to the Same Level as Your Subject

We view insects from above all the time so to make things more interesting try to get a lower perspective of your subject, you can even try going lower than your subject for an even more interesting composition. This will get a different perspective on your subject and result in a much more satisfying image.

Figure 3: The same subject photographed from a lower perspective.

Tip 2: Focus on the Eyes

When we take a portrait shot of a person most of the time as a photographer we focus on the eyes. This is the same when exploring macro photography, most insects have eyes, try to focus on the eyes whenever possible. You will find your images will improve so much just with this tip.

Figure 4: Focusing on the eyes will help improve your macro images.

Tip 3: Play With Your F-Stops.

Have you noticed that only a small part of your macro image is in focus? In macro photography depth of field is a constant struggle. This is down to your lenses F-stop and distance to your subject, a lower F-stop will create a shallower depth of field. Increasing your camera's F-stop will increase the depth of field. Play around with the F-stop to try to get the head of your subject in focus. Remember, if you increase the F-stop you will need to adjust your shutter speed, ISO, or add a light source to compensate for the higher F-stop to get a correct exposure.

Figure 5: Using a higher F-stop to get your subjects head is in focus.

Tip 4: Keep an Eye on the Background

The background in macro photography can make or break your images, so whenever you are composing your image keep an eye on the background. Personally, I like colorful backgrounds. Holding a leaf with a spider on it up to the sky can produce a nice blue background to complement your subject. Using a flash will result in a black background, which is perfectly ok but sometimes you may want some color. Placing some leaves or sticks from the scene that your subject is on will introduce some color and improve your macro shots. 

Figure 6: A colour full background can improve your macro shots.

Tip 5: Diffuse the Light and Shape It.

No one likes bright sunlight and it’s the same for macro photography. I like to Diffuse the light from my flash as well as direct sunlight. You can use a simple round diffuser from a reflector for this. The diffuser will soften the light and create more pleasing shadows and highlights.

Figure 7: Diffusing your light source will improve the shadows on your subject.

So, there you go, five simple steps to improve your macro photography. One more tip that I can give you is to just get out there and photograph anything, practice is the best thing to improve any type of photography.

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Karim Hosein's picture

For me, none of your five tips are a problem….

The problem is that there is a spider in front of my camera! …And it looks really big!


Gerald Bertram's picture

I felt incredibly nervous just looking at those photos knowing how close he had to be to get those shots!

Stewart Wood's picture

Lmao, maybe I should do "Five tips for better macro photography - With a ladybird!"

S Browne's picture

Tip 5: Defuse the Light and Shape It. Yikes! I didn't know it could explode.

Stewart Wood's picture

Dam, that got past me lol, I'll correct it now.

Paul Asselin's picture

Thanks for the tips. I will apply them all.