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Top Ten Tips For Better Macro Photography

We've put ten top tips together that'll help you improve your macro photography.

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Macro photography isn't just for the autumn season but with all the vibrant colours and small detail such as leaves, nuts and mushrooms around, it's a great time to try it. So, with that in mind, we've put together a list of ten tips to help you take the best macro shots you can.

Top Ten Tips For Better Macro Photography: Macro photography
Photo by Peter Bargh.

Use a macro lens

It might be an obvious statement but to get close to your subject you're better off using a lens designed for the job, if you're using a DSLR. The Tamron SP AF 90mm F/2,8 Di MACRO 1:1 is one such lens that will give you pin-sharp images and the blurred backgrounds you're looking for when shooting macro work. If your not a DSLR user, most compacts now have a macro mode (usually a flower icon on your mode dial) which you can switch to when working close up.

Use a tripod

You need to keep your camera steady and there are various supports out there that will do this but a tripod that can get you low to the ground would be the best choice. A tripod with a reversing centre column's even better as they make it easier to get into tight spots. A tripod, bean bag or what ever support you're using will become even more important when you start using longer shutter speeds as you don't want shake spoiling your shots.

Invest in a reflector

Flash can be a little harsh, particularly if you only have the one that's built in to your camera, but when there's not much natural light around, in the woods for example, having a reflector handy to bounce / direct more light where it's needed cab improve a photo drastically. They're particularly useful when you're photographing mushrooms, to highlight their underbelly.

Top Ten Tips For Better Macro Photography: Fungi
Photo by Peter Bargh.

Try back lighting

At this time of year the sun is low in the sky so try shooting with the sun behind the subject to produce a more creative macro shot. By back lighting your subject, you can create a rim light that makes whatever you're photographing 'pop' from the frame. It also means you can see detail, such as veins on leaves, that you wouldn't usually see. You can also create flare which adds an extra element of interest to the shot.


Interesting textures and colour are two great ingredients for macro shots and autumn's full of both of these. To name but a few there's fungi, berries, seeds and leaves.


Make sure you have one main point of interest other wise people won't know what to focus on when they look at your shot. Then, when you have your main point of focus, make sure it's sharp.

Top Ten Tips For Better Macro Photography: Snail
Photo by Peter Bargh.

Pick the right aperture for sharp shots

A small aperture (f/11-f/16) will make everything sharp and a large one (f/2.8-f/4) will throw the background out of focus. The latter is the result we're looking for but do be careful when using wider apertures as it may also mean some of the subject is out of focus due to the close distance you're working at. If your camera has one, use the depth-of-field preview. If not, fire off a test shot and check it on your screen, zooming in as much as you can.

Eliminate subject movement

The smallest of breezes will cause leaves, mushrooms and other macro subjects to move and this movement can result in you having a blurry shot. You can hold your subject in place with plamps etc. or if you're patient, just wait for the wind to stop blowing. Using a slightly quicker shutter speed will freeze motion but this isn't always possible, especially when working in darker locations such as woods.

Stop camera shaking

Your subject can be as still as a child hoping to win a musical statue competition but if the camera moved, it won't stop shake blurring your shot. The wind blowing and even you pressing the shutter button can cause unwanted shake but by using your camera's self-timer, you can press the shutter button and take your finger away before the exposure's began. Better still, use a remote release if you have one.

Top Ten Tips For Better Macro Photography: Tadpole
Photo by Peter Bargh.

Sort your background out

Wider apertures, throw background out of focus (close eye on edges subject) but even this won't stop highlights from distracting the eye. May need to move position or use your own background – piece card etc.

Top Ten Tips For Better Macro Photography:

Top Ten Tips For Better Macro Photography:

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Guerito Avatar
Guerito 13
26 Oct 2011 8:20PM
I think the last tip was the most useful to new photographers but the article really should have had shooting information - especially aperture.
Epicuros Avatar
Epicuros 15 11 Greece
27 Oct 2011 9:34PM
Aperture sure is a critical parameter. In cases of macro photography you have to consider two factors: a) Depth of field and b) Background "noise". If you keep your subject sufficiently far from a busy backgroud (e.g. a few meters) even a small aperture (large "f/" number), e.g f/11, would, most likely, throw the background off-focus and give you some depth of field. If the background is close to your subject, then you should use a large aperture (small "f/" number), e.g. f/2.8, which, however, will reduce depth of field.

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