Page 1

50 ways to shoot close-up

photo tips4Macro

John Kimbler

50 shoot ways to

close-up Discover how to take incredible macro images as we speak with the pros and uncover their top tips for shooting every subject in detail


acro photography is all about uncovering the intricacies of everyday items. Whether you like to photograph flowers, insects, still life or abstract art, getting up close to your subjects will enable you to uncover unique shapes, textures and patterns you’ll have frequently overlooked before. To help you get up-close and clear shots of your chosen macro subjects, this issue we’ve spoken to those in the know and put together their top 50 practical tips. Join us over the following 12 pages as we discover the secrets behind some of the pros’ most inspirational images and top shooting secrets. You’ll not only find all of the tips useful but you’ll also learn how to put them into practice with a hands-on project for every subject. Follow along and learn how to get some incredible close-ups at home using just your camera kit. 8 John Kimbler is a keen macro photographer based in Naples, Italy. With a passion for the genre and strong eye for capturing extraordinary insects up close, John recently released his first book, Extreme Macro – The Art Of Patience, available from

Daniel Kulinski Daniel Kulinski is a professional macro photographer based in Warsaw, Poland. Daniel collaborated with Samsung in 2009 and is a contributor to Getty Images. “I’m always looking for details that others do not notice,” he says.

Lee Peiling Lee Peiling is a Malaysian amateur macro shooter who creates incredibly surreal images of insects, flowers and other still-life subjects. With some creative ingenuity, Lee photographs her subjects indoors with resources from her back yard and kitchen.

John Hallmén johnhallmen and Based in Stockholm, John’s fascination with nature developed into a serious passion for macro photography six years ago. In September 2012 he released his first book, Kryp, with Lars-Åke Janzon PhD.

Ryan Roberts

www.ryanroberts Ryan Roberts specialises in toy photography. By building a narrative and shooting up close, he brings his subjects to life. “What I like to do is derive some off-beat narrative, playing off my love of old cartoons and childhood retro culture.”

Clive Branson Clive Branson has divided his career between being an advertising creative director/ copywriter and a freelance writer and professional photographer. His work has been published by local, national and international newspapers and magazines.

© John Hallmén

Sharon Johnstone

20 digital photographer Sharon Johnstone is a pro fine-art photographer, but it wasn’t until she purchased her first macro lens that she found a passion for it. “With macro I escape to another world; I love to find beautiful colours and abstract compositions within nature.”

digital photographer 21

50 ways to shoot close-up

photo tips4Macro


© Sharon Johnstone

Artistic apertures I love to shoot with a wide aperture setting like f1.4; the beautiful bokeh effect looks fantastic with flowers.

01Lighting is essential

Front lighting will display the flower suitably but can lack texture. Back lighting will make the petals appear more delicate and transparent and can even create a silhouette. Side lighting, on the other hand, reveals more of a threedimensional feel.

Sharon Johnstone

Clive Branson

© Daniel Kulinski

© Clive Branson

07Depth of field

Bold blooms

I try to shoot using the smallest aperture for maximum focus and light (from f11 to f22) unless I’m aiming for something more aesthetic, such as deliberate blur, bleed out, etc.

Discover how to photograph beautiful blossoms in detail all year round the exposure 02 Bracket

Try bracketing your shots for the best exposure. Use your EV settings and take three frames of the subject. The first should be at the recommended metering, the second half a stop over and the third at half a stop to a stop under. You can blend these in Photoshop. Clive Branson


Start fresh I always aim to shoot flowers outside between the hours of 08:30 to 09:30 in the morning when everything is still fresh. John Hallmén

22 digital photographer

the subject 03 Highlight

Clive Branson

Always observe what’s around the subject. Avoid having the background vying for attention if the object is in the foreground. Make sure the background appears darker than the subject. Place a white or black board behind the subject to eliminate distractions. Clive Branson

08 Reflect the light

© Clive Branson


Image orientation The majority of photographs are taken in a landscape format – it’s easier to shoot things horizontally. Nevertheless, try looking at a subject from both a horizontal and vertical perspective. Clive Branson

Use a reflector to highlight or diminish glare from a flower. A silver reflector reflects the most light and doesn’t alter the colour of the light. A gold reflector also reflects a lot of light and permits a warm tone that creates a softer image. A white reflector reflects a softer, even light. A black reflector, however, can be used to suppress the harshness of light and absorbs it. Clive Branson


Putting it into practice

Shoot the intricacies of flower heads

Remember the flash Set your exposure settings for the subject and don’t forget 2 to account for the flash. To prevent camera

shake, use a remote shutter release or activate the built-in self-timer on your camera.

Speed it up

If you are shooting outdoors (even with a tripod) you won’t get away with too slow a shutter speed; even if there’s no breeze, flowers don’t tend to stay completely still. Keep your shutter speed up to prevent blur. Hold the flower in place with a grip. Sharon Johnstone

10 Seasonal shooting

Consider the seasons carefully. The time of day and year you opt to shoot can dramatically alter the impact and look of your images. Lee Peiling

Finalise the composition If you need to, you can use a coloured piece of card to Stabilise the shot Once you’ve selected a suitable subject, 3 remove any background clutter. Alternatively, stabilise the camera using a sturdy tripod. Attach a ringflash 1or twin-flash you can try changing the angle you’re system either side of the lens to illuminate your subject. Ensure you have attached a diffuser.

shooting from.

digital photographer 23

50 ways to shoot close-up

photo tips4Macro


Intricate insects

Eye contact If you want to increase the impact when shooting bugs, avoid the typical ‘from above’ perspective. If you can level with the bugs, you’re more likely to achieve the eye contact, which is often essential!

Uncover the critters in your garden & capture their beauty up close 11Slow starters

If you’re new to insect photography, start by photographing something slowmoving, such as a mantis or snail. Mantises are very interesting insects and they also happen to pose for you. Lee Peiling

© John Kimbler

John Hallmén

Putting it into practice

Hold it steady


Get in close and try to fixate the camera gear in relation to the subject. A useful handheld method for shooting bugs sitting on vegetation is to gently grasp the plant with your fingers and then brace the lens against your palm. It can seem a bit awkward to begin with but when you get the hang of it, this can be really helpful! John Hallmén

Have patience

16Look for low angles

© Lee Peiling


Do your research


Mornings & evenings

I always compose my images just like a portrait photographer. I try to position the subject and the camera a certain way to create a ‘magic angle’ that makes the most of what little depth I have in the scene. I’m often asked if I focus stack but all my images are single frames.

The more you learn about the subjects you shoot, the easier it will be to get close to them and to get the images you want. John Kimbler

The best time of day to photograph insects is early in the morning or late in the evening, when they are still sleeping. Most insects need the heat of the sun to get their metabolism going, so get out early before the sun has a chance to thaw them out. John Kimbler

John Kimbler

14 Freeze motion


24 digital photographer

© Daniel Kulinski

Consider habitats You’ll find insects just about anywhere there’s a flower to feed on, but get away from major roads where there’s a lot of traffic noise because insects are sensitive to vibrations. John Kimbler

© John Hallmén

If you’re shooting handheld, use a diffused flash to freeze your subject and/or camera movements. If, however, you’re using a tripod, you’ll be able to work with ambient light, sometimes in conjunction with a small reflector to reduce shadows. John Hallmén


Rather than running around actively hunting for insects to shoot, settle down in one place and simply wait for the subjects to come to you. Not only does this approach significantly reduce the risk of scaring away the subject but it also increases your chances of finding interesting creatures that you perhaps haven’t encountered before. John Hallmén


Focus stacking I often use focus stacking to increase the sharpness in my macro shots. As cliché as it may seem, the most important tip to remember when focus stacking is to be relentless and not be let down by a series of failures. There are lots of things that can (and will) go wrong and even as the skill set improves it often requires some amount of luck to succeed. John Hallmén

Capturing detailed critters up close

Be patient Get up early and wait in an insects are likely to frequent for 1food.area You can use a ringflash on the end of your lens for a nice even light, unless it’s a bright morning in which case you can work with what’s available.

Keep a low ISO You’ll need a relatively fast shutter speed if 2 you’re dealing with a skittish subject.

Try to keep your ISO low to avoid noise and use a narrow aperture setting to increase depth of field.

Keep still Avoid any fast movements that will scare your subject. When 3 ready, position the camera nice and close and manually focus your lens. This will give you more control and result in more accurately focused images.

digital photographer 25

50 ways to shoot close-up

photo tips4Macro


Increase contrast Avoid flat results when shooting textures by placing the light source to one side. This will help to increase the contrast on the surface of the object. Be aware of different textures though, particularly if you’re dealing with highly reflective or dull surfaces; light can reflect and illuminate in a lot of different ways. As a rule, always diffuse the light source first. Daniel Kulinski


Reverse mount You don’t always need all the kit. Before I purchased a macro lens I made a lot of pictures using a reverse-mounted lens. It can be quite difficult to take pictures this way, but you gain a lot of skills at the same time and results can still be astounding. Daniel Kulinski

Touchable textures

Learn how to look for, frame and photograph everyday textures to get artistic image results

24 Always experiment

Be open minded when you’re photographing textures. Shoot from different angles and try to experiment with lighting to see how it can enhance shapes, pattern and a threedimensional feel. Daniel Kulinski

Putting it into practice

Photographing the detail in textures

27 Add colour

Aim to keep things fun and fresh. Experiment with coloured light or use gels over your flash to achieve something a little different. Sharon Johnstone

28 Get support

Light it up Use flash or directional light source to illuminate your subject. If 2 you’re working with natural light, use a small

26 Consider composition first

© All images by Daniel Kulinski

reflector or compact mirror to direct the light and brighten up the shadow areas.

To create interesting images of texture, make sure you think carefully about the results you’re after in your mind. You can then use the camera to get them. Daniel Kulinski

22 Balance exposures Find a pattern Find a subject that offers an interesting Look for pattern and shape that will look fantastic 1whentexture. captured up close. Don’t forget to consider the angle you’re shooting from carefully for added impact.

26 digital photographer


Tweak exposure Once you have successfully framed your subject within the shot, adjust your exposure settings. Remember to check the histogram on the back LCD after shooting.

Check your histogram on the back of the camera to ensure the exposure is balanced correctly. Look at the left side of the chart to check the shadows and right for highlights. You’ll need the mountainous range to appear central, sloping down completely at either end to prevent under or overexposing the details. Clive Branson

25 Lighten shadows

Use a reflector to bounce light back into the shadow areas. If you don’t have a dedicated reflector, use an inexpensive alternative. I will sometimes use a piece of card covered in kitchen tin foil, which makes a great reflector, or a small hand mirror. Sharon Johnstone

For sharp shots of texture, ensure the camera is stable. Use a good tripod – you can reduce the chance of camera shake further by using a remote shutter release or your camera’s self timer. Daniel Kulinski

29 Look for patterns

It’s easy to overlook interesting textures on mundane objects. Start looking at items up close to find unusual shapes and patterns. Plants are a great starting point as you’ll find plenty of interesting features to photograph. Daniel Kulinski

30 Crop in camera

Take your time when you’re shooting texture and always aim to crop in camera. By avoiding having to do this in Photoshop, you’ll end up with stronger and more considered image compositions that are still high in resolution and quality. Daniel Kulinski digital photographer 27

50 ways to shoot close-up

photo tips4Macro

Artistic abstracts

31 Macro alternatives

Get close and shoot dramatic droplets

If you don’t have a macro lens, use extension tubes, as they are a fairly inexpensive way to get great macro shots. If you use them with a fast prime lens, you can make use of a lovely shallow depth of field. You can also try a reverse lens ring or a screw-on macro filter. Lensbaby has a macro kit which is great fun. Sharon Johnstone

33 Avoid reflections

For a clear even light, illuminate any liquids from the bottom or side. It prevents you from capturing unwanted reflections off the surface. Daniel Kulinski

© Daniel Kulinski

© Clive Branson


Change perspective Shoot droplets and air bubbles in the water from the top or from the side. Liquids that contain air and water can create interesting patterns that look amazing in macro photographs. Daniel Kulinski

34 Add droplets

39 Refractions

An inexpensive tip to try. Use a plastic syringe to place individual water droplets on flower petals or stems. Alternatively use an old cleaning bottle to spray more water onto flowers but make sure it has a fine mist. Sharon Johnstone

Get creative in camera. Focus on a row of water droplets and place an object such as a flower behind them. The image of the object will appear in the droplets. Remember to use a wide aperture here to blur out the subject in the background. Daniel Kulinski

35 Keep it clean

When you’re shooting droplets, consider the background. Ensure you’re working in a clear and uncluttered space. If you’re shooting through glass, make sure the container’s clean. Daniel Kulinski

technique 36 Practise

Make time for plenty of practice. You can use just about anything to take a macro photo, so I try not to get hung up on specific pieces of equipment. It can take a while to develop the skills, however, to accurately focus a lens with a shallow depth of field, and for that you have to take a lot of photos. John Kimbler

it steady 40 Keep © Daniel Kulinski

38 Single-point AF © Daniel Kulinski

For more control over where the camera focuses, use your single-point AF mode in camera. You’ll then be able to manually adjust where the camera will focus and more specifically on which water droplets. Daniel Kulinski

Although a sturdy tripod is essential for shooting up close, you might not always have one at hand. In these situations, use your backpack or a sturdy wall to place your camera on to shoot. Once you’ve set all of the parameters, use the self-timer to avoid shake. Daniel Kulinski


Abstract art Grab a glass of water and add a few drops of olive oil (I always add a couple of drops of washing-up liquid too to prevent the oil from flattening out). You can even place some colourful card under the glass to introduce a vibrant colour shade. Sharon Johnstone

28 digital photographer

© Sharon Johnstone

Putting it into practice Capturing artistic water macros with ease

Find a subject Shoot outside on a dewy morning Position Place your subject directly behind the water Alter perspective Make sure you’re in a good to find water droplets. Now find a flower or other droplets. Focus your camera on the droplets. You position whereby the subject can be seen within the 1subject 2 3 you would like to refract through the droplets. need to use a wide aperture to add focus to the droplets. drops. You may have to change your perspective slightly.

digital photographer 29

50 ways to shoot close-up

photo tips4Macro

Imaginative still lifes

Transform mundane objects into magnificent subjects

41 Create a story

Take the time to create a narrative. Without a narrative you’re just hoping that your photo will look great, but without the mental or emotional connection to objects and subject matter your image will fall flat. Ryan Roberts

47 Shoot in RAW

As good practice and to always ensure your shots are sharp, photograph in RAW format as apposed to JPEG. The latter doesn’t provide the same memory standards. Clive Branson

© Daniel Kulinski


Be particular Always ensure your object appears perfectly clean unless you’re looking to capture age. Try to prevent fingerprints as at a close macro proximity, everything will become apparent.

© Ryan Roberts


Just have fun and keep at it. Put some good music on that fits with what you’re trying to achieve visually. And don’t be afraid to walk away and come back a second or third time if your results aren’t what you’re after. You shouldn’t let the unknown frighten you from trying to pull off the more challenging shots you’re after either. Ryan Roberts


Photograph things you gravitate towards. I look for colours, shapes and attitudes in the designs that I think will photograph well to tell the story I’ve envisioned. This can cover a wide range of emotions from humour to horror, nostalgic or futuristic, etc. Ryan Roberts

Don’t be afraid of Photoshop

Always shoot your subject as best you can in camera. You can then use Photoshop to enhance your images. I’m always amazed by all of the adjustment layers and tools within Photoshop that can really help to bring your object to life. Ryan Roberts


© Daniel Kulinski

Preview the results Perspective plays a big role in telling a story but what I see through the lens doesn’t always equate to the actual angles that I need to hit. I always have my camera hooked up to my laptop so I can preview each shot blown up to truly see how things will look. I can spend hours trying to get the right perspective. Persistence will pay off if you have the time and patience. Ryan Roberts 30 digital photographer

Tell a tale

Shooting still life subjects up close

© Daniel Kulinski

Choose your subject Select an interesting subject to first. Create a small home studio space that’ll give 1youphotograph more control over the background, lighting and composition. You can use flash or a directional light source.

the composition 49 Consider

It’s good to know compositional rules when constructing a still-life shot. I use them often but it’s also great to break them too. I use the rule of thirds but I love taking shots where the subject is placed centrally for symmetry. Daniel Kulinski

creatively 46 Think

To create engaging still-life images you need to look at objects in a more creative manner. An ordinary frying pan can be transformed into something unexpected if you were to turn it upside down, spray with water and light well. Daniel Kulinski

Putting it into practice

Daniel Kulinski

50 Follow the rules © Daniel Kulinski


Have fun

© Daniel Kulinski

Alter the perspective you shoot a still life from to create more interesting images. Try looking at one subject from various angles to see how it alters. If you use compositional rules as guidance, you’ll get great shots. Daniel Kulinski

Pick an angle Position your Exposure settings Check subject carefully within the your light meter for the best 2 3 frame. You need to adjust the exposure settings. If you want perspective you shoot from in order to impact how the subject will be perceived. Try side and low angles to start.

to isolate your subject within the frame use a wide aperture with a slightly faster shutter to compensate for the light.

digital photographer 31

Macro and still life  

Few pages from Digital Photographer - tips not only mine for macro and still life photography. All rights reserved Digital Photographer

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you