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How to Get Ideas for Macro Photography

Updated on April 22, 2015
LuisEGonzalez profile image

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years.

How to get ideas for macro photography

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Most people who decide on doing macro photography mainly concentrate on the most typical subjects like plants, flowers, insects, maybe jewelry and so many more.

But eventually you will have photographed so many insects, pistils, leaves and other small things that you may find yourself out of new and fresh subject matter ideas or bored to the point that macro photography does not challenge you.

Everyone goes through such a moment regardless of what your topic of interest happens to be.

Eventually you need to find a fresh new way of creating a motivation and getting fresh new subjects.

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"Macro photography (or photomacrography[1] or macrography,[2] and sometimes macrophotography[3]), is extreme close-up photography, usually of very small subjects, in which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than life size (though macrophotography technically refers to the art of making very large photographs).[2][4] By some definitions, a macro photograph is one in which the size of the subject on the negative or image sensor is life size or greater.[5] However in other uses it refers to a finished photograph of a subject at greater than life size.[6]

The ratio of the subject size on the film plane (or sensor plane) to the actual subject size is known as the reproduction ratio. Likewise, a macro lens is classically a lens capable of reproduction ratios greater than 1:1, although it often refers to any lens with a large reproduction ratio, despite rarely exceeding 1:1." Wikipedia

Here are some useful tips in choosing what to photograph. The first thing is to choose a location.

This is very useful for indoor subjects and in your home, especially when the weather is not cooperating with you and keeps you inside.

Grab a notebook and begin exploring a location or several locations at a time always paying attention to everything in it.

Once you pretty much have decided on what location will be the main source of inspiration, then start by simply looking at subjects in detail.

Fixtures, forks, spoons, plates, cups etc. making notes on how you would represent them in your pictures either as individual items or in groups is a good starting exercise.

Look at your subjects from various angles and look at them closely.

Your "views" will begin to give you ideas in how to photograph each item.

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Pay attention to the textures and colors as well as under which background your items will be "posed".

If your subject is a silver spoon then do not use a silver or white backdrop. Try to use contrasting combinations from subject to its backdrop.

A variation to the theme is to choose a theme rather than to choose a location. Decide whether your theme will be textures, colors, materials, shapes and so forth and then conduct a more thorough search with your theme in mind.

The theme can also be expanded to include one main type of subjects like only kitchen wares, only toys, only electronics, only glass and so forth.

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Plan on watching some videos of how other professionals approach their macro work and what are their typical subject matter.

You might be surprised and even come up with further subject ideas after watching a few of these. YouTube has quite a number of good videos on the matter and it is worth checking them out.

Pay attention to their techniques and especially to their technical approach; one light, one backdrop, shutter speed, f stops etc.

Along the same lines is to look at many samples of macro works done by others and try to identify the technique and technical composition.

Any Internet search will yield plenty of such samples and by clicking on the images, it will usually lead you to the author's site where more tech information may be shown.

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Since photography depends on light to work, try to play with different lighting scenarios. Come up with different ways of lighting your subjects.

Try ways that you haven't seen before if at all possible and practice with them.

Try one light, two lights, different angles for each light, shadows, limiting the light and so on.

Change the direction of light and the amount of light or ratios.

Try new lighting props like a snoot, diffused light, overhead, or back lighting and the use of reflectors like a simple white card. many of these can be DIY projects like making your own DIY reflective umbrella or a car windshield reflector.

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A final thought, although this particular article was written with the idea of doing macros at home or indoors, the basic techniques and tips work for all photo projects.

Choosing a location, selecting a theme, doing individual or groups pictures, studying your subject matter closely and attentively as well as exploring and playing with the light can be applied to most any situation or subject worth photographing.

Do not be afraid of mimicking the techniques and style of other professionals. Even though your images may be similar they will ultimately be your own creations and will carry your personal touch.

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© 2015 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • Solaras profile image

      Solaras 2 years ago

      Hi Luis - Stunning images and great suggestions for getting creative ideas flowing. Voted Thumbs up and Interesting.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 2 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Solaras: Thank you

    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 2 years ago from Glasgow

      Voted up, useful and interesting. Great hub, which has inspired me to try shooting images other than bugs! lol

    • StephSev108 profile image

      Stephanie Marie Severson 2 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I really enjoyed the article and images. Thanks for sharing.

    • nicolas-ray profile image

      Nicolas Ray 2 years ago from Stamford, CT

      Very well thought out and composed article that has inspired me to get back into experimenting with macro. One of our projects in school was to pick one square block in the city, spend a few weeks and photograph it. Eventually, you really start to see detail, lighting, angles, textures, and interesting patterns. I was focusing my attention on high contrast images of nuts and bolts, rust, and color. I was interesting in the slight beam of light that was in back of a single nail and capturing it. Great advice and article. Love the images

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 2 years ago from Miami, Florida

      sparkleyfinger: Thank you

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 2 years ago from Miami, Florida

      stephSev108: Thank you

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 2 years ago from Miami, Florida

      nicolas-ray: Thank you and glad to hear it. Macro opens up a world seldom seen by most.

    • DaphneDL profile image

      Daphne D. Lewis 2 years ago from Saint Albans, West Virginia

      Now I'll be prowling the house tonight trying to find items to photograph. Great tips for someone like myself who is still in learning mode!

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 2 years ago from Miami, Florida

      DaphneDL; Glad you think so. Have fun!

    • Rachelle Williams profile image

      Rachelle Williams 22 months ago from Tempe, AZ

      Macro photography is interesting to me. I have a Nikon D3100 with an 18-55mm lens, and I'm looking to purchase a lens that would be good for macro photography. I tried those cheap macro filters, but the extra glass just seems to degrade the image to me...what would you suggest?

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 22 months ago from Miami, Florida

      Rachelle Williams: I still like good quality filters. If they are made from glass there is no reason for the image to be degraded. However if you still want a lens the best suggestion for your Nikon is the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 AF-D (about $300 used)

      Filters: the best would be the 01 Cokin Close-up P103 (about $40 new)

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