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Four Essential Ingredients for Great Macro Photographs
12 May 2017

Four Essential Ingredients for Great Macro Photographs

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Creative macro photography opens our eyes to the unseen. The smallest scale is outside the reach of everyday experience; it appears new and intriguing.

One thing you can be sure of when you see a beautiful macro image is that it’s no accident. It’s sure to be the result of a photographer capturing the same subject over and over again. Experimenting with light, refining their viewpoint and composition, until the perfect moment, when all it comes together.

Below is a list of four elements you need to pay attention to in order to make great images every time when on the photo shoot. With a bit of practice and persistence your images will improve dramatically in no time.

Light is by far the most important element of a macro photograph. Essentially, there is no right or wrong light, only light that does its job – helping you to tell your story. You can spend a lifetime discovering all the possibilities offered by one subject lit by one light source – the sun. Experiment with different light direction, its intensity, contrast and colour.

Praying mantids by Eva Polak

After you learn the four characteristic of light, begin to decode the light that you see around you, and study other photographers’ images. Ask yourself, “Why is the shadow line soft?” What could have created these bokeh circles?” There are lighting lessons everywhere, just waiting for you to learn from them. Allow yourself to be obsessed with light.

Your Subject
Before you make an image ask yourself, “What is the most important thing in the scene?” While we’re thinking about the main subject, what is it about that subject that you like? Having descriptive words in your head when you are making an image will help you focus and bring that description into the image. What is it about this particular flower that you like? Is it the shape, the colour, or the intricate lines? Not only will this help you convey meaning in your image, but it will help you make all the technical decisions as well.

White flower by Eva polak

Clean Background
Just as important as the main subject is what is behind it. Think of the supporting actors in a movie. They need to be lively but not too prominent, or they will take attention away from the star. The background in macro photography needs to work the same way, adding to, not detracting from the subject.

Use perspective, point of view and depth of field to make your main subject shine. Try to isolate your subject and simplify the image as much as possible.

Light by Eva Polak

Strong Composition
Whenever you are creating images you are presented with a scene full of details, and you need to start eliminating them until your image contains only the most important elements of the scene. Then, you need to arrange those elements to create an interesting graphic design. To do it well, you need to understand the contribution of different elements in a picture. Use the building blocks of composition – lines, textures, patterns, shapes and colours – intentionally. Make sure all these elements support the main story of your image.

dandelions lines by Eva Polak

The best moments in creative macro photography occur when combinations of these four ingredients create a visual beauty, one that may be unexpected; yet the image will simply appear in the camera. All you have to do is to be there and be ready.

Great artistry is shown by creating images in which all of the elements melt together and do not call attention to themselves. If you feel a need for some extra help, join my online course, The Secret Language of Macro Photography.

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