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Finding Macro Inspiration at Home

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This post is part of a series called Macro Photography.
Macro Equipment: Getting Started With Close-Up Photography
Abstract and Colourful Close-Ups

Sometimes it’s hard to come up with new ideas for photographs and you can find yourself taking the same scenes, people or styles over and over again. The same is true for close-up photography: we can get stuck in a comfortable rut. In this tutorial we'll explore simple but effective ways to look at the world around you with fresh eyes. 

The Tools and Gadgets Drawer

The man drawer (as it’s called in our house) is where DIY tools and useless things we’ll never actually need are kept. This can be a treasure-trove for close up pictures. Try artsy pictures of screws, fuses or even steel wool for some fantastic textures and shapes. Another thing most of us have lying around are light bulbs. Couple this with an interesting background and you can produce something quite intriguing.

Bulb close up Photo Marie Gardiner
An unusual background behind a bulb adds interest [Photo: Marie Gardiner]

Matches make great macro shots too. Try them in the box for some nice blocks of colour and pattern.

Matches in a box Photo Marie Gardiner
Matches in the box make interesting blocks of colour [Photo: Marie Gardiner]

They work really well alone too. If you’re careful you can get some fantastic shots of them in flame (use a fast shutter speed and high f number for best results). Be sure to make your environment a safe one if you try anything with fire.

Textures

Textures are absolutely everywhere in the home, get down on your hands and knees to explore skirting boards, doors and tables.

Table wood texture Photo Marie Gardiner
A close up of the texture of wood on a table [Photo: Marie Gardiner]

This shot of one of my tables really shows off the grain in the wood; the gap between boards splits the picture in half and is a nice breaking of the rule of thirds. Things like this can also make pleasing textured backgrounds for your other photographs.

Our wicker laundry basket made for another interesting picture with its counter-flowing lines and shabby edges.

Wicker basket close up Photo Marie Gardiner
Close up of a wicker laundry basket [Photo: Marie Gardiner]

Hobbies and Toys

If you have children’s toys around the home, why not try a soft toy portrait? Not only do their faces make a cute picture but if the child has a favourite toy then it can also make a lovely, personal print for a nursery or bedroom. The colourful background here is just a bedspread, improvise with what you have lying around. Use a nice wide aperture to blur the background but be mindful that shooting wide open will give you a very narrow depth of field, so try to balance the two.

Toy monkey close up Photo Marie Gardiner
Pictures of a child's toy can make a great canvas as well as an interesting close up [Photo: Marie Gardiner]

If you have a particular hobby or interest then taking close-ups of related items can not only make you see them in a whole new way but also will feel more personal to you. Again, making a print of these (or a mouse pad!) for an office or work area can look great. Assuming you’re into photography if you’re reading this tutorial, try taking macro shots of old cameras or film.

If you enjoy art then the tools of the trade can make very rewarding shots, especially the colourful items.

Coloured pastels Photo Marie Gardiner
Coloured pastels on a black board. [Photo: Marie Gardiner]

Try putting bright colours onto a black background to really make them pop. My example is coloured pastels on a chalkboard; I scrubbed them along in a line first to create the coloured dust to add extra interest.

Conclusion

You don’t have to be chasing bugs around bushes or spend hours setting up water droplet shots to get great close-up pictures. Macro is a wonderful self-indulgence because you get to take the things you enjoy seeing up close but you also give someone else the opportunity to see something in a whole new way. Try not to dismiss what may seem obvious, instead look at it from a different angle or ask yourself what you could do to make that shot unique. It could be as simple as turning the item around, moving it to more interesting surroundings or getting down on your hands and knees to see it from a different perspective.

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