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Quick Tip: 5 Fast Facts for Shooting Macro

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Read Time: 5 mins

Have you ever heard the old saying "if your photos are good enough, you're not close enough?" Today we are going to get really close with some macro photography. Macro photography is close-up photography, usually focusing on small areas. We will look at five tips to get you started in macro photography.

Pack the right gear

Macro photography does have some gear requirement, particularly a macro lens or close-up filters. In this arena of photography, if you have the better gear there is a greater chance of getting better pictures.

So let's take a quick look at the basic gear that will make your macro experience better.

  • DSLR Camera or compact camera with macro function.
  • Macro lens (if using a DSLR)
  • Tripod
  • Flash (external if possible)
  • Reflector

Credits to shutupyourface for the image.

1. Live View

Over the past few years, a live view function has become available on almost all digital cameras. Its an extremely handy feature to use when shooting macro.

You never know where your subject is going to be. You could be shooting extremely low to the ground and in that position getting to the viewfinder might be more hassle than its worth. Switching on your live view is easy and saves you from bending down and hurting your back.

On many new DSLR camera, the screen is also larger and you can often judge how sharp an image is on the screen a lot easier than in the viewfinder.

Cameras such as the Canon 60D and G12 also now have pop out screens which you can turn and rotate around. These are very handy when shooting bizarre angles.

Credits to peteSwede for the image. - Link

2. Macro mode


Compact camera users will have to switch to macro mode. Macro photography mode is typically easy to find, as it is usually identified by a small flower logo.

Macro mode allows you to get slightly closer to your subject as well as telling the camera to increase the aperture, blurring the backgrounds and keeping the subject in focus.


DSLR users on beginners cameras will also have a macro mode, but I would suggest using the manual modes as they will give you more creative freedom.

A true macro lens offers 1:1 magnification (life size magnification). However most other lenses will only be able to offer 1:2 (half life size), on these lenses you are normally able to find the small flower logo, with the details on the minimum focus distance. My kits lens for example is 0.28m/0.9ft.

Find the number and remember it as you will not be able to focus very well if you get any closer. You might find that if you are using a telephoto that number could be quite large and getting in close might be quite tricky.

Credits to ViaMoi for the image - Link

3. Use a tripod

The obvious problem with close up photography is camera shake, therefore I believe you should use a tripod. This will reduce the chances of blurry photos and also allows you to play around with your settings without losing your composition.

As well as using a tripod, using a high shutter speed as well as a cable release will also help reduce camera shake. These can be picked up on Ebay for around $4+ depending on the model of camera you own.

If you cannot take around a large tripod at all times then I would look into a "Manfrotto 709B Digi Table Top Tripod". For around $44 this mini tripod is able to hold even the heaviest SLR's.

However if you are balancing a compact camera then you can pick mini tripods up for under $8. Also don't forget about my favorite, the Gorillapod!

Credits to Håkan Dahlström for the image - Link

4. Aperture

As previous mentioned aperture makes a big difference when shooting macro photography. Most compact cameras will not allow you change the aperture once in macro mode, however if using an SLR I would suggest choosing a larger aperture (small number) to get a nice shallow depth of field.

Most dedicated macro lenses will allow an aperture of around F2.8.

Credits to Ben McLeod for the image - Link

5. Use a flash

Shadows are a macro photographers worst nightmare, so a flash is very important.

If you have a DSLR and are able to afford an external flash for off-camera work then you will be in the best position. This will give you the freedom to light the subject from any angle you wish.

However, if your using the built-in flash of your compact or SLR then I would suggest shooting around midday when the sun is at its highest, using the on-camera flash a fill light.

Think about using a diffuser as well so that the "hard light" of the flash doesn't appear to un-natural. Contrary to what you might think, if a light source is bigger than a subject (think flashhead vs. small bug, or big softbox vs. a person's face), the closer you put the light to subject, the softer the light gets. But when dealing with macro situations, the closeness of your flash will cause more problems with overexposure than anything else. Even at it's lowest power a flash pointed directly at a subject from one foot, may be too bright at f/22. A diffuser will help with this as well issue as well.

You might also find that a reflector can also help light your scene.

Credits to wili_hybrid for the image - Link

Other articles on Phototuts+

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A Poor Man’s Guide to Budget Macro Photography

130+ Stunning Examples of Macro Photography

Thanks For Reading!

Just remember the rule of thirds, to use manual focus and to shoot from multiple angles!

I hope these tips and ideas will be useful to you. Post links to your own favorite macro shots below and share the tips and tricks you use when shooting macro photos.

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