Attention to Detail in Macro and Close-Up Photography - dummies

Attention to Detail in Macro and Close-Up Photography

By Thomas Clark

You might take macro and close-up photographs for any number of reasons. No matter your purpose, that intent directly impacts how you choose a subject. Are you trying to sell something, create a piece of fine art, document an interesting aspect of nature, produce images for stock photography, or simply trying to have fun?

Your purpose for taking a photograph should determine whether you represent something in a literal or symbolic sense, or whether you mainly want to emphasize interesting visual characteristics in a subject. Drawing attention to the interesting elements enables you to successfully conquer any macro and close-up photography challenges.

Interest and texture

Photographers are often drawn to texture in macro and close-up photography. Macro and close-up photography can reveal the condition of a subject or provide a sense to viewers that they can almost touch the subject. These tips help you emphasize texture:

  • Lighting is everything when it comes to revealing texture. A sidelight is usually ideal to produce the most contrast and to define the characteristics of a specific texture. To maximize the separation of shadow and highlight areas even more, shoot with a hard light as opposed to a soft light.

  • Your camera angle can help emphasize the depth in a subject’s texture. Shooting parallel to a surface works in some cases, but an angle that’s more perpendicular to a surface offers a more interesting approach to revealing texture.

    Imagine you’re looking straight down onto Earth’s surface from very high in the sky. You’ll see the texture of trees and mountains, or buildings, but you won’t get much of an idea as to how tall these things are.

    Now imagine you’re much lower in the sky and you’re skimming over Earth’s surface, looking through the trees, mountains, or buildings. Each provides a much different interpretation of the texture on Earth’s surface.

  • Play with your depth of field to reveal texture in different ways. Greater depth of field shows more depth of texture, while a shallow depth of field enables you to focus on one specific area or detail. Each has a different effect and works well in certain situations. Analyze your subject to determine whether a great or shallow depth of field better emphasizes its texture.

This macro image emphasizes texture. Notice how the side lighting, depth of field, and the camera angle draw you into the texture as if you could touch it yourself.


100mm, 2.5, f/22, 200    

Repetition, patterns, and reflections

When composing images that include repeating or mimicking elements, make sure you know what your subject is. Sometimes a pattern, reflection, or twin element can be used in a composition to support the subject. But sometimes these can actually be the subjects.

Compose your frame in a way that makes clear what your subject is. For example, position an object in a dominant area of the frame to make it the subject or provide dominant placement for its reflection to make the reflection the subject.

By placing both with equal dominance in the frame, you can cause both to act as the subject. This photograph shows how utilizing a reflection makes a rather boring subject captivating.


If you seek out subjects or scenes that involve patterns, reflections, or similarities then you’ll have an easy time creating interesting macro and close-up photographs.

100mm, 1/400, f/2.8, 400    100mm, 1/400, f/2.8, 400