Composition and Focus for Photographing Tiny Subjects - dummies

Composition and Focus for Photographing Tiny Subjects

By Thomas Clark

Sometimes photographers get so intrigued by or caught up in the technical aspect of extreme macro photography that they forget to create interesting compositions. Overlooking composition causes viewers to find interest in your subject (because they can see such fine detail in it), but it leaves something to be desired from an aesthetic viewpoint.

The ideas behind photographic composition apply to extreme macro photography just as they do to any genre. However, some limiting factors apply.

Positioning your point of focus exactly where you want it is very important in macro and close-up photography, and it’s especially true in extreme macro situations. The slightest miscalculation has a great impact on your final image, causing viewers to question your choices — why you didn’t put the eyes in focus, for example.

When you examine your subject through the viewfinder, you sometimes see details that aren’t usually visible with the naked eye. Take the time to discover what’s interesting about these details, and then position your point of focus exactly where you want viewers to look. This approach is the best way to highlight the details you would like to share through your photograph.

After you have the point of focus, consider your depth of field. A shallow depth of field can artistically draw viewers to your sharp point of focus and away from other blurry areas of the frame. This tends to be the opposite of an extreme macro photographer’s goal, though.

Usually you wish to show as much detail as possible, because the details are the interesting part of this style of photography. This photograph shows how a greater depth of field helps reveal your subject and a shallow depth of field creates an unclear image.


50mm, 13 seconds, f/32, 800

Select an aperture setting that lets you reveal important details to your viewers. Perhaps you require just enough depth of field to show the subject in focus, but you still want to blur out the background. This could mean the difference between f/11 and f/16, or f/16 and f/22, depending on your subject’s size and distance to the background, and your level of magnification.