Design Elements in Digital Macro Photography - dummies

Design Elements in Digital Macro Photography

By Thomas Clark

If you have a good eye for macro photography, you easily spot elements of interest and capture great images. By examining a subject and determining what you like about it specifically, you can create an image that shows viewers how you look at that subject.

Each photographic subject in macro photography contains various visual elements, some of which have more impact than others (depending on the subject itself, and your vision of it). These elements are known as the elements of design. When you use them correctly, they can help express the way you see a certain subject and can help alter the way others see that subject in your photos.

Here’s a list of some of the major elements of design, which you should be paying attention to when you photograph a scene:

  • The literal association of a subject is the way you see something based on what you already know or assume about it. Some people may see a bee and think it’s dangerous, while others may just think it’s a hard worker.Shape is determined by the outer edge of a subject or photographic element. The angle at which you view an object determines how its shape appears to you. The angle at which you photograph something determines how its shape appears to viewers.

  • Form is similar to shape but includes the three-dimensional representation of a subject or element. If a circle is a shape, then a sphere is a form.Size refers to how large or small something is. You can increase the appearance of a subject’s size by having it take up much of the space in your frame. You can also represent a subject’s size by placing it near another element for comparison.

  • Lines can be horizontal, vertical, curvy, diagonal, zigzag, or organic. Different types of lines, how they interact with each other, and what they lead to in a frame can alter the way people view an image.

  • Texture reveals the condition of a subject or element’s surface area. It can be used to tell viewers the age of something or what it would feel like to touch it, and it can reveal impressive levels of detail.

  • Color plays a key role in drawing a viewer’s attention to certain areas of a frame and causing them to develop specific feelings when viewing an image.

  • Repetition/patterns catch a viewer’s attention due to their blatant design qualities. These can create symmetry and rhythm in images, both of which are naturally comfortable for people to look at.

For example, imagine that you come across a pretty flower and want to photograph it. The first question you should ask yourself is what makes the subject appeal to you visually? Is it just that you find flowers to be pretty because they’re flowers and everyone says they’re pretty?

More likely it’s something more specific that draws you to a specific subject. Flowers might be pretty, but some are more beautiful than others. Why should your viewers want to look at the one you chose to photograph?

This image highlights the form (the manner in which it takes up space) of its subject and the lines its edges produce. The subject has an organic pattern that leads you from one side of the frame to the other, but it’s not a perfect pattern. This particular piece of pasta reveals slight imperfections, showing that it’s handmade and not stamped out by a machine.


100mm, 0.4, f/5.6, 320