Taking a Macro Photo - dummies

By Serge Timacheff

Macro (or close-up) photography gives whoever sees your photos a view of the world not normally seen by the naked eye. Most cameras, even smartphones, can shoot things reasonably close-up with a certain degree of clarity and focus. While traveling, find things to shoot close-up, such as what you’re eating for dinner, a strange bug, a decorative element on a building, or a beautiful orchid.

Follow these steps to shoot macro photos:

1Set and/or turn on the macro feature, if your camera or lens has one. If your camera and/or lens doesn’t have a macro capability, then test and see just how close you can get to something before you cannot focus on it any more.

The macro feature is typically identified by a small flower symbol, and is sometimes controlled in the camera (especially with point-and-shoot models) or on the lens itself (for dSLRs). Various types of lenses can get within different distances of an object for a close-up, with macro-capable lenses getting the closest—often within less than a foot—and still being able to focus.

2Disable your flash.

If a flash goes off very close to something, you get way too much reflection, and often, an overexposed image.

3Use a tripod or find another way to stabilize your camera so that you focus better.

Many macro photos have a shallow depth of field, so your camera needs to be able to steadily focus on something specific. If you’re using a tripod, remember to turn off any image stabilization or anti-shake features.

4Get as close to your subject as you can (or as you dare, in the case of insects!) focus.

At some point, all lenses fail to focus on something; it may be anywhere from a few inches to a few feet. In the figure here, this seaside creature looks scarier in the photo because it’s much bigger than in real life. Macro shots let you take a much closer look at the world around you. This was shot with a dSLR at f/7.1 aperture, ISO 500, 1/500 shutter speed, and a 75mm focal length.

5Set the ISO as low as possible for the environment depending on the ambient lighting, and set your aperture to a wide-to-medium setting.

If your subject is non-moving, that’s all the better for a longer exposure. Set your aperture to a wide-to-medium setting, such as f/5.6 or f/8. In macro mode, you naturally get a shallower depth of field because of the macro setting and focal length. Plants, flowers, and other natural flora lend themselves very well to macro photography, such as the early morning grass shown here. This plant was photographed with a dSLR at f/6.3 aperture, ISO 200, 1/400 shutter speed, and a 75mm focal length.

6Adjust your shutter speed accordingly.

If you have a moving object, such as a jumping spider (yikes!), set your shutter speed to at least 1/320 or faster. For moving objects, where you want stop-action, you need a fast shutter speed and you need to adjust your aperture and/or ISO before you go to that slower shutter speed to keep the stop-action and perfect focus.