Many photographers today want to know how to take macro pictures, thanks to a growing number of beautiful images online of small plants, animals, and insects. Macro photography is not always easy, especially for beginners, but it is one of the most rewarding genres of photography you can do. With the right skills, you will be able to capture amazing images even in your own backyard. To learn macro photography from start to finish, you should begin by reading the tips and techniques in this guide, taught by an award-winning macro photographer exhibited at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural. By the end, you will know exactly how to put these recommendations into practice and capture stunning macro photographs for yourself.
What Is Macro Photography?
Macro photography is close-up photography of small subjects, including things like bugs and flowers. You can take macro pictures in a studio or outdoor environment so long as you are magnifying your subject sufficiently.
Officially, you may hear that macro photography only happens when you take pictures of small subjects with a magnification of “life-size” or greater. I will cover more about the meaning of magnification and life-size in a moment, but essentially it means that you must take pictures where your subject is the same size as your camera sensor or smaller, and it fills the frame. (So, if your camera sensor is one inch wide, you would be photographing something 1 inch or smaller.)
That is a very strict definition, and frequently you will hear photographers call an image “macro” even when it shows a slightly larger subject. The same is true of the photos in this article, many of which do not fit this technical definition, but they are close-up photographs nevertheless.
Macro Photography for Beginners
Some of these are harder to do than you might think, such as getting enough depth of field and focusing on the most important part of your subject. However, the tips in the rest of this macro photography tutorial will give you a good idea of where to begin, and you should be able to master everything with a bit of practice.
What Is Magnification?
In macro photography, it is important to know how large or small your subject appears on your camera sensor. Comparing this number versus your subject’s size in the real world gives you a value known as your magnification.
If that ratio is simply one-to-one, your subject is said to be at “life-size” magnification. For example, if you’re photographing something that is one centimeter in length, and it is projected exactly one centimeter onto your camera sensor, it is at life-size (regardless of the size of your camera sensor).