Photographing Weeds in the Summer - From The Phone
My story below…
Photographing Weed Flowers in the Summer - From My DSLR
When it’s summer, think about photographing weeds.
This month’s challenge is to take your images to the next level. I know this will be challenging because most people have already photographed a variety of weeds since they pop up everywhere.
Take a walk with your camera and photograph any weed you see. Try different perspectives and color arrangements. Even a dead weed can be beautiful.
Below are some suggestions to get you started.
Get low on the ground and that will make your image different from the rest. Make sure the negative space leads your viewer’s eyes to the main subject, which is your summer weed flower.
Or you can do the opposite and try to really soften the background. Using a shallow-depth-of-field will give your work some beautiful colors to enhance your flower weed. Maybe you’ll grab a nice bug chilling too 🙂
What catches your eyes when you see the weed? Use that and make sure that whatever it is, it’s in focus and remember to look on the internet to see if you’re being original in your shot. Don’t photograph the same composition as everyone else has… yep, it’s a tough challenge, but it’ll be worth it.
I caught a nice waterdrop on this Dandelion… bring a small spray bottle with you when you photograph. The flower weed will be happy and you’ll have some fun grabbing some refractions.
Look for dead weed flowers in the later summer. They have some amazing textures you can play with. The thistle above was in a patch of dead brush. Look out for 3’s in your composition and play with post processing to really bring out the textures.
Ok, now it’s time for you to have some fun! When you get out to focus on photographing weed flowers, take your time and play, play, play!
When you get home, look at your work and choose what is different from what you would normally see on the internet. Next, post-process your work to enhance the weed flower(s).
The closer you get to your subject the less in focus your subject will be. If you want to get up close and personal and have all of your subjects in focus you’ll need to focus stack. What that means is that you’ll take several images overlapping what’s in focus and merge them together. There is a video below to help you if you need it. It is a 3 part series but all you need is the first video for this article.
If you’re ready to dive into the software watch the video below. I show you how to start using Helicon Focus from the very basics. If you want a little more than that you can check out my Helicon Focus Mini-course. Now, you can use Photoshop and Lightroom to merge your images together but they only can handle basic photographing stacks. When you need 50 or more stacks together I recommend Helicon Focus or Zerene Stacker.
Daisy processed in Helicon Focus
If you have any questions feel free to ask below. I’m also sharing my focus stacking mini-course if you would like more details on that too. If you purchase any of my courses, updates are for life. If you change your email please go into your account and change it.
I’m excited to see your stacked work. If you share your images on social media please mention me so I can see them.
Cheers, Janice Sullivan
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This step-by-step guide will help you capture the perfect Macro Composition!
Do you struggle to create beautiful macro photography compositions? Do you worry that composition is something that will take years to master?
It’s a common problem.
But fortunately, macro photography composition isn’t as hard as you might assume. Because there are a few simple compositional guidelines that will get you shooting amazing compositions, every time you take out your camera.
And in this article, I’m going to teach you the exact steps I use to compose my own macro photos.
So next time you’re in the field, you won’t have to worry about creating compositional failures. Instead, you can follow these steps–and capture amazing macro photos.
Let’s get started.
Step 1: Find a Main Subject That Stands Out
Great macro photography composition starts with a great subject.
Which means that you absolutely must take care to choose a subject that works.
Now, the best subjects in macro photography are simple. And they stand out.
For instance, they’re a single, colorful flower. Or an interesting, eye-catching insect.
The key is to choose a subject that actually draws the viewer in. If you’re struggling to identify a strong subject, think about what drew you to the scene in the first place. Were you taken in by a flower? By an interesting leaf? By something else entirely?
And then, once you’ve found your main subject:
Step 2: Isolate Your Main Subject as Much as Possible
In composition, simple is best.
Which means that you should strive to make your whole photo as simple as possible. That means removing all distractions. It means making sure that the whole frame acts to highlight your subject.
So here’s what I recommend:
Frame your subject in your viewfinder. Then look around it and at its surroundings. Ask yourself:
Are there any distracting twigs, leaves, branches, or plants?
Is there anything that might take away from the main subject?
If there are distractions, then you can do one of two things:
First, you can try to angle yourself so that the distraction is no longer present. This might mean getting low to the ground. It might mean getting up high. It might mean moving in closer.
I shot from a downward angle to avoid distractions for this photo:
But if that doesn’t work, then you have a second option:
Remove the distractions from the scene.
I never advocate destroying a scene to get a photo. But it’s okay to gently move a leaf aside. And it’s okay to move fallen branches out of a composition.
Once you’ve isolated your main subject, it’s time to actually position it within the frame:
Step 3: Position Your Main Subject Using a Compositional Guideline
Even if you have a powerful main subject, you still have to position it correctly.
If you position your main subject in the wrong place, you’ll end up with a weak composition. One that nobody likes to look at.
But if you position your main subject correctly, you’ll keep the viewer engaged. You’ll keep them coming back to the photo, over and over again.
So here are two great guidelines for positioning your main subject:
Option 1: Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is a classic compositional technique. It states that the best composition has its main elements a third of the way into the frame.
In fact, it comes with a helpful set of gridlines:
The basic idea is to position your main subject (and any supporting subjects) along these gridlines. So, if you’re photographing a flower, you can place the stem along a vertical line.
However, there’s actually an ‘upgraded’ rule of thirds. It’s a more powerful version of the original rule, and it states:
Place your main subject on one of the rule of thirds intersection points (also known as power points).
This is what I often use in my photography. For instance, notice how I positioned the flower at a power point in this photo:
It makes the scene feel nice and balanced!
Option 2: Center Symmetry
Sometimes, the rule of thirds just doesn’t work.
And sometimes, you just want to try something new.
Well, a great way to produce a bolder, more in-your-face composition…
…is to use centered symmetry.
To pull this off, you have to start with a symmetrical subject. Flowers work well, because they often have completely symmetrical centers.
Then put the flower smack-dab in the center of the frame, so that the center of the flower corresponds to the center of the image.
And you’ll capture a powerful macro photo.
Step 4: Use Leading Lines to Emphasize Your Subject
Now that you’ve carefully positioned your subject, it’s time to talk about enhancing it.
This is about using other elements to emphasize your ‘main attraction.’
If you do it right, the viewer will be directed straight to your subject–which is exactly what you want.
And one of the best ways to do this…
…is to use leading lines.
Leading lines are simply lines that lead the viewer through the frame. They tend to work best when they’re pointed toward your subject.
Leading lines can be anything–branches, petals, stems, grass, and more.
Notice how the petals in this photo point toward the main subject (the sharp petal in the top center?):
They’re leading lines!
So here’s what I suggest:
Once you’ve framed up your subject, look at the surroundings. See if there are any interesting lines you can add into the frame. You might even take a step back to incorporate leading lines into the frame.
I’m going to start with the most basic form of macro photography lighting:
Cloudy light is most macro photographers’ bread-and-butter. It’s subtle. It’s soft.
And best of all, it brings out colors.
You see, sunlight is diffused by clouds. This diffused light deepens colors. It makes them vivid and rich.
So when the sky is cloudy, I recommend finding something colorful to shoot. Flowers are my cloudy-day favorite, but there are plenty of other options, too.
Here’s some advice:
Pay careful attention to the amount of cloud cover. If the clouds are heavy, then you’ll need to go out shooting around midday–otherwise, you won’t have enough light for good shots.
On the other hand, if the clouds are thin, you’ll need to shoot early or late in the day. You don’t want to go out around noon and deal with harsh shadows and contrast-heavy lighting.
If your subject is colorful, get out and shoot on overcast days.
You’ll come home with some great shots.
2. Use Evening Frontlight for a Lovely Golden Glow
Cloudy light is great for many types of macro photography–especially when they involve colors.
But what if you want photos that are a bit more powerful? A bit less subtle?
What do you do?
You go with golden-hour frontlight.
Let me explain:
When the sun gets low in the sky, its light starts to turn a brilliant gold color. This happens during the hour or two just before sunset on clear days, and it’s referred to as the golden hours.
(I should note: You’ll find the exact same golden light during the early morning on clear days, but most people don’t like to get up that early! If you do, then take advantage of it.)
Now, golden hour lighting is amazing for photography. The gold color looks really incredible. It’ll even give your photos a nice glow.
Plus, when the sun is low in the sky, lighting becomes directional. That is, the light will hit your subject from different angles, depending on your position.
If you’re standing in front of your subject with the sun positioned behind you, your subject will be hit on the front. This is called frontlight.
Whereas if you’re standing with your subject between you and the sun, your subject will be hit from behind. This is called backlight.
Now, frontlight is the most common form of directional lighting. It should be your go-to directional lighting, and here’s why:
Frontlight will illuminate your subject evenly. It won’t cause any dark shadows. It won’t make for difficult exposures.
Instead, it’ll just look really, really good.
Which is exactly why you should use it often. If you’re out shooting in the evening, you can’t go wrong with a bit of frontlight, no matter your subject.
However, you should be careful, because it’s easy to lose track of the sun’s position. So here’s what I recommend:
When you’re out shooting, look at your shadow. And always position yourself so that your shadow points directly at your subject.
That way, you’ll always have direct frontlight.
And you’ll get some fantastically-lit macro photos.
3. Use the Broken Backlight Technique for Dramatic Macro Photography
Here’s the thing:
Frontlight will get you some amazing images. But while frontlight is powerful, it’s not dramatic–it gives your subject some nice, even, low-contrast lighting.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for something more dramatic…
…go with backlight.
As I mentioned above, backlight is when the sun comes from behind your subject during the golden hours. In a backlit situation, you position yourself behind your subject. And you point your camera so that you’re basically shooting into the sun.
A few things to note about backlight:
Your main subject won’t be very well lit, because the light comes from behind. For that reason, you need to be extra careful not to let the photo become too dark.
Also, you don’t actually want to capture the sun in your photo. The sun is just too bright compared to everything else, and it will cause huge blown out areas in the photo.
So I recommend you position yourself so the sun is blocked by your main subject, or so that the sun is just out of the frame.
Now, standard backlight will work. It’ll give you a really nice shot–one that’s nice and dramatic.
But if you want to go further, you should use the broken backlighting technique.
Here’s how you do it:
Instead of letting the sun fall directly on the back of your subject, you should try to find an area where the sun’s light is broken by some object. Leaves work great, but flowers will get the job done, too, as will empty tree branches, cattails, and more.
Then get down low, so that the broken light is in the background of your photo, directly behind your subject.
If you use a sufficiently wide aperture (in the f/2.8 to f/4 range), you’ll get some magnificent background blur. And it won’t be completely smooth. Instead, it will have bright spots of light, like this:
It’s a look that I absolutely love. It’s just so stunning and powerful!
So try to use some broken backlight.
And capture some truly dramatic macro images.
4. Use a Sun-Shade Pairing for Amazing Macro Backgrounds
Macro photography isn’t just about the subject. It’s about the background, too.
(And it’s about making the subject stand out.)
The more gorgeous the background, the better the overall photo will look.
In fact, I often spend longer thinking about the background than the subject. It’s just that important!
Now, one of the best ways to create a gorgeous background is to produce smooth, creamy bokeh. Which you can do with a wide aperture, somewhere in the f/2.8 to f/4 range. Having a large distance between your subject and your background helps, too.
But even if you create a nicely blurred background, you still have to consider the background colors.
Which is where the sun-shade pairing comes in.
You see, if you want really gorgeous macro backgrounds, here’s what you can do:
Go out to shoot during the golden hours. The more golden the light, the better.
Find a subject that’s in the shade…
…while the area behind the subject is in the sunlight.
Then get down low, so that you have a shaded subject framed by a sunny backdrop.
If you follow these instructions, and you shoot late enough in the day, you’ll get a photo with an incredible background: a lovely yellow-gold.
Amazing Types of Natural Light for Macro Photography: Next Steps
You’ve now discovered everything you need to know about light…
…to take some amazing macro photos.
You know how to shoot in both cloudy weather and sunny weather.
You know how to make the best of directional lighting.
And best of all, you know all about my (favorite!) sun-shade combination.
So get out there and start shooting. The good light won’t wait for you!
Check out these 7 Easy Tips for Beautiful Soft-Focus Macro Photography
Do you want to capture amazing soft-focus macro photos?
While soft-focus macro photography may seem daunting, it’s actually pretty easy–once you know a few tricks.
And in this article, I’m going to share these tricks with you. You’re going to learn how to shoot in the best light and create the best compositions. Ultimately, you’ll come away with the ability to take gorgeous soft-focus photos.
Are you ready to take your macro photography to the next level?
Let’s dive right in.
1. Shoot During Cloudy Days to Bring Out the Soft Effect
One of the essential ingredients in any stunning macro photo is good light.
If you can shoot with beautiful light, your macro photos will look so much better.
But if you shoot in bad light, your macro photos will generally fall flat.
Which leads to the question:
What counts as good light?
For soft-focus macro photography, one type of light reigns over all others:
Cloudy light is wonderfully soft and diffused. It gives your macro photos a more subdued look–which is perfect for this type of photography.
Cloudy light also brings out colors. This is great for the soft-focus flower photographer, because the diffused light makes the reds, oranges, and greens much more vivid.
For instance, look at the intense colors in this photo:
This would be hard to create naturally–if it weren’t for cloudy days.
Now, I should note: You can take soft-focus macro photos on days that aren’t cloudy. On sunnier days, I recommend working with backlight.
But cloudy light will get you some incredible soft-focus shots–and you should take advantage of that whenever you can.
2. Use a Wide Aperture for a Lovely Soft Look
If you want amazing soft-focus images, you need to make sure very little of your main subject is in focus. That’s how you’ll get the look you’re aiming for.
The aperture is basically a hole in the lens, which gets wider and narrower depending on your camera settings. Narrow apertures make sure that the entire image is sharp, from front to back. But wide apertures do the opposite: they decrease something called the depth of field, and cause much of the photo to be blurred.
The size of the aperture is referred to using f-stops, like this: f/2.8, f/5.6, f/8, etc. The smaller the f-number (e.g., f/2.8), the wider the aperture.
I recommend using an aperture in the f/2.8 to f/5.6 range if you want truly stunning soft-focus photos. If you go too narrow (e.g., f/8), you’ll start to lose that wonderful soft-focus look, and you’ll get too much of the photo in focus.
Which brings me to the next tip:
3. Create a Large Subject-Background Distance to Make the Subject Stand Out
Almost every great macro photo has a clear subject.
The subject is the focal point of the photo–the thing that anchors the image and draws the viewer in.
And your goal as a soft-focus macro photographer is to make the subject stand out.
But it’s impossible to do this with a subject alone. The subject can’t just stand out. Instead, it has to stand out in relation to something:
Now, a background that looks the same as the subject will result in a muddy mess.
But a background that contrasts with the subject…
…well, that background will make the subject pop off the page. The whole photo will look gorgeous. And one of the best ways to create a contrasting background?
By blurring it.
That is, if you can create a deeply blurred background, your main subject will stand out.
As discussed previously, a great way to create a blurred background is to use a wide aperture.
But did you know that you can also enhance the background blur by increasing the subject-background distance?
That is, if you make sure that there’s a large gap between your main subject and its surroundings, the background will look much more blurry. Even creamy.
That’s why I always check the background before taking a macro photo. And I try to position my subject so it’s pretty distant from its background.
Then I can capture photos like this:
Both of these required large subject-background distances. That’s how I achieved that soft, creamy background look.
And speaking of backgrounds:
4. Create a Beautiful Background With Colorful Flowers and Leaves
As you’ve just discovered, the background is an important part of your soft-focus macro photos.
So it’s worth covering backgrounds more thoroughly.
Now, great backgrounds help the subject to stand out. They make the viewer look straight toward the subject.
And great backgrounds continue the soft look of the subjects. They add a sense of harmony to the image.
So what makes for the best background, specifically?
First, the best backgrounds aren’t distracting. They’re simple, they’re blurry, and they’re mostly uniform–a single wash of color, with maybe the hint of an out-of-focus object. To do this, you need a shallow depth of field, as discussed above.
Second, the best backgrounds add some variety to the photo. If your main subject is a white flower, the background probably shouldn’t be white. Instead, it could be a golden color, like this:
Or it could be a nice black, like this:
The point is to create a background that enhances the image as a whole. A background that is beautiful on its own.
You can find backgrounds like this by carefully observing your surroundings. Are there any autumn leaves? Are there any other flowers? Leaves and flowers make for great backgrounds–and you can always change your position to incorporate these elements.
Worst case scenario, you can get down low and shoot up toward the sky. While this doesn’t make for the most interesting background of all time, it still gives a nice look:
Create the best background you can come up with. It should complement your soft-focus subject. But it shouldn’t dominate the frame.
5. Include a Main Subject for a Powerful Soft-Focus Macro Photo
I’ve talked about the importance of a great subject.
But what should be your main subject in soft-focus macro photography?
First of all, I advocate starting with flowers for a soft-focus macro subject. Flowers give you all sorts of interesting shapes and colors to work with.
But it’s not enough to just choose ‘flowers’ as your subject and be done.
Instead, you need to think about how your subjects will appear.
Because here’s the thing about soft-focus macro photography:
You generally work at high magnifications. And when you work at high magnifications, your subject doesn’t appear to the viewer as a flower. Instead, your subject appears as a curve, or a straight line, or a circle.
Look at this photo:
What does the main subject look like? It’s two flowers–but it’s also two curved lines and two semicircles.
I suggest you think about your soft-focus subjects in terms of geometry, not objects. And, paradoxically, you need your soft-focus subject to be sharp.
In other words, even among a sea of softness, your main subject should stand out as sharp. Even if your main subject is just a line, it should be a sharp line. It should stand out.
And it should anchor the whole photo.
6. Change Your Angle for a More Intimate Perspective
When you’re doing soft-focus macro photography, you want to create a connection with the viewer. You want the viewer to look at the photo and feel drawn in.
One of the best ways to do this is to change your angle.
Because certain angles create very intimate perspectives. Which is exactly what you need.
Specifically, I suggest you don’t just shoot your soft-focus macro from a standing height. Take a few images from up high, but then get down on the ground. Lie down if you’re able.
If you can do this, your photos will become so much more intimate.
In fact, I often shoot while lying flat on the ground, with my lens parallel to the dirt. This low angle does so much to enhance soft-focus photos. And it create such intimate, powerful photos.
I took this photo while crouched low:
(I couldn’t have gotten the angle I wanted, otherwise!)
Now, you shouldn’t feel confined to this low-angle shooting. Experiment with many different angles. Get closer to your subject. Move farther away.
The more angles you try, the more likely you are to find that perfect shot!
7. Include Several Colors to Enhance Your Soft-Focus Images
Here’s your final tip for amazing soft-focus macro photos:
Choose your colors carefully.
In particular, try to create a nice color palette–one that works together to make an amazing image.
Now, this isn’t as hard as it sounds. You don’t need to go to art school, and you don’t need to learn color theory.
Instead, in every photo you take, try to include two or three colors. If you include too few, the photo will turn out bland. But if you include too many, the photo will be chaotic.
As discussed above, the background can be a color of its own. And the subject can be a color (or two). That way, you’ll get a few nice colors. And the image will feel harmonious–not too complex, and not too boring, either.
If you want to create especially powerful photos, you can pick colors that contrast with one another. For instance, red and green are strongly contrasting colors. So you can put some green leaves behind your red (or pink) flower, and you’ll get a really interesting shot.
You can also combine similar shades of color. For instance, you can find a yellow flower and an orange flower. If you put one flower in the background and one in the foreground, you’ll get a beautiful image, one that is both simple and powerful.
The bottom line?
Just think about your colors. Don’t try to make this too complex, but don’t let them become too simple, either.
That’s how you’ll get some stunning macro images.
7 Easy Tips for Beautiful Soft-Focus Macro Photography: Conclusion
Now that you’ve finished this article, you have the ability to take amazing soft-focus macro images.
You know how to work with light.
You know how to find the best compositions.
And you know how to create wonderful, soft-focus macros.
The only thing left to do?
Get out and start shooting. Lots of amazing opportunities await!
Learn how to Stack your Images with Zerene Stacker
Today I’d like to share with you an amazing program called Zerene Stacker. This software will merge a variety of images that are in focus to have one complete single image file in focus. Oh yeah… too much fun!
As we get closer to our subject, we lose focus… frustrating I know, but that’s ok because we have Zerene to help us. Just photograph your subject from the front of your subject and you continue to shoot until you get to the very back of your subject. You may have a couple of images all the way up to hundreds. It really depends on how close you are to your subject.
Below are some photographs I shot by stacking images.
Stacked the stem to get details.
100mm with extention tubes at f8 with 29 stacks to get the drops to be in focus.
Stacked the center of the flower to be in focus.
Below is a video for you to help you get started with Zerene Stacker.
Stacked bottom reflection and top leaf to be in focus.
Silk Flower Stack
Wanted to get waterdrops in focus so I had to stack several images together.
Want to get to know the person who developed this wonderful program? Check out the video below, I had a wonderful time chatting with Rik Littlefield, the developer of Zerene Stacker. It’s a show so worth your time. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comment section. Here or on Youtube. 🙂
Stacking your work is soooooo much fun! It’s a blast to use Zerene and fun to see your work pop in front of your eyes.
I had a great question from Jamie Christianson. We were talking about Macro Photography (photographing up close) and he wanted to know where I start first when I begin to photograph my subjects.
I thought about this in more detail and said to myself, “I should do a deep dive for you” because I know how difficult it can be knowing how to tell your photo story.
Most of us live a fast life and as photographers, we can take a moment in time and share it for a lifetime. So it’s important for you to express yourself with your work. With that said, take your time and photograph deep within your subject.
Some things to think about:
Where do your eyes go first? What excites you about what you’re looking at?
Now take your camera and photograph that area in different locations.
Take several shots with different f-stops.
Change your lighting. Play with front and side lighting.
Get in close.
For example… in my flower above, I love the colors and gorgeous flower petals, it enhances the yellow in the center of the flower. My story is the yellow beauty of this flower. How do I make the yellow pop you ask? Our eyes go to the sharp areas of your pictures and in order to get that area sharp, I had to stack (take several in focus shots and bring them together) my shots to show you more details.
When you’re walking by flowers or subjects that catch your eyes, look deep within them. Sometimes the story is hidden and it’s up to you to reveal them to the world.
In the match below…I really loved the colors of the flame at the bottom. My eyes went there first, so I had to make sure the color was just right. My story is how beautiful the bottom part of the flame from a match is. Thinking about the story… I didn’t want to have the flame take over so I made sure there was no wind in my home studio. I took tons of shots until I liked the composition of the flame. With the room filled with smoke, lol! I finally got what I wanted. 🙂 Tip: Don’t give up. If you have an idea, keep at it. Ask photographer friends advice. You can always ask here in my blog posts. I check every comment.
ISO 200 f6.7 1.5 sec
Yes, it takes time to experiment and make many mistakes, but if you know what you like within your subject dedicate yourself to express it. That’s the story – now it’s your job to share your 1000 words to make a difference and to do that you must tell your photo story with patience and dedication.
On my first live chat show, one of the critique submissions from William was perfect for a deep dive video. He had a beautiful bug image that was shot with a flash. The background was underexposed because when you get up close with your flash, the light will drop fast so the background will go really dark to black. I told him that I would like to do a deep dive video to show him how I fix flash problems.
There are other ways to help you fix this problem…I know it’s frustrating when you really want to have the background exposed properly. The best way to fix this problem is on the camera while you’re photographing. So let’s get to it…
Adjust your camera settings to Manual Mode. Do your best to get the best f-stop, shutter-speed and ISO to have the subject and background exposed properly.
If you’re shooting bugs or need to stop motion because of wind and other movements happening while you’re photographing, a flash will be needed. With the manual settings you’ve done previously, do a test shot on ETTL ( Evaluate Through The Lens).
I used my Macro Ring Light in the behind-the-scenes. I really like the soft feel I get with this flash. But like I always say…light is light. You don’t need this lens to make a great Macro shot. You just need to understand your equipment and it’s limitations.
How to fix dark backgrounds from your flash
How do you work your flash situation when you have these problems? I’d love to know 🙂
Yep, it’s true. I think flowers are the most photographed subject (besides people shots) out there.
SO WHAT? I love to photograph flowers and if you like to photograph them too, then do it!
Tips Photographing Flowers Outdoors 1/180 @f3.5 ISO 100 with a 100mm Macro Lens
Today’s video shares a bit of behind-the-scenes of some flower shooting outdoors.
It’s such a pleasure to photograph these beautiful subjects and I hope I’ve inspired you to get outside and photograph flowers.
To process all of the images in the video, I used On1 and Luminar. I’ve always loved On1Raw and just started to play with Luminar. It’s a lot of fun. 🙂
Here is the eyepiece I was talking about in the video. It’s a great product to use when you need to get down low and photograph your subjects. I love my Angle Finder! I plan to talk more about this tool in my live show, “Macro Chat Live.” I’d love to see you there. It’s fun to talk macro and to meet others who enjoy macro and close-up photographing too.
It’s a new show, so I’m building it as I go. During every show we chat live about equipment/tools for us macro lovers. I have live critiques and some guests participating in the future. For more info you can read up on it here.
Below is the flower book I talked about in the video. It’s more about focusing on what excited me within the particular flowers. It should get you thinking every time you see a flower… you’ll say, “Damn, I wish I had my camera.” 🙂
The question of the day….
What problems do you have when you photograph flowers and what is your favorite flower to photograph?
Thursday, September 5th at 5pm Pacific Daylight Time!
It was a fabulous show ! Appreciated your critique very much, great advice given. I have to say that you took the mystery out of histograms for me. I learned more in the few minutes last night than the entire 3 years I have been trying to get my head round this topic on line !!!! Kudos
Every other Thursday at 5pm PST I’ll be on LIVE to chat about Micro, Macro & Close-up Photography!
“Thoroughly enjoying meeting up with you on your YouTube channel. . Always come away with new knowledge about macro shooting. Your guest selection has been spot on. They have all been very inspiring, even the bug guys.You are a hoot! And I mean that with the utmost respect. You certainly know your craft, your photos are beautiful. Thank you for sharing your expertise.”
Our guest for this show was the amazing A.D. Wheeler https://www.theexplorographer.com/ https://www.patreon.com/thecreatours/ 5:44– Introductions 10:11– Sponsors 10:58– A.D. Wheelers website and more 18:27– Sharing A.D’s Macro/ Close up…
9:48- How to submit images to the show 13:17- Sponsor 15:25- Equipment -Monitor calibration -X-Rite ColorMunki Smile https://amzn.to/2GRw7zz -X-Rite ColorMunki Display https://amzn.to/2Ekpal3 -White Balance your Camera – Get those correct…
In the last post I shared 10 inspirations to get you motivated to photograph macro & close-up! If you’re looking for creative ideas, here is my favorite Macro Photographing techniques.
01. Play with your F-stop
Change up your aperture. You’ll be surprised by what the depth of field (DOF) will be compared to f2.8 to f22 to a Macro image.
Shot at f3.2
Shot at f19
02. Try New Perspectives
Shoot on top, below to the side, behind….Move that lens around!
Back of a Daisy
03. Focus Stack
One of my favorite ways to photograph is focus stacking! You take several in focus images (f8 is a good start) overlapping what’s in focus and merge them together. It’s a blast seeing your subject become one in focus it’s like POW, your mind is amazed to see the result! Photoshop, Helicon & Zerene Stacker can help you out with the merge.
To get the drops in focus in the front and back this needed to be stacked.
04. Rule of Thirds
I have a video on this if you want to check it out. Trust me, this rule works… be creative and photograph on all intersecting areas to see what you like. Basically the rule of thirds is a hashtag on top of your image and you set your focal point (main subjects) on the intersections.
Bottom right where the the petals begin lines up on a third.
I always appreciate finding inspirational ideas to get me excited again while I play with my camera and macro lens. I want to share with you my favorite 10 tips to get you to take out your camera and get up close & personal with it. Here are my 10 ideas to find macro subjects.
1. Look in Your Kitchen
This is an awesome place to find Macro subjects. You have food, liquids and utensils just waiting for you to grab and photograph!
2. Water Droplets on Glass
You can add oil or soap to create fun droplets and/or put something funky under the glass to draw attention into the drops.
Oil & Water with pink fabric below glass.
3. Come up with a Theme
Texture is one of the best themes for macro, but any theme will do. Liquids are fun too!
Flower Flood Theme – Didn’t make the calendar, but I like it 😉
4. Check out Your Car or Find Rust
Cars have very cool lines when you get up close to them and if you have or find an old rusty car…woot! You’ll have a blast with a variety of rust texture to play with!
Rusty Train I found in a Museum.
5. Play with Lighting
Oh wow you can have fun with lighting… light painting is fun! Take your subject in a dark room and paint your subject with a flashlight.
Light with a flashlight.
6. Ordinary Objects
I’ve shot lightbulbs, pencils, buttons…look for goodies that have amazing patterns, colors, shapes and lines.
7. Google Your Favorite Subjects
Once you find a subject…Google it. This will give you ideas and plus you can make sure your work is different from the norm.
8. Look for Complimentary Colors
While you’re thinking about what to photograph pay attention to color. You’ll be amazed by subjects that compliment each other. On the color wheel the opposite colors from each other are called complimentary. They work awesome in photographs. If you want to read up on Color Theory. Go for it…knowledge is power…color power!
Orange and Blue – Red and Green…etc… attract our eyes.
09. Go outside in Your Yard
You don’t have to go far to photograph macro. Grass, weeds, flowers, rocks…I can keep going. Just walk around slowly with your lens and look at everything. You’ll find a whole new world, I promise!
Cactus in my backyard.
10. Have Fun
Yes! Get up close and personal with your subject and photograph it moving that lens all around to see what interests YOU! Make it a fun project…a fun time to create.
Cheers to finding macro inspiration! If you have an idea for us, I’d love it if you shared it in the comment section!
I just made a video this Tuesday on 5 tips to get you started with Macro Photography. I thought to myself, “Some people would rather read about these steps instead of watching a video” and I think these tips are so important for someone who really wants to get up close to their subjects. Now you have that available to you on the website as well as YouTube! I’ve been putting up new videos on my channel every Tuesday, and If you like videos, check them out here. I have to admit that I’m having a blast talking about the things I love. With that said, here you go… Five tips to get you started with macro photography.
This blog post is for those of you who really want to go 1:1 with your work. Basically, getting really close up!But if you want to read more about this, check out this article talking about 1:1 magnification I really like it.
Lenses For DSLR users, save your pennies and buy a macro lens! These lenses are cut specifically to get up close to your subject. If you don’t have a macro lens, then rent one so you can see what I’m talking about. I love this company, Borrowed Lenses. If you’re interested in renting, check them out. For you phone users, buy a macro lens to attach to your phone camera. These are specifically made so you can get in close with your phone.
Here are some links to some awesome lenses and my unboxing of the phone lens.
Use a tripod I suggest you use a ball head on top of your tripod when you photograph macro. Small movements from your camera make huge differences in you composition. It’s so much easier to move your camera with a ball head. When you get close to your subject, it will be hard for you to focus and make your focal point sharp. This is important because you want the eyes to go to the sharp areas first. That is your story and everything else that is out of focus is to enhance that story. Your tripod is one of the main characters to make it happen.
Learn your f-stop There are three parts to make a good exposure; aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. I want you to focus on your aperture, which is like the iris of the camera. The f-stop is a number that you will change to make the aperture smaller or larger. Just for learning purposes, put your camera on Aperture Priority. If you don’t know how to do this, please check your manual or do a search on your camera for aperture priority mode. Start by choosing an f number of 2.8 or 4.0 and take a shot. Move your aperture to the next level, say 5.6 and take another shot. Don’t change your composition. I’d then like you to go up to f-22. This will help you see the difference of what is in focus and what isn’t.
Take your subjects indoors In order to really learn macro photographing I’d like you to take your subjects indoors so you can practice, practice, practice! You’re just going to get frustrated when you’re outdoors and have the variable of wind to mess up your focus. Once you understand the f-stop and how to use your camera when getting up close to your subject, then go outside. Be patient. I promise you’ll feel so much better learning without the wind factor.
Last is lighting As you get closer to your subjects you’ll see that you’ll lose light coming into the camera. You might have to add more light to your subject to be able to get a good exposure. Try a reflector or flash lights. If you have a flash, use that with a snoot, but take the flash off your camera. If you LOVE macro like I do, then later think about buying a macro flash. I have the ring light, which is available at the link below and I love it.
If you’re really serious about learning how to photograph macro (1:1) I think these five tips will really help you get up close and personal with your camera. Of course, if you have any questions please put them in the comment area below and remember no question is a dumb question!
The featured macro image is part of my flood series. If you want more info on what’s coming up with these series please sign up for our Photographers and/or Art Buyers newsletters at the bottom of our website. 🙂
What do you like to see up-close? Let us know in the comment section below.
One of the many reasons I enjoy photography, is the gadgets you can play with while you photograph.
I love a new toy! Today my post will be about some of the toys you can purchase, but I want to make it clear to you, these gadgets are not needed to photograph up close, they just help you enjoy the process while photographing.
So, let’s get started… Of course I want to talk about my favorite tool first!
The Novoflex focusing rack is one of those tools that until you use it, you think, “why didn’t I have this earlier?” When you want detailed focusing, this helps tremendously. You will be able to fine tune your depth-of-field (what is in focus and what is not in focus). The focusing rack is attached to your ball head (at least my ball-head) on your tripod. The mini quick release is attached to your camera. It’s so nice and easy to work with. Below is an awesome rack! You can purchase cheaper focusing racks, but I want to show you the best equipment for serious macro photographers.
Perfect for Macro Photographing.
Ok…I would like to show you a wonderful ball head from Really Right Stuff. Again, you don’t need a ball head to connect to your camera and tripod, but I highly recommend the ball head so you can maneuver the camera more easily to focus on a variety of points and views.
This is another cool toy that I like to use, it’s called an angle finder. I’m showing you a Canon Angle Finder because I’m a Canon user, but just click on the image and do a search for your camera model. An angle finder is kind of like looking into a microscope.
If you need to be at ground level to view your subject or adjust your camera in a weird position to get the shot, the angle finder is excellent for this! It also has a magnifier that I love, which helps with sharp focusing. For more details check this tool out at B & H.
Another good gadget to have is a cable release (see below). When photographing macro I want you to remember that you need to keep the camera steady or you’ll have problems with blurred focus points. When you’re photographing indoors, you can set up the timer on your camera because you don’t need to worry about the wind moving your subject… BUT if you’re shooting outdoors you need to snap the shot fast before the wind starts up again. With that said…I like to use my cable release so I don’t touch my camera. Yes, I purchased this at B & H. 🙂
Another great tool for Macro Photography,
The last tool I want to talk about is lighting. Below is an expensive tool that you will love if you get into the macro thing. Again, if this is too expensive, you will be surprised on what a flashlight can do.
Macro photographing is fun! I love the photograph below because we can see the unique view of the fire. Be creative… I have photographed body parts, products, bugs, and of course flowers (my favorite subject). I now look at things differently…I remember Professor Gary Colby telling us that he wanted us to see photographically. At first I didn’t understand, but now I do, and I’m grateful that I have added this sense of sight to my life… Thank you Professor Colby! The more you macro, the more you will pay attention to the details around you.
f6.7 @ 1.5s ISO 200
So for now check out some gadgets and send me questions if you have any? There is no such thing as shooting auto to achieve a 1:1 macro image…so learn what an F-stop and ISO is and what the shutter speed does and of course you can always ask me questions in the comment section. 🙂
It is so exciting for me to see how other photographers interpret and create their own macro lens paintings. It is also nice to see people post blogs about this style of photography.
One day I was scanning blogs that I follow and I came across Don Johnston blog in which the photographer writes about how he learned the style of macro lens painting from me. He did such an amazing job and I was so impressed with his work, that I had to share it with you as well.
Teaching others and seeing how they interpret my work into their own is so fulfilling. I am always striving to try new things and improve my own style of work, so when someone else does this, it inspires me even more to share my projects.
Getting published and having my work in hotels and restaurants for others to enjoy is great, but what really floats my boat is teaching and mentoring other photographers. I love to see them grow and fulfill their own desire to create.
Thank you to all of you that I have worked with especially my apprentices in the Arcanum. You make me smile every day!
In our Professional Macro & Close-up Photography group, Troy had asked, “We all love taking pictures of flowers (I do as well) and we’ve all seen various angles and perspectives – some tired and some truly unique. We look for color, light, and texture – we try to separate our subject with position and framing – we consider a myriad of technical and artistic rules breaking some and following others before ever pushing the button. Some of us do this without thinking while others analyze and scrutinize. To this end I ask – what is your approach when shooting a flower? How are you trying to be unique and fresh?”
Macro of part of a dandelion with water drop and green background
I love this question so much that it made me want to write about it here. This was my answer. This is a great question Troy Arnold! When I first look at a flower I pay attention to what draws my eyes in first. I then start to play with that in a variety of compositions, f-stops, stacked shots, lighting, and always focusing on what I love about the flower. Sometimes my shots bring me to other elements of my story, but that is usually how I start my creative process.”
If you haven’t joined the macro fun, please join and start creating. Our Facebook group is a great place to share and chat about macro and close-up photography. You’ll see ideas from macro lovers and hopefully, it will motivate you to play with your work. Why not, don’t get stuck on doing the same thing every time. That’s boring!
Janice Sullivan’s fine art work of a daisy. Macro Lens Painting.
Below is an example of what I was talking about. It’s part of a flower. Yep, my eyes went to this area and I saw a praying mantis/alien, haha, well, it looks alive. 🙂 I tried various ways to photograph the location and this is what I came up with. Fun! Fun! Fun!
Macro shot of a flower that looks like a Mantis.
I hope this inspires you to “see” what you like while photographing macro and flowers. Now get started and focus, well you may not need to focus, but you will need to express what you’re feeling and that comes with experimentation and knowledge.
Just an FYI. You don’t need to be a professional photographer to join the group, but you do need to love the craft so much that you aspire to be a professional in your future.
I was honored to be a guest on the MGAPXL show this past Monday. We had a blast chatting about photography and all the goodies that go along with it 🙂 You can watch the MGAPXL Episode 11 – Macro Focus here or below.
I really had a fun time chatting with some awesome people. One thing thats great about photography is that I get to meet people from all around the world.
No Poppies : (
In my last post I was really excited to check out the poppy fields here in Southern California because with all the rain we’ve been having you would think there would be hills full of flowers right? Sadly, there was nothing but open fields of dead poppies and grass. There were a few poppies here and there that had sprout out from grass as we drove by, but nothing compared to the fields of golden yellow that I had photographed throughout the previous years.
It’s a site to see…maybe next year? Hopefully!
I found one small patch. f2.8 with my 70-200mm lens
I’m so excited to announce that I started a Professional Macro & Close-up Photography group on Facebook. It’s not just for professionals, but I do want to encourage serious macro and close-up photographer lovers to join. I decided to make it a private group that focuses on helping others while they work on images before they put them out to the public.
We kind of do this in The Arcanum, but it’s definitely more detailed with one-on-one critiques, hangouts and much more. I wanted to share a small part of what we do in the new group. We have some awesome admins in the group that totally understand what I’m going for, so please feel free to join. We would love to see you there. I just started the group on Sunday, so it’s a newbie idea that I hope will take off.
Below is one of my latest images that I shared in our new group. Can you guess what it is? Don’t cheat and look at the name of it. 🙂 I processed the image with a variety of tools, but what I like the most is the color overlays used in Topaz Texture Effects.
I have received a lot of questions about how to photograph macro and close-up photography, so I figured I’d give you 10 quick tips on photographing Macro.
1. Read Books! Search online for macro photography books and check them out at your library. If you love the book, buy it! Kindle’s will work too.
2. Buy a macro lens & DSLR Camera, or a high-quality mirrorless camera (two for one on this tip).
3. Use a tripod.
4. Use mirror lock-up on your DSLR camera. If you have a mirrorless camera, all is good. You want to reduce the shake of the camera from the mirror.
5. Pay attention to your aperture. For more clarity, use f22, but be careful of reciprocation after f22. If you want really sharp images, use f8 and stack your images.
6. The closer you get to the subject, the less depth-of-field you will have; play with that for artistic pictures.
7. Play with lighting. Want texture? light from the side. Want saturation? Light in front (built-in pop-up lights don’t work). Play with flashlights and bounce light with small reflectors. Aluminum foil works great.
8. Focus on your main subject and make that sharp. Watch out for the background – you don’t want it to take away from your subject.
When I’m feeling down or sick I always photograph or do some post-work on flowers. I love flowers and to visualize them up close is my cup of tea and it makes me feel good! I’ve had some crazy weeks lately. I’m sure you’ve been there before. To find what relaxes me is good, and as you can tell from this post, it is flowers. Here are some quick tips on how to photograph flowers close-up. I’m sure they will help you too when you need that extra push for life.
Use a Plexi Glass
Think 3 for a fun Composition.
Multiple focused images combined into one for more depth-of-field.
Use a tent for soft lighting.
I hope that you have a subject to photograph that just makes you smile, even if you don’t try photographing a flower.
I’d like to share my flower book with you all. I talk about what my thought process is while photographing a variety of flowers.
Here is a bit of info for you:
Print book, 88 pages standard landscape, 10 × 8 in. (25 × 20 cm)
Print books have professional-grade paper, superb printing and binding that looks good and feels great.
Durable, acid-free, archival-quality papers from Mohawk®
Deep, rich blacks for superb contrast and image reproduction
A range of premium cotton and linen Hardcovers
Long-lasting library binding, precisely and individually bound by hand