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.
Just use them when you can–because lines really are quite powerful.
Step 5: Use Negative Space to Draw Attention to Your Subject
Here’s another way you can emphasize your subject:
Use negative space.
Negative space is basically just empty areas of a photo–areas where nothing is really happening.
Like the area around this leaf:
What’s so great about negative space?
It directs people toward the non-negative space in the image. Which means that you can surround your main subject with negative space. And the viewer will be drawn straight toward the main subject!
So when you’re shooting, try to add a bit of negative space around your subject. It might seem like a small enhancement–but it’ll make an important difference.
Capturing the Perfect Macro Composition: Conclusion
Hopefully, you now have a sense of macro photography composition–and how you can easily create a stunning macro photo.
Just remember to choose a powerful main subject.
Position it carefully.
And emphasize it!
If you can do that, you’ll take macro photos you really love.