Macro photography is a different beast compared to regular photography. There are numerous ways to come up with macro photography ideas; you just need to find the right subject and practice to get it right.
This often involves taking photos of things that we often take for granted. We stop noticing small details, even the details we come across daily. Macro photography asks us to stop and notice something different, something amazing!
Today we’re going to look at some unique macro photography ideas to help you create professional-quality macro photos.
What is Macro Photography?
The word macro comes from the Greek word “makros,” meaning “large.” Macro photography generally refers to taking photographs at magnifications greater than life size (1:1).
For example, if you take a photo of a person with a camera on a tripod and shoot at 1:1 magnification, then their facial features will be the same size as they would be in real life.
I like to shoot macro photos at 2x or greater magnification so that even small details like eyelashes are visible in my photos.
Macro photography is a great way to explore your environment and learn more about the things around you. It’s also a great way to learn more about photography in general.
How To Take Macro Photos
The key to macro photography is getting close enough to your subject that it fills the frame. This means that you need a lens with a high magnification factor (the ratio of the focal length divided by the image sensor size).
Macro lenses are available in various sizes, from 30mm at 1:1 to 200mm at 1:2 magnification. The higher magnification means you need to get closer to your subject, which can be tricky if it’s small, fast-moving, or hard to find.
Macro photography can be done with any camera, but some cameras are better suited for macro than others. A DSLR or mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses will allow you to change lenses for different subjects. In contrast, compact point-and-shoot cameras often have fixed lenses that cannot be changed but will still have a macro mode.
Utilizing the camera settings for macro photos, such as depth of field, shutter speed, aperture, texture, and color can make even the most ordinary things look fascinating. The more you observe your surroundings, the more macro ideas you’ll come up with.
Tips to Get Started
Use a tripod
A tripod is essential equipment for macro photography, especially with a high magnification lens. The slightest movement can cause your photos to be blurry, so a tripod will help to keep your camera steady.
Use a remote shutter release
A remote shutter release is another handy tool to have for macro photography. This allows you to trigger the shutter without touching the camera, which can help avoid camera shake. This also allows you to be further from your camera and subject.
Use a flash
A flash can be helpful in macro photography, especially if you’re shooting in low light. It can help to brighten your subject and create more contrast. You’ll need to ensure your flash isn’t too harsh to produce an exceptional macro photo. This is where diffusers and external lights come into play.
Use a shallow depth of field
A shallow depth of field can be helpful in macro photography, as it will create a blurred effect (bokeh) and produce a contrasting background while isolating your subject and drawing more attention to its finer details. This can be done using a small aperture (high f-stop number – f/2.8) or getting closer to your subject.
The great thing about shooting a macro photo in a controlled environment is you can take all the time you need to set up the perfect scene. Drape a shirt or table cloth behind your subject to have a consistent background color, and block out any unwanted light. Prop up your subject on books or a cardboard box, so it’s at the right height.
The best way to learn is to experiment and try different things. Don’t be afraid to try different techniques and see what works best for you. Photography ideas don’t just come from the subjects themselves but also from unique lighting, angles, and composition.
What Are Some Amazing Macro Photography Subjects?
Look no further if you’re racking your brain to come up with interesting macro photography ideas. We’ve compiled a list of outdoor, indoor, creative, and abstract macro photography subjects you can take macro photos of.
Outdoor Macro Photography Ideas
Exploring your backyard with a macro camera brings out your inner child. You’re closer to the ground, searching for hidden treasures to capture. This attentive-meditative foray opens your mind to the complexities of life and harnessing the power of macro photography, you can share your macro shots on a grand scale – taking pictures of the often overlooked hidden beauty that exists all around us.
Flowers are beautiful. They’re also quite delicate. They’re a great subject for new photographers who are still learning about using macro techniques. Experiment by zooming in on different flowers to display the inner workings. Work with different depths of field to capture the perfect angle.
Take photos on a bright sunny day and then on a rainy day. Study the same scene in both weather conditions. Photos of macro subjects covered in water drops can make for some powerful shots.
There is something special about looking at leaves up close. Each is different, with its own shape, veins, and color.
Keep in mind fresh leaves photograph differently than dry leaves. When capturing delicate composition and structure in a leaf, you’ll prefer to start dry because more details appear.
Make sure the leaves are clean and free of debris. Try to get close to the leaf without blocking the light. Finally, experiment with different shutter speeds to capture the perfect shot.
3. Nature Patterns
There is something special and unique about macro photography of natural patterns. The colors, shapes, and textures are magnified and enhanced, creating beautiful and intriguing images.
Nature is full of hidden wonders, and macro photography brings them to light in all their glory. With macro photography, we can appreciate the beauty of nature’s smallest creations that often go unnoticed in our everyday lives.
It’s a fascinating way to explore the natural world and an incredibly rewarding experience.
There is something truly magical about photographing insects. These creatures are so small and delicate, yet they are often incredibly colorful and full of intricate details.
Everyone enjoys butterflies. Unfortunately, butterfly tendencies are quite skittish. So taking photographs is hard. Crouch until the butterfly model meets you and shoot to get an intimate perspective!
Try exploring a feather with a macro lens. Add water or oil to the feather and capture its movements as it drips off. The textures and shapes you can capture are endless!
Feathers are also interesting because they come in various shapes and sizes, so no two photos will be exactly alike. Be careful when collecting feathers and touching them with your bare hands, as some wild birds have diseases.
Macro photography of seashells can be quite challenging, as the shells are often very small and delicate. However, the results can be stunning, providing a close-up view of the intricate details of these beautiful objects.
To keep your composition simple, try to fill the frame with the shell while still leaving some negative space around it. This will help to highlight the shape and form of the shell.
Pay attention to the background and make sure it is not cluttered or distracting. A simple white sheet of paper makes a great backdrop for macro seashell photos.
The best time to photograph seashells is during the early morning or late evening when the light is softer.
Eyes are full of detail and can be very expressive. To get a good photo of someone’s eyes, the person (or creature) must look straight at the camera.
This allows you to capture all the details in the iris and pupil. If the person is looking away, you will still be able to get a good photo, but it won’t be as intimate.
You don’t want any harsh shadows falling across the face, making the eyes look less defined. The best light for capturing eyes is soft and diffused – light coming through a window works well, or you can use an off-camera flash set up with a softbox or umbrellas.
8. Stones and Minerals
When photographing stones and minerals, choose some with interesting textures or patterns. Then, set up your camera so the macro lens is in focus and the background is blurred. This will help to bring out the detail in your subject.
To make a beautiful photo of a rock, you can zoom in close to capture the details. Stack the rocks together or shoot them separately. All you need is to find a solid foundation for your photograph.
Other outdoor macro photography ideas include: dead plants, blades of grass, trees, moss, and lichen, dandelion seed heads, cacti and succulents, mushrooms, and myxomycetes (slime molds).
Indoor Macro Photography Ideas
You may be sitting on your couch or at your desk reading this right now. Pause and take a moment to look around you. There are lots of household items and things we have laying around indoors that have the potential to make unique macro shots.
Being indoors is also an ideal way to experiment with different settings you don’t want to tinker with while outdoors. This trial and error in a comfortable setting makes for convenient shooting on all occasions and expands your knowledge of proper settings to use with certain subjects.
9. Food (Fruits & Vegetables)
Show off the detail and texture of food. By getting close to your subject, you can capture all the intricate details that make up your dish.
One thing to remember when macro photographing food is that it can be easy to lose sight of the overall composition.
It’s important to keep an eye on how your dish’s different elements are arranged and ensure that they’re still working together harmoniously.
Other food ideas: photos of citrus fruits cut in half, ground herbs and spices.
10. Product (eCommerce)
Product photography is essential for any eCommerce business. It is important to have high-quality, well-lit photos of your products to show them off in their best light and attract potential customers.
High-quality product photos can make or break a sale, so it’s important to take the time to get them right.
11. Toys / LEGOs
Macro photography is a great way to get creative with your photos and capture small objects’ details. When it comes to macro photography of LEGOS, try different angles and perspectives to add interest to your photos.
Start experimenting with different ways to capture the intricate details of LEGOS. Try different lighting set-ups, backgrounds, and props to make your photos stand out. And have fun!!
12. Watches / Jewelry
When photographing jewelry, it’s important to remember that reflections and glare can be an issue. Pay attention to where the light comes from and avoid direct sunlight or strong artificial light when possible.
If you’re using a flash, bounce it off a wall or ceiling instead of pointing it directly at the jewelry piece.
Other indoor macro photography ideas include: guitar/instruments, souvenirs, sequins and buttons, coins and banknotes, a TV remote, flower vase, cutlery, matchboxes, cotton earbuds, and a sponge.
Creative and Unusual Macro Photography Ideas
Inspiration strikes when posing the question, “what if?“. Thinking outside the box with macro photography can yield stunning results. “What if I use an LED light to illuminate a sponge, then photograph the surface texture?” Or “what if I add ultraviolet 365nm light to this scene?”
We all hit a brick wall now and then trying to think up different macro images – here are some creative and unusual macro photography ideas to get you started.
13. Ice Cubes
It’s important to pay attention to the lighting to bring out the colors and textures of the ice. If you’re using artificial light, be sure to position your light source so that it doesn’t create any harsh shadows on your subject.
Another thing to keep in mind is composition. Try to frame your shot so that the ice is arranged interestingly. You can also experiment with adding light, trying different angles and different perspectives to add visual interest to your images.
14. Water Drops
Water drops can add a striking element to your macro photography of different subjects, but you can add a creative twist on your own, like playing around with colored water or photography running tap water.
Use a spray bottle or eyedropper and set your camera timer to catch water drops falling. Use food coloring to add some diversity. Or, try hot water to create steamy drops.
15. Oil and Water
When photographing oil and water, there are a few things to remember:
- Try to use a dark background so that the oil and water stand out. This will help create contrast and make your images pop.
- Use a small aperture so that both the oil and water are in focus.
- Experiment with different shutter speeds to create different effects.
Faster shutter speeds will freeze the motion, while slower shutter speeds will create a more dreamy look.
Macro photography of snowflakes is a great way to capture the beauty and intricacy of these delicate ice crystals.
Snowflakes are notoriously difficult to photograph, but with patience and practice, you can get some stunning shots.
Other creative macro photography ideas include: air bubbles in carbonated drinks, CD and water droplets, dropping objects in the water, spray/mist, soap bubbles, and frost on a window, using UV (ultraviolet light), candle flame (smoke patterns), a reflection of foil, miniature scenes, and surrealist (photo manipulated macro).
There are endless possibilities when photographing textures, so be creative and have fun exploring all the different kinds of surfaces that exist in the world around us.
There are endless opportunities for interesting macro photos, from smooth glass to rough stone.
Other texture macro photography ideas include: folded paper, peeling paint, fingerprints, colored pencils/crayons, handwriting, tiles, cobblestones, and textured glass.
18. Abstract Macro Photography
Abstract photography is all about interpretation. Viewers can look at an abstract image and come to their own conclusions about what they’re seeing. It can be interesting to show your work to someone and hear them explain what they think it might be, especially when their interpretation differs from yours.
19. Still Life
One way to add interest to a still life photo is to use light and shadow to create contrast and depth. Using a light source from behind or above the subject can create interesting shadows that give your photo dimension. You can also experiment with different angles and perspectives to add visual interest.
Another way to make your still life photos more dynamic is by adding movement. This can be done using a fast shutter speed to freeze action or panning the camera as you take the photo. Adding movement can create a sense of energy and excitement in your images.
Tips & Tricks to Get Stunning Macro Shots
With macro photography ideas, it’s the little things that matter. Small adjustments greatly impact and radically change how a macro shot turns out. By paying close attention to minor details, these macro photography tips and tricks will produce some breathtaking macro images.
Watch out for wind.
A gust of wind can easily ruin a shot by moving the subject or causing the camera to shake. To avoid this, watch for signs of wind, such as leaves rustling or branches swaying. If possible, position yourself so that you are sheltered from the wind. Alternatively, use a tripod to keep your camera steady. Make sure your tripod is on solid ground. If necessary, use other objects as weights to help secure them.
If you are photographing in an open area, consider using a windscreen. This is a piece of fabric that can be attached to the front of your lens to help block out the wind.
Look for interesting patterns.
I love to look for patterns in a natural environment and often find myself drawn to a repetitive pattern like the ones found in leaves or flowers. I also enjoy finding abstract patterns, like how the light dances through the trees. By focusing on these patterns, I can create unique and amazing photos that capture the detail and beauty of the natural world.
Learn the lingo.
By understanding the terms used to describe macro photography, you will be able to learn about different techniques and how to apply them. Additionally, many macro photographers that participate in forums and websites dedicated to macro photography use specialized language, so understanding the terminology will allow you to participate in these online communities.
Avoid harsh light.
Harsh light can be very unflattering in macro photography and make your subject look flat and uninteresting. Adding soft and diffused light is much more flattering and will help bring out the details and colors in your subject. Aim to capture macro subjects in natural light, but avoid bright sunlight.
Try stacking images for depth of field.
By stacking multiple macro images, macro photographers can create an image with a shallow field depth, isolating the subject and making it stand out from the background. The entire subject can be in focus, and the background blur can be precisely adjusted to how you’d like it. This combination of a stunning background effect paired with shooting small objects not normally seen with the naked eye results in some amazing shots.
Depending on your camera, some have in-camera focus stacking features that take a series of macro photographs and process the final stacked shot in-camera. For more control, you can focus “bracket” and take hundreds of photos to capture complete DOF and use software like Helicon or Zerene to manually stack and process your final shot (if you have the time and patience).
Shoot with a flash.
A flash is often used to provide extra light and improve the quality of the overall image. You can get more detail and color in your photos by using a flash. The light from the flash can also help to reduce shadow and contrast.
Get a dedicated macro lens.
Without a macro lens, it would be very difficult to hone in on a tiny world, shoot close-ups, and produce the same quality compared with only having a telephoto lens. This lens gives the photographer much more control over their images and allows them to capture minute details that would otherwise be missed. Think of a macro lens as a magnifying glass blowing up everyday subjects for the viewer’s eye.
Investing in a macro lens is essential if you are serious about getting into macro photography. It will open up a whole new world of possibilities and allow you to capture images full of detail and interest, even from ordinary objects.
Use extension tubes or bellows to go macro without buying a new lens.
Extension tubes or bellows are often used to magnify small subjects without having to buy a new, expensive lens. Attaching an extension tube or bellows between the camera body and lens allows the photographer to take close-up photography, resulting in greater magnification. In addition, using an extension tube or bellows typically does not decrease the image quality as much as using a close-up filter on a lens would.
Reverse your macro lens when you just can’t get close enough.
It is often necessary to reverse your lens to get close enough to your subject. This is because the minimum focus distance of most lenses is too long for macro photography. By reversing your lens, you can get much closer to interesting subjects, allowing you to capture all the details.
What Makes a Good Macro Photo?
To take interesting photos, you’ll have to try some things you might not have thought of before. An amazing macro photo can come out of the most ordinary subjects.
The idea behind a macro shot is to give viewers a great sense of detail. Let them pause and admire often overlooked and never noticed features and have a sense of respect and awe for the finer details in life.
True macro photography is a fascinating branch of photography that presents challenges and rewards. It’s about finding a new perspective in your everyday life. It’s about seeing things you have never noticed and appreciating the beauty of the world around you.
You’re sure to love macro photography every day when you practice and learn to produce stunning images, whether from your own backyard or everyday objects. So get out there and start taking some photos!