Macro or close-up photography is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding forms of nature photography. The proper set up and good field techniques will allow you to achieve consistent good results and limit any issues or problems you might encounter in the field. I prefer to do most of my macro and close-up photography in the field, handheld, with a macro lens and flash. Flash brings out the maximum amount of detail and sharpness possible. With flash you can achieve great results even with wind since the flash will freeze the subject. Flash also gives you the power to make good looking even on days than are far from optimum like heavy overcast or harsh full sun.
These are examples of how to improve your photography and open up some new close-up opportunities.
This image was made with the Sigma 180mm macro lens, handheld with flash. Photographing hand held with flash gives you the speed for dozens of opportunities in a short amount of time and the ability to adjust your position for different angles and the best backgrounds.
Positioning the subject off center is more of a dynamic composition and remember to crop but don’t clip parts of the subject.
I always choose the longest macro lens available for the greatest working distance from the subject. This gives room to light the subject and at the same time allows you to stay farther away for safety.
Focus was especially critical in this image since depth of field at this magnification ratio is paper thin.
When photographing handheld with a macro lens, the use of a flash brings out sharpness and detail to a level that is almost unbelievable.
This image is an actual pixel (or 100% crop) view of the image above to show the level or sharpness that you can expect with proper technique. The level almost seems impossible when you consider this was made hand held.
More macro close-up photography tips:
- Photograph early morning and late afternoon for the best light.
- If you are forced to photograph in bright or full sun always use a diffuser to soften contrast.
- Slow down look around and use quiet and fluid movements to avoid disturbing potential subjects.
- Try to shoot hand held since tripods can slow you down and limit your flexibility
- Balance flash output and exposure for the best images, avoid dark or black backgrounds.
- Use a high shutter speed to avoid flash ghosting
- Always use a lens hood
- Try teleconverters with macro lenses for even greater reach and working distance
- Always diffuse your flash for more pleasing light