Expert Tips and Techniques for Macro Flower Photography
Macro photography is an exciting subject for every photographer. We love to shoot tiny objects like flowers, insects, water drops, spices, and many other things. Macro photography allows you to show details that are impossible to see otherwise. This article will talk about how we can capture vibrant and sharp macro images of flowers.
Equipment You Need:
The first thing we need is a camera when it comes to photography. For macro photography, both full-frame and crop sensor cameras are good with some advantages and some disadvantages.
If you have a full-frame camera, it'll capture more details because of the bigger sensor size, and it'll also give you better results in low-light conditions. The only downside is that the full-frame sensor gives you a shallow depth of field compared to the crop sensor, which can sometimes be a disadvantage.
On the other hand, a crop sensor gives you a deeper depth of field, so if you want to capture the whole flower in focus, you can do it much easier with a crop sensor. The second advantage is that it increases the focal length of your lens, so you don't need to go very close to the subject.
So no matter if you have a full-frame camera body or a crop sensor, it's DSLR, or a mirrorless camera, all cameras are suitable for macro photography. Nowadays, mobile phones can capture good macro photographs, and you can also buy a clip-on macro lens for mobiles.
The lens plays a vital role in macro photography. A dedicated macro lens has 1:1 magnification capabilities to get really close to the subject and click every detail. In simple terms, if you have a macro lens on a full-frame body, you can go closer to capture a subject 36mm X 24mm in size, which is the same as the size of your camera sensor.
A 100mm macro lens is the best choice for macro photography. You don't need to go close to your subject with this focal length. If you don't have a macro lens, don't worry. You may use other alternatives like macro close-up filters, extension tubes, or reverse rings. But if you are serious about macro photography, invest in a macro lens.
Flash and Diffuser:
A flash also plays an essential role in macro photography. When you capture a tiny subject, you need fast shutter speed to avoid motion blur and a smaller aperture to get the entire subject in focus. This combination requires a lot of light which is not available every time. With a flash, you can capture sharp images, and it also helps you capture bright colors.
A flash diffuser is also necessary for macro photography. It gives you soft light, which helps you capture details and colors. You can use domes or a mini softbox, or MagSphere. If you don't have these, place a diffuser cloth or butter paper in front of the flash or bounce the light with a white card.
You can use on-camera flash, but the off-camera flash will give you better results. The only disadvantage is that you need a light stand or a person to hold it.
If you are a serious macro photographer, you should invest in a good camera slider like MIOPS Slider+. You can use it for focus stacking to get end-to-end sharpness in your photos. Focus stacking is a big subject and can't be covered in this article. We'll write an article about it soon.
Things to Remember in Macro Flower Photography:
1. Depth of Field:
Depth of field means the part of the photograph that appears sharp and focused. When you shoot with a macro lens with 1:1 magnification, you get merely 1-2mm DOF with f/4 aperture, and the chances are that some part of your subject comes out of focus. To get a deeper depth of field, you need to narrow your aperture. You can get 5-6mm DOF with an F/16 aperture and get the entire subject in focus. But you will need lots of light with such a narrow aperture, so a flash is necessary.
There are two ways to get the entire subject in focus. First, choose an angle where your whole subject is in the same focal plane like the top of the flower. Second, if you have a high megapixel camera, don't shoot with 1:1 magnification. Shoot with some distance and crop the picture in post-processing.
Some photographers believe that you should go for manual focus in macro photography, but I always use autofocus. The reason behind it is that it's fast and accurate. Since both of your hands are free to hold the camera, there are fewer chances of getting a blurry picture because of the camera shake. Remember that the camera doesn't move between focus lock and clicking the image.
In macro photography of flowers, the background will be out of focus most of the time, but make sure that it's clean. If there is any distraction, change your position a little bit and always try to have contrasting colors in the background.
4. Find some unusual angles:
Don't always take photos of flowers from the top or the side. Try to find some unusual angles, so your photographs look different from others. Sometimes flowers look more beautiful from the backside.
5. Dead flowers can look beautiful too:
I know fresh flowers always look stunning, but dead flowers can also look beautiful in macro photography. The flower's petals have fallen and started making seeds in the following image, but it looks stunning.
6. Shoot in RAW:
If you are into photography, you probably already know this. Shooting in RAW always has a significant advantage because RAW files contain more details than a JPG file. RAW files always look dull in post-processing software, but it's always better than in-camera jpg files after some enhancement.
7. Keep your hands steady:
You can use a tripod in macro flower photography, but it's tough to use when you want to click the flower from an unusual angle. Also, sometimes you don't have a firm ground to place the tripod, so it's better to take a picture with a handheld camera. Hold your breath when pressing the shutter and keep your elbows inside. It'll reduce the chances of camera shake, and you'll get sharp images.
8. Choose a windless day:
It's always better to choose a calm day for macro flower photography. When your subject is still, your camera will focus quickly, and you'll have fewer chances of motion blur in the image.
9. Focus stacking:
Go for focus stacking if you are not getting the entire subject in focus even after using a narrow aperture. In this technique, we take multiple images with different focus distances and combine them in post-processing to make everything in the picture sharp. A camera slider is handy equipment for focus stacking.
You can control all functions from your smartphone.
10. Practice and patience:
After practicing everything you have read in this article, don't lose heart if you are not getting the desired results. Have some patience and keep practicing. You'll get the results soon.
So, keep clicking, and all the best.
Ramakant Sharda is an author, iOS App publisher, passionate photographer and a MIOPS Ambassador based in the beautiful “Pink City” of India, known as Jaipur. His work has been published in various magazines, newspapers, and blogs. He has published three Coffee Table Books, he writes about photography and also teaches photography in his workshops. Check out his website http://ClickManic.com to see the masterpieces created by him or download his free app for iPhone and iPad “30 Days to an Ace Photographer“.