Explore hidden wonders through macro photography.
Experiencing feelings of awe in nature is often associated with grand views such as mountain landscapes, starry night skies, and towering redwood trees. Yet, there are wee wonders that tend to escape everyday human perception. Discover the tiny intricacies of a beautiful world through macro photography.
The investigative process of macro photography is described by Photography Life as “…close-up photography of small subjects, including things like bugs and flowers. You can take macro pictures in a studio or outdoor environment so long as you are magnifying your subject sufficiently.”
Like me, you may be wondering why this zoomed-in photography is called ‘macro.’ Doesn’t ‘macro’ mean large? Shouldn’t we be calling this ‘micro’ photography, given our tiny subjects?
It turns out, there’s quite a bit of confusion about the nomenclature of this type of photography. I find the explanation by SLR Photography Guide simple and helpful: “If the subject you are photographing is small and you want to make it look big, you end up with a ‘macro’ view of a ‘micro’ subject.” Furthermore, Best Canon Flash explains that “macro photography includes big and wider images, whereas micro photography includes detailed and focused images. You can see each and every detail – even the smallest one – if you do Micro [sic] photography!”
The process we’re focusing on in this activity is actually a combination of macro and micro photography. In the selection of photos above, the image of shells demonstrates macro photography in that it shows a larger view of small subjects, whereas the texture in the leaf image is an example of micro photography in that it shows fine detail. Whether macro, micro, or a combination of the two, the most important component of this activity is investigation that brings us closer to the natural world.
Now, let’s get focused!
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A suggested equipment list for macro photography can be extensive. But first, Exposure Guide suggests you can use any digital point-and-shoot camera with a macro setting, resulting in fantastic photos. And most point-and-shoot cameras these days do indeed have a macro setting.
If you want to up your macro photography game, you may be interested in equipment that will give you even better precision, detail, magnification, and quality. In the same article, Exposure Guide suggests DSLR cameras, lenses, extension tubes, filters, and the use of both a tripod and remote shutter release to steady your aim.
Don’t have the equipment? Don’t worry! You can get creative on how you direct your attention to the tiny world around you. For example, create a view finder with your pointer fingers and thumbs to focus on small subjects (best for getting close to creatures that do not bite or sting), or peer through a cylinder, such as a paper towel roll, to keep a little distance between you and your tiny subjects.
As always, remember to exercise your best judgement. When interacting with plants that may cause skin irritation, or unpredictable creatures who may become alarmed and reactive at the sight of your gigantic eye through a lens or tube, a little distance can go a long way!
Instructions for learning macro photography generally suggest practice, practice, practice, and taking a lot of photos! But before you practice, learn about the equipment you’re using and locations in which you’re shooting – from automatic to manual focus, stabilizing your camera, and experimenting with different backgrounds and lighting. To learn more about taking incredible macro photographs, I refer you back to the experts at Photography Life.
– Lisa B