Nature photography of any kind has its challenges, however macro photography could be considered as one of the most demanding. There are a number of factors that you have to consider, especially when you are photographing small living subjects, such as insects, or frogs.
First, you have to make sure you have the right gear. Here you can get as technical as you want, however this is the practical setup that I use, and I recommend:
– Camera with Live View mode Macro lens
– Shutter release
– Sturdy tripod
When you are shooting macro, focusing can be difficult because of the extremely shallow depth of field. Usually you will use large aperture values (f/2.8 – f/5.6) and you will be close to your tiny subject. Using your Live View mode, you can enlarge your subject on the screen, and zoom in up to 10x for better focusing. I recommend focusing manually, as this will give you better control. Also, when you use Live View your mirror is locked-up, reducing vibration when the shutter opens and closes. In macro, small vibrations can ruin your photo, and you want maximum sharpness.
A macro lens will give you great sharpness, and will also let you get closer to your subject; both are key components for macro. Make sure you turn off the autofocus and stabilization features on your lens. Remember, you will focus manually, so you should mount your camera on a tripod. In macro photography a tripod is your best friend! A solid and sturdy tripod will ensure your camera is steady while you are shooting, guaranteeing maximum sharpness in your photo. I highly recommend a tripod that you can lay flat on the ground; a lot of good macro subjects tend to be at lower height. I like using a 100mm lens, however when shooting living subjects a greater focal length comes in handy; more working distance between the camera and the subject helps to avoid disturbing whatever you are photographing.
A shutter release is critical. This will give you the option of taking the photo without touching your camera, again avoiding vibration. It will let you activate the shutter whenever you want, based on what the little creature is doing. Remember, living things tend to move unexpectedly, especially when you are trying to photograph them.
Some final notes when composing your photo:
First, think of what aspects of your subject you want to emphasize, and where you want to focus. The norm is to make sure you get the eyes as sharp as possible.
Play with your aperture to determine if you want more or less depth of field, what should be sharp, and what do you want to make a blur? Watch out for the shutter speed, the smaller the aperture the slower the shutter speed.
Check your photos, and zoom in to make sure things look sharp. There is nothing worse than spending a long time in an awkward position photographing a tiny subject, and then later realize the photos are not sharp.
Small creatures can sense vibrations from your movements, and your steps. They will go away to avoid potential threats. Avoid movement as much as possible; they will get used to your presence, and eventually cooperate while you shoot.
Finally, watch out for the wind. If there is wind, and your subject is on a leaf, focusing will be next to impossible.
About the Photographer:
I was born and raised in San José, Costa Rica. My interest in nature photography started in my mid-twenties when I bought my first point and shoot camera with a decent optical zoom. In 2009, I had the opportunity to live in Calgary for 7 months, and was attracted by the mountains, lakes, and abundant wildlife of Alberta, a playground for nature photographers. In 2014 my wife and I moved to Calgary, and that year I committed to taking photography seriously. I invested in a full frame SLR, and a couple of lenses with help from John Veldhoen at The Camera Store. Since then, I have attended photography seminars, and continued the learning process. As a next step in my photography career, I launched a website in 2016 so people can see and buy my work. I focus on the different kinds of nature photography: macro, night, wildlife, and landscape. I have come to discover that photography is a never ending journey, where you are constantly learning, and improving.
Max is an Electronics Engineer and has an MBA in Operations Management. He is currently an Observer Member of the Professional Photographers of Canada, and is working on his professional accreditation for 2017.
You can view more of his work on his website: www.photosbymoa.com