Macro Photography: Getting Up-Close-and-Personal
As we rush through the hustle and bustle of daily life, it's sometimes easy to forget the importance of slowing down. Too often we find ourselves consumed by the "big picture" — deadlines, exams, presentations, meetings, and so on — that we unconsciously ignore the little things begging for our attention. The early morning dew on a flower petal, the intricate details of a spider web, the tiny insects buzzing around … you get the idea.
Macro photography allows us to slow down, open our eyes, and capture the miniature details all around us, many of which are overlooked, underappreciated, and simply unnoticed as we hurry through our day-to-day routines. It’s a concept American photographer, Aaron Siskind, so eloquently stated about living, seeing, and appreciating the moment: "Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving," he explained. "What you have caught on film is captured forever...it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything." It's these little things — life's tiniest details — that make macro photography so special.
A true macro lens features a ratio of 1:1 magnification, offering the ability to capture life-size representations of insects, flowers, jewelry, and other small objects in super-close detail. This means it’s possible to explore the miniature world around us as full-scale creations — allowing photographers and viewers to get within inches of the critters, bugs, patterns, and textures we so often take for granted.
Look around and you’ll find tiny subjects just waiting for their larger-than-life transformation. Follow these tips to get up-close-and-personal with photography's hidden gems:
Search for the Unexpected
Household items make the perfect, and perhaps the most unexpected, subjects for macro photography. Consider the intricate details of a wooden spoon, a tooth brush, a house key, or a box of crayons. While these items may seem like regular, mundane objects, in macro photography, they reveal interesting shapes, colors, and textures that instantly spark the imagination.
Create Enticing Scenes
Food photographers shoot in macro to highlight the mouthwatering details of a meal. When photographed up close, ingredients such as butter, syrup, and melted cheese turn into abstract works of art. Don’t be afraid to get creative — search around the kitchen for textured fruits and vegetables like corn kernels, asparagus spears, pea pods, and tomato slices to add a touch of (macro) magic to your photos. Even non-food items such as glassware, utensils, salt and pepper shakers, and tea pots make powerful statements.
Stop and Smell the Roses
Yes, really. Soak up some fresh air and sunshine with a macro lens at hand. Nature is the ideal backdrop to experiment with close-up photography. Take a dandelion, for example. Captured with a standard lens, the dandelion is simply a small part of the main scene. But as a close-up photo, the delicate shapes and lines of the dandelion’s seeds easily become the main focus. Similarly, leaves, flower petals, feathers, seashells, water droplets, and snowflakes — when snapped in macro — uncover beautiful imperfections and intricacies that are nearly invisible to the naked eye.
Capture a Bug's Life
Ladybugs, bumblebees, butterflies — and yes, even spiders. Macro photography makes it possible to explore the adventures of a bug’s life. The good news? You won’t have to venture far! Step outside and you’ll find countless insects ready to shine in the spotlight. With a little patience (and some cooperation on the bug's part), a macro lens can magnify the antennae, wings, whiskers, and hairs of an insect's body — giving unique perspectives and personalities to these sometimes feared and misunderstood creatures.
Reveal Personal Stories
It’s said that eyes are windows to the soul, and rightfully so. The human eye is similar to a fingerprint — it contains hundreds, if not thousands, of complexities and details exclusive to each individual person. Not surprisingly, eyes are one of the most important features in portrait photography, simply because they tell a personal story about your subject. Shot in macro, these stories are enhanced by focusing exclusively on the colorful shades, patterns, and undertones that make eyes truly pop.