Macro photography is extreme close-up photography, usually of very small subjects, in which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than life size. In recent years, the term macro has been used in marketing material to mean being able to focus on a subject close enough so that when a regular 6×4 inch (15×10 cm) print is made, the image is life-size or larger.

Camera Settings for Macro Photography*

  1. Shooting mode

Use Aperture Priority or Manual shooting mode with a narrow aperture of around f/16. Very narrow apertures of around f/32 are likely to degrade sharpness, due to diffraction.

  1. Manual focus

Switch to manual focus, then focus on the most critical point in the frame. If your camera has a magnified Live View option, use this for maximum focusing precision.

  1. Exposure Delay

Most Nikon DSLRs have an Exposure Delay mode, which delays the shutter from opening for a second or more after the mirror flips up, giving the camera a chance to settle.

  1. Mirror up

Most Canon DSLRs have Mirror Lock-up on the shooting menu or as a custom function. Use this in conjunction with a two-second self-timer delay, or with a remote controller.

Composition Tips*

  1. First and foremost, it is focus. This may seem obvious, but focusing is more problematic in macro than it is in any other field. The reason is that one of the consequences of shooting at a close distance is shallow depth of field (DOF), so shallow that it is often quite hard to get accurate focus.
  2. The concept of ‘lead room’ is important in macro as well as other wildlife photography. The idea is that the frame should contain extra space in the direction in which the animal’s eyes are looking. The use of appropriate lead room contributes greatly to a sense of balance in the image.
  3. The rule of thirds offers another guideline for maintaining balance. Centered or the rule of thirds usually depends on whether the subject is looking straight at the camera or to either side.
  4. Diagonal lines give images compositional weight. Having the major lines in the image parallel to the edges is often unappealing.
  5. When deciding whether or not to include a subject’s entire body, one guideline to remember is to ‘cut hard or not at all’. If you find long body parts too obstructive, just get as close as you need without regard for cutting them off. You’ll sometimes get a very good, detailed and balanced result even if you leave a large portion of your subject out of the frame.

References from the Web:

Best Camera Setting for Macro Photography  (Digital Camera World) – no author listed
Composition Basics in Macro Photography  by Erez Marom (Digital Photography Resource)

Macro Images by Jurgen Schwerdt