A macro photo is one where the subject (insect, mushroom, etc.) is magnified to life-size or more
I have been unknowingly taking macro photos since about 2002
Since March 2020 I have posted a regular Macro blog
Here are some of the highlights:
- A photo each day in June 2021 for 30 Days Wild
- The wasp that made Darwin doubt God
- The blood bee’s cuckoo spree
- Back to chalk
- Bees bring life to a dying lawn
- Wildlife under lockdown
I started the blog to find some distraction from the UK lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been a massive relief and I really enjoy writing these posts.
Since spring 2022 I have stopped labelling posts as ‘macro’ as it covers so much of what I do now and many of my subject areas are intersecting.
I bought my first dedicated macro lens in 2014 (Sigma 105mm) and since then macro has become the core focus of the photos I take. I have learned huge amounts about nature through seeing new species and witnessing amazing animal behaviour. A lot of that has happened just outside (and sometimes inside) where I have lived.
Macro has shown me that unique images can be captured anywhere, in any space, without having to travel hundreds or thousands of miles in search of a photographic experience.
My main focus is on insects, spiders, plants and fungi.
I have learned a lot from submitting records to iNaturalist and it also feels good to know I’m contributing to the conservation of these weird things I’m taking photos of
I’ve added this because people have been asking and also I know how helpful it is for information to help get started with this niche kind of photography. I have 2-3 variations in equipment:
Olympus EM5 Mark III and 60mm f2.8 macro with Olympus flash gun and no name brand diffuser (I sometimes use extension tubes as in the image above)
- I use this combination for travelling around or walking because it’s incredibly light
- This is more useful for smaller things like tiny insects or extreme close ups
- The flash is used to light up parts of an insect that the other forms of light may put in shadow
- The diffuser is used to soften the light from the flash to reduce contrast and make more balanced photos
- When doing stationary macro I use a Gorillapod mini-tripod thing and an Olympus remote shutter release (but that’s only really for fungi that don’t fly or jump)
Nikon D5600 and Sigma 105mm f2.8-3.5 macro lens with Nikon SB-700 flash and a diffuser
- This is a set up that I love but only use in my garden because it is heavier than the previous set up
- This camera produces higher-resolution images because the sensor is a bit bigger than the Olympus and it has higher pixel count (24MP compared to 20MP)
- The colours this camera produces in combo with the lens are beautiful
Nikon D750 and Sigma 105mm f2.8-3.5 macro lens with Nikon SB-700 flash and a diffuser
- This is a full frame camera which means it captures more detail and dynamic light than either the Olympus or the D5600 which have different types of crop sensors
- This produces stunning photos and amazing detail
- It is heavier though which means I am barely using it at the moment
- I took it to Czechia for macro in 2016 and the results were incredible
- But, it’s heavy and that does affect your enjoyment, which is key!
Fairphone 3+ with, well, its camera
- Phone sensors are too small to worry ‘real cameras’ just yet but they are getting closer
- For macro you can control the focus via manual mode and use the flower icon
- You can get clip on lenses for a phone camera, though I’ve never tried it
- This is the camera I always have with me, which is apparently what is the best camera (apparently)
Some things I’ve learned:
- Buy second hand (this website is really good) as new kit is worse for the environment and generally you can get new stuff second hand for much less money sometimes (why do camera companies make so many new cameras?!)
- Find the right weight of equipment
- Take raw files and edit them in software for the absolute ‘best’ results – it will also help you take better photos
- Follow your interests and the equipment will go with that
- Enjoy the DIY element of macro – it can be done affordably
- Learn from other people (I like Thomas Shahan‘s work and vibe) but don’t compare yourself, and do what you love
Happy super-magnification snapping!