Do you struggle to create original macro photos? Do you want to do some creative macro photography?
Coming up with ideas for unique photos may seem difficult. But in this article, you’ll discover 5 methods for producing stunningly creative macro photos.
Let’s dive right in.
1. Use a Shallow Depth of Field for Soft Focus Macro Photography
If you want to capture truly creative macro images…
…then the soft-focus effect can become your go-to.
This method isn’t hard to pull off. But it’ll get you some stunning photos.
Start by choosing a wide aperture–in the f/2.8 to f/4 range. This will narrow your depth of field so that only a small part of your photo will be in focus.
Next, choose a subject. I like to shoot flowers, and I think they’re a great starting point. But you can work with nearly anything. So don’t feel restricted in your subject choice.
Finally, turn the focus ring so that you’re extremely close to your subject. I often work close to life-size (1x magnification). This serves two purposes:
- It decreases the amount of the photo that’s sharp, while enhancing the background blur
- It helps me see my subject in an entirely new light
Now, you must choose a part of your subject to focus on. I suggest you pick something that stands out–something that you can get almost completely in focus, even with a very shallow depth of field.
Use manual focus to bring that part of your subject into sharp focus.
Take your shot.
I’d suggest you take a number of photos, just in case the first doesn’t turn out the way you wanted. Soft focus photography is hard to predict, and it often takes a bit of experimentation.
But it’s worth it in the end.
2. Include Fairy Lights for Gorgeous Bokeh Effects
Soft-focus macro photography is perfect for enhancing your subject and creating an original photo.
But what about the background? How do you create a beautiful, stunning background?
See, fairy lights are tiny LED lights. When you use a wide aperture, your lens will render these little lights out of focus. Which creates a beautiful bokeh effect.
Now, fairy lights are pretty cheap (in the 10 dollar range). So it shouldn’t be too much trouble to grab them off of Amazon.
Then go out at dusk (and bring along your fairy lights).
Once the sun has been partially blocked from view (by trees or by the horizon), you can bring out the fairy lights.
I suggest placing them a little behind your subject. You want them to remain out of focus!
I’d also recommend you use a very wide aperture–in the f/2.8 to f/4 range. That way, you’ll get the most impressive bokeh effects.
Don’t include too many fairy lights behind your subject, or the photo will seem overly chaotic.
But don’t include too few fairy lights, or the background will seem random.
Instead, you should strike a careful balance!
If you can do that, you’ll capture some beautiful fairy light photos.
3. Freelens for Unique Macro Photography
Here’s another technique for creative macro photography:
It’s a bit unorthodox. However, if you’re willing to experiment, you can capture some stunning macro photos!
Freelensing involves detaching your lens from your camera, and tilting it–so as to change the plane of focus.
It can result in some very creative effects. For instance, if you pull the lens away from the camera, you can get light leaks.
You can also create some interesting bokeh.
Here’s how you do it:
Start with your camera on. Focus the lens to infinity. Then turn your camera off.
Side note: I recommend you use your backup camera body and a backup 50mm lens. Freelensing does expose your equipment to the outside world. Plus, 50mm is a great focal length for freelensed photos.
Detach the lens from your camera. Hold the lens in one hand and the camera in the other.
Turn the camera back on. And start moving the lens around. Point it in different directions. Pull it slightly away from the camera.
This will create an interesting selective focus effect–where the plane of focus is no longer parallel to the camera!
Now, the farther you pull the lens away from your camera, the more it magnifies the image. So you can have fun experimenting with freelensed macro photos!
I recommend you use the selective focus to create some interesting bokeh. By tilting the lens in different directions, you’ll be able to blow the background wonderfully out of focus.
If you’re up for some experimenting, try freelensing.
You’ll get some one-of-a-kind macro photos!
4. Use Intentional Camera Movement for Artistic Macro Photos
I love intentional camera movement (ICM) photography. There’s something about it that’s very refreshing.
In fact, it’s very rarely used! Which is a mistake.
Let me explain:
Intentional camera movement photography involves moving your camera when you take a photo–creating blurs or streaks of color in your photos.
When done right, ICM creates colorful macro abstracts!
Here’s how to proceed:
Start by choosing a long shutter speed. A good starting point is 1/10s or 1/5s. Then you can increase or decrease the shutter speed depending on your results.
Next, find a nice subject. The best ICM subjects are:
- Include clear lines
I love to use flowers for macro intentional camera movement photography. Their petals are perfect for adding a nice splash of color–and their stems add a useful bit of line.
Third, choose a simple background. You want the focus to be on the ‘moving’ subject, not the objects behind it!
I’ve found that the best intentional camera movement photos have bright white backgrounds. So I suggest you get down low and shoot toward the sky.
Fourth, choose a composition–composing as if you’ll take a non-ICM photo. Then take a slight step back. You want to give your subject a bit of room to ‘move’ within the frame.
Finally, take your shot while panning your camera across your subject. I recommend you pan in the direction of any lines on your subject. So, if you’re photographing a flower, pan along the stem. This will result in a slightly more recognizable abstract–and a more stunning photo.
Now, this technique will take a bit of experimentation. You’ll want to vary your shutter speed. And you’ll also want to vary the speed and direction in which you pan.
But if you’re willing to persevere, you can capture some incredibly creative macro photos.
5. Get in Close for Abstract Macro Images
Here’s a final creative macro photography technique for you. One that I use all the time.
Fortunately, you can use it on just about any subject.
You simply have to get in close…
…and shoot an abstract macro photo.
Now, abstract macro photography might seem like a difficult genre to master. But it’s really not–you just have to know a few tricks:
First, you must try to think of your subject, not as a thing, but as shapes and lines. If you’re shooting a rose, don’t notice the petals. Instead, see the curves!
Second, closer is nearly always better. The closer you get to your subject, the less it’s recognizable as a subject–and the more it becomes beautifully abstract.
Third, the best abstract macros often have very little of the subject in focus. So you don’t need to struggle with a tripod setup. Instead, choose a very wide aperture, and shoot handheld!
If you can embrace the shallow depth of field effect, you’ll capture even more stunning abstract photos.
Creative Macro Photography: The Next Steps
Now you know how to capture some wonderfully creative macro photography.
And you’re definitely on your way to a unique macro portfolio.
Get out and start practicing. You might surprise yourself with the shots you capture!
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