If you want to capture incredible macro photos…
…then you have to master macro photography compositions. After all, composition is the bread and butter of macro photography.
Fortunately, there are a few composition tricks–which will ensure that you capture amazing macro photos, every time you take out your camera.
Today, I’ll share these composition tricks with you.
Let’s get started!
1. Keep it Simple for the Best Macro Compositions
Here’s the first rule of macro photography compositions:
Keep it simple. As simple as you can!
The more complex your composition, the more likely it is to fail.
The goal of composition is to lead the viewer’s eye around the frame–and to show the viewer what is most important in the shot.
But the more chaotic your composition, the more difficult it is to do that!
Here’s what I recommend:
Step 1: Choose a single subject. One dominant thing that draws the viewer’s attention.
Think of it as an anchor point for your composition. You’ll start off the shot by choosing this dominant element. And the rest of the composition will materialize around this main subject.
Even your background should be simple. You shouldn’t include anything that will draw attention away from the main subject.
Step 2: Isolate your subject.
Your first compositions should be barebones. They should just be a subject and a background.
This should be your starting point. And this, on its own, can make for amazing macro photos!
So examine your composition. Figure out what works as your main subject. And then…remove everything that’s unnecessary.
That’s how you’ll get a beautiful macro composition.
2. Balance the Composition for the Most Pleasing Macro Photos
Here’s another essential rule for macro photography compositions:
Balance the photo.
In fact, this is a principle that applies to all compositions, everywhere.
The best compositions are…balanced.
By balanced, I mean they are equally powerful on all sides of the frame.
For instance, a composition like this one, with a flower smack-dab in the center, is perfectly balanced:
Both sides have equal weight. If you imagine the photo as a seesaw, neither side tips over.
And this is true for all symmetrical photos: They’re perfectly balanced. That’s the nature of symmetry!
However, it’s also possible to balance your photos without using symmetry. That is, you can have compositions that are balanced, but have a single subject on one side of the frame.
How does this work?
The balance comes from a principle called ‘negative space.’ Negative space is basically emptiness in a photo.
And, as it turns out, emptiness contributes its own weight!
I talk more about negative space later on in this article. For now, just know that it takes a lot of negative space to balance out a single subject.
To sum up:
You should think of compositions as a seesaw–where different elements contribute different weights. Ultimately, you want a perfectly balanced composition.
Because the more balanced the composition, the more beautiful the photo!
3. Use the Rule of Thirds to Position Your Macro Subject
Now you understand the principle of balance. You know that it’s essential to keep your compositions balanced on all sides.
But how do you decide whether your macro photos are balanced?
Well, that’s what the rule of thirds is all about! It’ll give you a quick and dirty way of creating a balanced composition:
Here’s what the rule of thirds states:
A balanced composition puts the subject a third of the way into the frame.
If this seems confusing, don’t worry. It’s simpler than it sounds.
Basically, you divide up any photo using two vertical lines and two horizontal lines, like this:
Then you place the main subject along one of the gridlines.
Or, better yet, place the main subject at one of the points where the gridlines intersect.
(These are known as power points.)
If you can do that, you’ll create a wonderfully balanced composition.
I recommend you approach macro compositions using the rule of thirds. You should first identify your main subject. Then try to place that subject at one of the power points.
Anything else in the photo should be placed along the gridlines. For instance, you should place a flower at one of the intersection points. And you could let the flower stem follow the gridlines.
Notice how the rule of thirds tells you not to center your compositions. It’s so easy to put your subject in the dead center of the photo. But resist this urge!
Instead, keep the rule of thirds in mind.
And your compositions will be so much stronger.
4. Include Negative Space to Emphasize the Subject
Negative space is the empty parts of the composition. The parts where nothing is happening.
Backgrounds contribute a lot of negative space, especially if they’re a solid color.
For instance, the background in the photo below is all negative space:
Now, the best macro compositions generally use negative space.
Negative space is valuable for four reasons:
First: It helps balance out the frame.
If you have a strong subject on one side of the photo, some negative space on the opposite side will keep the composition looking balanced.
Second: It gives the subject room to breathe.
Viewers can be overwhelmed by a subject-heavy photo. You don’t want your photo to just consist of your subject. Instead, you want to include some negative space. It’s like a breath of fresh air!
Third: It suggests movement.
If you’re photographing moving subjects, negative space is essential. You should place negative space in front of your subject–which will give them space to ‘move’ into.
Fourth: It emphasizes your subject.
Negative space adds emptiness to the composition. So when a viewer sees the photo for the first time, their eyes are immediately drawn to the subject.
One composition technique that uses negative space?
Place your subject near a corner of the frame. Then include negative space everywhere else.
Your subject will be instantly recognizable!
(This is something that social media savvy photographers often use. Negative space helps make photos stand out, fast–and social media is all about getting a person’s attention while they scroll through thousands of images.)
5. Use Symmetry to Add Power to Your Macro Compositions
Now, we’ve already talked about the rule of thirds.
And the rule of thirds is all about moving your subject away from the center of the photo.
…a centered photo is exactly what you need.
You see, centered compositions are powerful. They instantly command the viewer’s attention.
And while centered compositions generally don’t work, there is one case in which they’re perfect:
When the subject is symmetrical.
Macro photography is full of symmetry! So you should always consider a centered composition.
For instance, you can capture a centered flower from the side–and it’ll dominate the frame.
You can also capture a flower from overtop, looking down–and it’ll look stunning.
Once you know to look for symmetry, you’ll start to see it everywhere.
And every place you see symmetry?
It’s an opportunity for a beautiful macro photo!
6. Use Lines to Lead the Viewer Around the Frame
The best compositions tend to move the eye around the frame.
That is, the best compositions take the viewer on a journey. They don’t just show the viewer the subject. Instead, they keep the viewer engaged!
And one of the best ways to keep the viewer engaged?
By using lines!
See, we’re naturally drawn to lines. When we see a line, we’re compelled to follow it. So if you include lines in your compositions, the viewer will be forced to engage with the photo.
Which is exactly what you want.
In macro photography, lines might seem hard to find. So you may have to search a bit.
But if you can find a line or two, it’ll really improve your compositions. Bonus points if you can get the lines to point to your subject!
For instance, you can use the stem of a flower to point to the beautiful flower petals.
Or you can use the curve of a rose to bring the viewer toward its center.
Ultimately, if you can include lines in your macro photos, you’ll really engage the viewer!
Stunning Macro Photography Compositions: The Next Step
Hopefully, you now have a sense of how to create incredible macro photography compositions.
And you’ll start taking some gorgeous macro photos.
But don’t let the learning stop there!
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