There are a few common macro photography mistakes…
…that will prevent you from taking stunning macro photos.
Fortunately, most of these mistakes are extremely easy to fix–once you know how to recognize them!
So read on to find out five common macro photography mistakes–and how to fix them.
1. Using a Chaotic Background
This is a big one. And the truth is, it’s so easy to avoid (once you know what to look for).
But if your background is chaotic…
…then it’ll take away from your subject. It’ll distract the viewer.
And that doesn’t help the main subject stand out.
So before you take a macro photo, check the background. Look for anything that might command attention.
And then get rid of it!
(Not necessarily physically. You can simply change your angle to make the poor background disappear.)
2. Working With Damaged or Dirty Subjects
The best subjects in macro photography are nice and clean.
They look fresh.
They look new.
Unfortunately, it’s so easy to forget about this–and use a damaged or dirty subject. Which is a real problem, and can ruin an otherwise great photo.
This is especially a problem with macro photography of flowers. If the flower has dirt on the petals (which often happens after rain), the brown will stand out in the photo.
And if the flower is dying, with partially wrinkled petals (or holes in the petals!) it’ll take away from the beauty of the shot.
The key is to check your subjects before shooting. If there’s a bit of dirt on some flower petals, you could simply blow it off or brush it away. If your flower is dying, then find a new subject entirely.
I should note:
It is possible to take gorgeous macros of dying flowers. However, this involves a certain style–where you embrace the beauty of the flower. And it should be a conscious choice.
In general, I’d advise against shooting dying subjects. If you can choose fresh subjects instead, you’ll be much more likely to get gorgeous macro photos.
3. Not Getting Close Enough
Macro photography is all about getting close.
But the fact is, macro photographers often don’t get close enough!
In macro photography, the closer you get, the more unique your photo tends to be. You’re able to show the world in a whole new light. And that’s part of the ‘macro magic.’
If you’re not happy with your macro shots, this should be one of the first things you consider. Switch your macro lens over to manual focus, and twist your ring–until you’re near to 1:1 (true macro) focusing.
Then look for some unique compositions.
Look for some abstract macro shots.
And then take some original photos.
4. Forgetting to Compose Carefully
When you’re doing macro photography, it’s so easy to get caught up in the moment.
You’re thinking about the beauty of the light. You’re thinking about the beauty of your subject.
But when you get home and review your images…
They’re just so-so.
One of my first guesses would be:
You didn’t take the time to compose carefully!
(Composition refers to the arrangement of elements in the frame.)
Now, macro photography subjects tend to be very beautiful on their own. And it’s easy to think that those subjects will carry the shot.
But a macro photography shot simply won’t work–unless you have a beautiful composition.
Let me reiterate:
A beautiful subject is nice.
But a beautiful subject and a beautiful composition?
That’s what’ll really stun people.
One basic composition principle you can use is the rule of thirds. It states that the most pleasing composition puts the main subject a third of the way into the frame, like this:
And it comes with a helpful set of gridlines:
The idea is to place your subject along the gridlines (or at one of the intersections, called ‘power points.’) If you can do this, your photos will be far stronger.
So don’t forget to compose! Just take a moment, before each photo, and make sure you’ve framed your shot the way you’d like.
5. Shooting Under the Harsh Midday Sun
Here’s one of the biggest mistakes that macro photographers make:
Shooting under a bright sun.
While a bright sun is great for sunbathing and going on walks, it is not great for macro photography.
When the sun is high overhead, it causes plenty of dark shadows. These add a lot of contrast to macro scenes–too much contrast for your camera to handle.
Ultimately, you get macros with unpleasant colors and very little detail. Which is exactly what you don’t want in a macro photo!
Instead, you should shoot during the golden hours: up to two hours after sunrise, and up to two hours before sunset. That way, your photos will use the soft, golden light of the rising or setting sun.
Don’t shoot on sunny days–unless it’s during the golden hours!
Macro Photography Mistakes: Next Steps
The mistakes on this list are easy to make. And they can easily hold you back from being an incredible macro photographer.
However, once you know what to look for, you’ll be able to stop them immediately.
And you’ll start taking beautiful macro photos again!
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