Do you struggle to capture sharp macro photography, consistently?
You’re not alone.
Consistently taking sharp macro photos is a real challenge. But fortunately, there are a few easy techniques to ensure that your photos are crystal clear–even in low light.
And in this article, I’ll share these techniques with you.
Are you ready to start taking tack-sharp macro photos?
Then let’s dive right in.
1. Hold Your Camera in a Stable Position to Avoid Macro Camera Shake
What’s the number one reason for blurry macro photos?
That is, your hands move–even if you don’t realize it. This is an especially big problem when shooting at high (macro) magnifications. The magnified view increases camera shake, and your photos turn out blurry.
So you must take steps to counteract camera shake.
The easiest way to do this?
Simply hold your camera in a stable position.
Here’s what I recommend:
Hold your camera body in your right hand. Your hand should be placed on the right side of the camera. Your first finger should gently touch the shutter button.
Then cup the camera lens with your left hand. This hand will do all of the zooming and focusing. And it will support the lens, especially if it extends.
Just making sure that you hold your camera in a nice, stable position will make a world of difference. Your photos will instantly become sharper.
However, you can also stabilize your camera in additional ways. Which brings me to technique 2:
2. Stabilize Your Body (And Exhale)
Another big culprit of camera shake?
The way we position our body–when we’re taking a photo.
Most people shoot with their elbows out, standing up straight. But I don’t recommend this.
Instead, you should bend your knees slightly. They’ll act as shock absorbers and prevent camera shake.
You should also tuck in your elbows. Place them against the sides of your body.
For an extra stable position, you can get down so that you’re kneeling. That way, your body will be stabilized by the ground.
Alternatively, you can lean against another object, such as a wall. If you’re out in nature, you can use a tree or a bench for this purpose.
Finally, I recommend you actually take your shot as you finish your exhale. That’s when your body will be the most still–so you’ll get the least amount of camera shake.
These techniques–bending your knees, tucking in your elbows, leaning against an object, and shooting on the exhale–will do a lot to reduce camera shake. If you’re shooting in low-light scenarios, I recommend you use them all. You’ll be able to capture sharp shots, even using long shutter speeds!
3. Stabilize Your Camera Against an Object
Sometimes the techniques that I suggested above won’t be enough.
Or you won’t be able to find something to stabilize your body against.
And in those cases, I recommend that you don’t focus so much on stabilizing your body.
Instead, stabilize your camera.
One of my favorite ways of doing this?
Simply place your camera against the ground.
Of course, you’ll have to get down with your camera. But if you have a screen that swivels, you won’t have to actually lie flat against the ground. You can simply crouch and look down at your composition.
It’s also worth mentioning:
You don’t have to stabilize your camera against the ground. For instance, you could use a rock, a table, or even a tree branch.
Just try it out! You’ll love the result.
4. Switch on Manual Focus for Perfect Macro Focusing
Another common reason for blurry macro photos?
That is, the autofocus of your lens focuses on something other than your macro subject.
When this happens, the whole photo is ruined.
Missed focus is especially common in macro photography. Autofocus systems just can’t cope with the high magnifications that macro images require.
So here’s the answer:
Instead of struggling with a frustrating autofocus system…
…get rid of it. Instead, use manual focus.
Manual focus will allow you to twist the ring on your lens to change focus. At first, this might seem a bit difficult.
But ultimately, you’ll feel so free!
Because with manual focus, you’ll be able to nail focus–every single time!
You’ll take sharp macro photography like crazy. Focusing struggles will become a thing of the past!
I shoot macros with manual focus all the time. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I used autofocus for my macro photography.
That’s how valuable it is.
By the way…
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5. Switch on Burst Mode for Sharp Macro Photography
These days, almost every camera offers a burst mode of some sort. You’ll be able to hold down the shutter button–and take five or more photos per second!
Now, burst mode is often used by bird photographers (to freeze their subjects in mid-flight). But burst mode is very helpful to macro photographers who like to handhold their equipment.
When you press down the shutter button, the shot will suffer from a bit more camera shake. This simply comes from the motion of your finger on the shutter.
But if you use burst mode…
Of course, the first shot or two will have increased camera shake.
But the later shots in a burst sequence won’t have this problem at all!
They’ll be sharper.
The problem with this method is that you’ll produce a lot of photos (which you’ll have to sort through later). But if you’re in a pinch, I definitely recommend the burst mode approach.
Because many sharp macro photos is better than no macro photos, right?
6. Use Live View and the Self Timer for Sharp Macros
If you don’t want to use burst mode, but you’re looking for a similarly effective method, you can try this technique.
All you have to do:
Switch on your camera’s Live View mode.
(Live View allows you to view the scene on the camera’s LCD. If you’re a mirrorless camera owner, you won’t have to make this switch–mirrorless cameras always shoot this way.)
And then turn on your camera’s self timer.
The self timer is a shooting setting on most cameras. It allows you to delay the photo by a few seconds. So, when you press the shutter button, the shutter doesn’t actually fire for a set amount of time.
Here’s why all of this is important:
When you press the shutter button, your camera’s mirror flips up (exposing the sensor to light). And when the mirror flips up…well, it causes vibrations in the camera. Vibrations that can blur your photos.
Now, Live View mode causes your camera’s mirror to flip up–in advance. So if you shoot in Live View, you don’t have to worry about these vibrations.
And the self timer delays your photo. That way, any vibrations caused by pressing the shutter button?
They’re all gone.
And you’ll capture some tack-sharp macro photography.
7. Use Lenses With Image Stabilization
This tip is simple:
When you purchase a macro lens, make sure it includes image stabilization.
Image stabilization is a technology that counteracts camera shake. Lenses with image stabilization are perfect for low-light photography–because you can handhold them at ridiculously low shutter speeds and still capture sharp photos.
Both Canon and Nikon offer great macro lenses with image stabilization.
The Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS is a fantastic macro lens–one that I use all the time. It includes built-in image stabilization, which is incredibly useful.
The Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Micro VR is another great choice. It’s extremely sharp, and the vibration reduction (Nikon’s term for image stabilization) is a real benefit.
You should also check out a cheaper third party option: the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 OS (for Nikon and for Canon). It’s ultra-sharp, produces some great background bokeh, and includes an Optical Stabilizer (that is, image stabilization).
Any of these lenses will get you some professional-quality macro photos, even the cheaper Sigma.
And you’ll be able to use them for sharp photos–in low light!
(For a complete rundown of the best macro lenses you can buy, see these articles:
8. Use a Tripod (Or a Monopod)
Of course, there’s one more way of capturing sharp macro photos–every time you go out to shoot.
Just use a tripod.
A good-quality tripod will always keep your macro photos sharp. You won’t have to worry about low light or camera shake.
You lose a lot of flexibility. Personally, I don’t use a tripod much. I want to be able to get down with my subject, change composition rapidly, and experiment with different photos.
But if you’re the sort of person who prefers a more deliberate style of photography, then I’d recommend the Alta Pro 263AB 100. It allows you to position your camera in lots of different angles–which is essential for a macro photographer.
Capturing Sharp Macro Photography: Next Steps
You can capture sharp macro photos, all the time.
You just have to use the techniques I’ve shared above!
But don’t stop there!
If you’re looking to keep taking your macro photos to new heights, I recommend you sign up for my email list, where I send all sorts of macro photography tips, tricks, and secrets that I don’t share on my blog.
I’ll also send you my eBook, free of charge:
Mastering Macro Photography: 10 Quick Tips for Stunning Macro Photos
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