6 Tips for Stunning Soft-Focus Macro Photography

Do you want to take some macro photos that are unique?

The sort that have rarely been done before?

If so, then soft-focus macro photography is exactly what you need. You can use this technique to achieve unique, creative macro photos–which will blow viewers away.

In this article, I’ll share five easy tips for incredible soft-focus macro photos.

Are you ready to start taking stunning macro photos?

Let’s get started.

1. Shoot in Cloudy Conditions for a Beautiful Soft Look

If you’re a dedicated macro photographer, you’ve probably heard this one countless times.

But it has to be said.

To capture gorgeous soft-focus macro photography…

…you have to shoot under cloudy skies.

Why?

Clouds act as giant diffusers. They take the harsh sunlight, and they lessen its impact. They soften it.

And softer light goes great with soft-focus macro photos.

Softer light is also great for capturing deeply saturated colors. And in soft-focus macro photography, colors are extremely important. After all, it’s hard to discern much else in the photo!

You may be wondering:

If it’s important to shoot in soft light, why don’t the golden hours (just after sunrise and just before sunset) work? During the golden hours, the sun is low in the sky. The light is soft.

Here’s the thing:

You capture some gorgeous soft-focus shots during the golden hours. But the quality of the golden hour lighting just isn’t the same as the quality of light on a cloudy day. The softness just isn’t the same.

You won’t be able to capture shot like this:

Because it was that cloudy white look that made it possible!

2. Use a Wide Aperture for the Best Soft-Focus Effects

If you want to capture soft-focus macro photos, choosing the right aperture is key.

(Aperture refers to the size of the hole in the lens that lets in light. A larger hole lets in more light–and it also blurs the background.)

And the best aperture for soft-focus macro photography?

An ultra-wide aperture.

I’m talking really wide: In the f/2.8 to f/5.6 range.

This will ensure that only a small part of the frame is in focus, while the rest of it is deeply blurred.

It’ll get you shots like this:

And this:

Notice how only a sliver of the photo is sharp. That’s exactly what you want in soft-focus macro photos.

Now, you do need to be careful. The amount of the photo that’s sharp is very thin–so it’s easy to miss focus.

And that can ruin the entire photo.

Therefore, you need to focus very carefully, as I detail in Tip 3:

3. Use Manual Focus for Precise Focusing

In soft-focus macro photography, you’re working with a razor-thin plane of focus (referred to as the depth of field).

You may have only millimeters of sharpness in your photo.

So you have to make sure that you focus that photo as best you can! And to add to the issue, the autofocus capabilities of modern lenses just doesn’t cut it at high magnifications. The autofocus will hunt and hunt…and just leave you frustrated!

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be hard to consistently nail focus. Yes, the autofocus doesn’t work well enough to capture sharp photos.

But manual focus works just fine!

Manual focus involves twisting the focus ring on your lens to change the focus.

You can activate manual focus simply by flicking the AF/MF switch on your lens.

Then, all you have to do is twist the focus ring!

Now, mastering manual focus may take a bit of practice. But it’ll be worth it, in the end–when all of your photos come out looking sharp.

3. Emphasize a Point of Focus

This tip is key.

Because every one of your soft-focus macros…

…must have a single point of focus.

Let me explain:

Even though most of the shot will be soft, there has to be an anchor point. Something that draws the viewer in. Something that the viewer can latch onto, and that keeps them engaged.

That’s your point of focus.

Now, a point of focus should generally be something that stands on its own. It can be extremely small–but it should be a discrete object.

For instance, a point of focus could be a flower stamen or a leaf. It could also be a single petal.

When you approach a soft-focus shot, start by thinking about the point of focus. What is it about your subject that stands out?

And then make sure that point of focus is the only sharp thing in the frame.

Make sense?

Once you have a sharp point of focus, the only thing left to determine…

…is the background!

Which brings me to my final tip:

5. Include a Uniform Background to Emphasize the Subject

In a soft-focus macro photo, your subject isn’t the traditional sort of subject.

Instead, your subject is the part of the scene that you’re focusing on.

(That is, your subject is your point of focus.)

But here’s what you need to know:

If you want a truly compelling subject, then it pays to make that subject stand out.

And the best way to make your subject stand out?

Use a uniform background!

If you can find a background that’s clean and otherwise non-distracting, your shot will be immediately better.

Fortunately, at wide apertures, you’ll automatically get a nicely blurred background.

But you should still be careful about your background choice. Make sure there are no objects in the background that might call attention away from the subject. Make sure there are no distracting colors.

In fact, the best backgrounds tend to be completely uniform. You don’t have to get fancy, either. A uniform black or white background will work perfectly.

One of my favorite backgrounds is an empty, cloudy sky. The bright white clouds give the background a lovely white glow. And, best of all, it doesn’t distract at all from the subject!

Bottom line?

Uniform backgrounds are best!

Soft-Focus Macro Photography Tips: Next Steps

Soft-focus macro photography is an extremely rewarding genre of photography.

If you do it right, you can capture some memorable macro photos.

You just have to follow the tips I’ve shared–and you’ll be taking amazing soft-focus macros in no time.

Also…

If you want to keep improving your macro photography skills, then you should sign up for my newsletter! I’ll send you lots of tips, tricks, and secrets, all designed to get you capturing gorgeous photos (as fast as possible!)

(Oh, and you’ll receive my nature photography eBook, free of charge!)

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3 Comments

  1. Reply

    Thank you so much for this article. This is a genre of photography I am really starting to get into and I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right or not. I have many more things to learn. Signed up for your newsletter. thank you.

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