Considering the billions of photographs out there, few of them have the tendency to stop us in our tracks and to really observe them the way close up nature photos do. There's something compelling about the details in a micro world that isn't always visible to the eye. There's something awe inspiring about seeing a landscape image... the big view. But with macro photography, it's as though we have zoomed in with a microscope or magnifying glass on a landscape photo to view the finite details.
Nature calendars are top sellers each year because of their inherent beauty that draws us in to a world that allows us to escape our own. From roaring oceans to rambling brooks to flower laden meadows nature inspires us to not only photograph it, but to observe it. As photographers, we're lucky to find ourselves out there amongst the trees and fields and rivers finding something, almost anything, that captures our eye and lens.
This draw to nature doesn't mean that it comes easy to photograph. It can be quite simple at times, but there are still tips worth noting, and that's what I'm about to provide you with.
1 Take Time to Get Close Up. Venture out to any spot in nature, even if it's your back yard, and spend ample time there finding close-up opportunities. Commit to really spending enough time to observe your surroundings on a micro level. Set your camera to macro mode (usually available on the dial), and practice focusing on subjects while in that mode. Sometimes it's a matter of you physically moving closer or further away from it to get the focus to work right.
2 Continuous Mode. Besides setting your camera to macro mode, you also want to set your camera to continuous mode. By capturing sequential shots, you're more likely to have in-focus images. This is a great option with DSLRs because you can delete the images you don't want.
3 Pick Up Extension Tubes. Extension tubes are basically empty tubes without optics that go between your lens and camera body. You can use them with any of your lenses to make it focus closer and at high quality. This extension allows you to be closer to your subject and allows for all sorts of possibilities with different focal lengths.
4 Diffuse Built-in Flashes. It's difficult to get a great exposure, even a good exposure sometimes, with your built-in flash when shooting up close. But, since there will be times when you want to use it, tone it down by diffusing the flash with a specially made diffuser or you can try a piece of white cloth... just drape it over the flash or tape it down when needed.
5. Bounce Your Flash. If your flash is overwhelming, even if diffused, your results could be dramatic, but this often creates unwanted shadows and a black background. What you can do is choose a setting that balances your flash to the existing light so that some of the natural light fills in the shadows. The only glitch with this method is that camera manufacturers haven’t chosen a consistent way of doing this. You'll need to check your manual for more information on how to do it accurately. As an alternative, you can also set the camera on manual and keep decreasing the shutter speed until you see the needed detail in the dark areas. If you do this, choose to use a tripod so you don't blur your images at slow shutter speeds.
6. Lighting's Role. The quality of available light will play a significant role in your close up photography. The right lighting will allow you to fully capture the finer details and textures, but if it is too harsh (i.e. the flash factor), then the increase in contrast will actually block the same detail that you're wanting to capture. Cloudy days are actually ideal because they provide a much softer light, which then allows all of that detail and texture to shine through on your images. Early morning often gives the most flattering glow and soft light for macro photography. Not to mention dewdrops and intact spider webs.
7. The Colors of a Rainbow. The colors in your selected subject will also be influenced. For example, any vibrant colors like reds and yellows project one thing; whereas muted shades, such as greys and browns, give off a more tranquil feeling to your image. Consider your end result and decide how much color over composition matters to you. Note that it is often the vibrant colors that stand out, and much of this is achieve in post-processing. It takes a certain eye to know which colors you can enhance in Photoshop or Lightroom later.
A portfolio of nature photos is always a rewarding one. As a photographer, you definitely want to explore getting close up to nature. It allows not only a greater appreciation for Mother Earth, but it gives you the chance to practice using your macro mode and other settings.
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