In macro photography, the world you know is gone, and a new one emerges.
“A really great place to start is to work your way through the refrigerator,” Long suggests. “Berries are fascinating when you get in really close. There are really cool textures — they’ve got hair on them. I shot a cornflake at some ridiculous level of magnification, and it looked like either a really gross piece of meat or the surface of Mars.”
As with all photography, exploration is what fuels your ability to understand what you are looking for in your photos. The more you delve into this new, mysterious world, the more you’ll know what you want to document.
What makes good macro photography?
“What makes a great macro image is the same thing that makes any great photograph great,” Long explains. “It’s always the job of the photographer to ensure that they’ve organized the frame and used all of the expressive mechanisms they have — like depth of field, motion stopping power, and the control of light and shadow — so that the viewer immediately knows what the subject of the image is.”
“I think the hardest thing about macro photography is actually previsualization — learning to recognize what a good macro subject might be.”
But when you’re having to adjust your perspective so significantly, where you find the right subjects and angles can be a real challenge.
“I think the hardest thing about macro photography is actually previsualization — learning to recognize what a good macro subject might be,” says Long. “Because when you’re going into macro distances, things just look completely different than what you see in the real world. You might be sitting in front of a great macro subject and have no idea.”
As your eye develops for macro subjects (“You just have to do a lot of macro shooting before you start to get a sense of what’s going to make good subject matter, where the best angle might be,” Long says), you’ll begin to see certain difficulties that arise with this specialized skill.
Macro photography tips.
First things first, before any macro photography advice will be useful, you’ll need a macro lens. While most lenses shoot at a ratio of 1:2.8 and greater, macro lenses shoot at a 1:1 ratio and can focus only within the macro range of about 12 inches or fewer — essential for the super-sharp focus needed to make the minuscule larger than life.