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This post was most recently updated on January 8th, 2023

I’m a big fan of macro photography and I love taking pictures of insects and other small creatures.
However, the thing that held me back for many years was my knowledge of what to use for different types of shots.
There are so many options out there for macro photography, and it can be confusing as to which one to choose.
So, let’s take a look at what you need for taking macro photographs, and how to take close-up shots.

What’s The Difference Between Micro, Macro And Close Up?

The terms micro, macro, and close up are often used interchangeably in photography but is there any difference between them?

Micro Photography

The Best Option For Taking A Macro Photograph: An Essential Beginner's Guide

In microphotography, you have an extremely close-up view of an object. This type of shot shows us things we normally wouldn’t see or notice if we weren’t looking very closely.

Microphotography can give you a unique perspective on the world, including textures of surfaces that we hadn’t noticed before.

There are two main types of microphotography. One is called super macro and the other is called macro.
Super macro is when you shoot a subject from really close with a macro lens that has a focal length of less than 1/2 inch (12mm).

Macro is when your lens has a focal length greater than 1/2 inch but less than 3 inches (76mm).
Both types of microphotography allow you to capture images of very small subjects. But, they do this in different ways.

Super Macro Photography

The Best Option For Taking A Macro Photograph: An Essential Beginner's Guide

When you shoot a subject using a super macro lens, the image will appear blurry because of the extreme closeness between the camera and the subject.

This allows you to focus on the smallest details of your photographed subject without having any distractions around them.

To achieve this effect, you’ll need a tripod and some patience. You also may want to set your ISO to 100 or 200 to help reduce noise.

When shooting a subject like this, you should use a shutter speed of about 1 second.
If you don’t have access to a tripod, then you can hold your camera still by placing it on a flat surface. Then, just make sure you have enough light to illuminate your subject.

Macro Photography

The Best Option For Taking A Macro Photograph: An Essential Beginner's Guide

If you’re not interested in capturing minuscule details, then you might want to consider macro photography.
With this technique, you’ll be able to take photos of slightly larger subjects while keeping everything else in focus.

To do this, you’ll need a longer macro lens. When you use a long lens, you’ll be able to zoom in closer to your subject than you would with a shorter lens.

You’ll also need to increase your shutter speed to avoid blurriness. Most people recommend setting your shutter speed to at least 2 seconds.

If you’re shooting indoors, you’ll probably need to bump up your ISO to 400 or 800.

Close Up Photography

The Best Option For Taking A Macro Photograph: An Essential Beginner's Guide

Another way to take a picture of a smaller object is to use close-up photography. Close-up photography allows you to bring your subject closer to you than normal.

You’ll usually use a wide-angle lens to accomplish this.
This means you’ll need to use a short focal length. So, instead of using a 50mm lens, you’d use a 35mm lens.

Macro Photography Equipment

The Best Option For Taking A Macro Photograph: An Essential Beginner's Guide

If you want to get serious about taking macro photographs, you’ll need a few pieces of equipment.
You’ll either need a digital camera that allows you to take macro photos without any additional equipment, or you need one or more macro lenses.

If you can’t afford to spend the cash on a macro lens, then extension tubes are a more affordable option. Extension tubes are hollow tubes that attach to your existing lens to extend its focal length

Extension tubes usually come as sets so you can mix and match them depending on what you want to shoot.
Unless you have a very steady hand, you’ll also need a good tripod.

If you want to shoot inside, you will also need either a separate flash or good lighting to ensure your macro shots are well lit.

While most digital cameras do have an integrated flash, it typically doesn’t give off as much light as an external flash unit. Alternatively, you can also use a macro light ring.

How To Take Great Macro Photos: Tips And Tricks

Now that you know what you’ll need for your perfect macro image, let’s talk about how to take great pictures.
Bear in mind that even the best equipment doesn’t guarantee a perfect shot. You will need to fine-tune your technique and experiment as much as possible.

Here are some tips on essential techniques for taking macro shots.

Utilize Flash

The Best Option For Taking A Macro Photograph: An Essential Beginner's Guide

Although decreasing the aperture will offer you the field depth you need for the right focus on your subject, it blocks a lot of light.

If your setting doesn’t provide enough light, then you’ll need some extra light from a macro light ring or your camera’s flash.

However, if you are shooting a shy animal, a flash may startle it, so you may want to consider using a flash diffuser.
But first, it’s best to get as close to the subject as possible.

Then gently rock forwards and back to check what the different parts of the image look like in focus. Take a shot each time your subject is in focus.

Manual Focus

The Best Option For Taking A Macro Photograph: An Essential Beginner's Guide

Did you know that most photography pros avoid using the manual settings of their camera?
This is because they want to achieve the best shots possible, and often features like autofocus simply stop working when they can’t find a focal point.

The best option to get a good macro shot is to not use autofocus. Instead, get close to your subject and then set your camera’s focus manually.

Again, when you are close enough, rock to and fro and take a few snaps when your subject is in focus.
If you can’t squeeze your subject into one shot, you can try multiple shots of different parts.

Use A Tripod For Sharp Shots

It can be extremely difficult to get a sharp macro shot using very intricate camera settings and positioning your camera the right way.

That’s why a tripod is your best friend when it comes to stabilizing your camera. A tripod is ideal for macro images of static objects.

However, you can also use them for live subjects, like animals.

Take As Many Photos As Possible

In this case, it’s not just that practice makes perfect but it also helps you improve your photography method and allows you to experiment.

At first, it can be daunting to take so many shots but the more shots you take, the more likely you are to hit the right image with a perfect sharp focus and maximum magnification.

In photography, you don’t usually get a second chance. The light can change or your subject simply runs away.
So take plenty of photos, whether you shoot a live subject or inanimate objects.

Final Thoughts

Macro photography isn’t easy. It requires patience, perseverance, and lots of practice. But once you master the art, you’ll have a collection of stunning photographs that you can proudly display.
And remember, there’s no better feeling than seeing your hard work come to life!