Home Photography Ideas: Magical Macro Shots with Wide Angles and Lighting Tricks

Watch video: Home photography idea: macro with wide angles and lighting

Seen in close-up, the world reveals all sorts of details, colors and textures hitherto unnoticed. We can use an array of tricks to improve these close-up details, and in this project we’ll explore a few of those options.

To start, we’ll experiment with different focal length macro lenses. A typical focal length for macro lenses is around 100mm, but you can also find more unusual lenses, like the Laowa 15mm f/4 1:1 wide-angle macro lens used for the snail shot here. It’s an insane lens that’s a real challenge to use, but offers a captivating and rewarding perspective for close-up images.

In addition to altering our perspective, we can also experiment with lighting. On a bright sunny day, there’s plenty of light to play with, but it’s not always the best quality for close-up photography. We’ll see how to manipulate daylight with a reflector to soften and diffuse harsh sunlight.

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

We will also explain how to add your own lighting using a quick light. Like sunlight, the direct flash of a fast light can be harsh – so we’ll use a small softbox to get more attractive results.

There are many other techniques you can use to enhance the wonderful subjects, details, and textures on offer in the close-up world. From choosing the right aperture to chasing bugs and spraying glycerin-infused water, we’ll see the tricks of the trade…

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Macro essentials

(Image credit: James Paterson/Digital Camera World)

01 Macro lens
A macro lens allows you to frame close-up subjects in 1:1 view, which means the size of the subject can be recorded at its actual size on the image sensor. They come in different focal lengths; at shorter lengths, like the 15mm used here, the subject must be very close to the lens for true 1:1 capture.
• Best macro lenses (opens in a new tab)

02 Flash
Fast light helps lift your subject and bring out the colors. Triggered directly, the flash can be too violent – a small softbox gives a more diffused and more natural light. Some photographers like to attach the flash to the camera with a bracket, but otherwise you can just hold it or use a bracket.

03 5 in 1 reflector
This is very useful for all kinds of photography, including macro. Held in front of the light source, it can be used to reflect light into shadows. Alternatively, it can also provide shade when the sunlight is too strong, and the diffuser panel can be useful for softening sunlight or flash.

04 Tripod
A tripod frees your hands and allows you to perfect your focus. Often when focusing it is easier to move the camera back and forth slightly. A focus rack is ideal for this, but if you don’t have one, a sliding tripod plate – like the one on our gimbal head here – can work just as well.

05 Opening control
Your aperture is essential in macro photography. At wide apertures, like f/4, depth of field can only extend to a few millimeters, so it’s often best to stop at f/8 or higher, to ensure a decent area of ​​sharpness on your subject . We are in manual mode at f/11, 1/250 sec, ISO640.

06 Live focus
Using Live View to compose and focus your macro shots is often the easiest way, especially if your subject is static, as you can zoom into the Live View display and manually fine-tune focus. If your camera has maximum focus, it can superimpose highlights over sharp areas, which can be extremely helpful.

macro tips

01 Diffuses sunlight

Direct sunlight is often problematic; as shown in the second image, this causes high contrast with overly bright highlights and deep shadows. Often, soft, delicate light is best, as it more gently reveals the shape and color of the subject. With macro work, we don’t have to wait for a cloud or a shadow – we can create our own shadow!

A simple 5-in-1 reflector is ideal for this. By closing the reflector sleeve and holding the internal diffusion panel between the sun and our subject, we can diffuse the sunlight without blocking it completely, resulting in wonderful, soft, even illumination.

02 Remote flash

An external flash is a great addition to your backpack when shooting macro. When doing so, you’ll often want to stick to narrower apertures to maximize depth of field – usually between f/11 and f/22 is ideal. But that inevitably means you’ll need a bit more light, which luckily flash can provide.

But it’s not just amount light; flash also allows us to get creative with the direction of this one. Using a remote shutter (or sync cable) we can place it behind our subject for sleek backlighting through a sheet. However, too much flash may seem abnormal. For best results, keep the flash output low enough to match the ambient light you have.

03 Water Drops

Water can be a great addition to your macro shots; the shiny highlights and delicate curves it adds can really enhance flower photos. To achieve the look of cool rain we can simply use a spray bottle filled with water. Also try spraying the background plants, as the small drops will catch and reflect the light, resulting in beautiful bokeh highlights on the blurred background behind your subject.

If you find that the water drains too quickly from your plant, try mixing it with glycerin. This sticky substance makes the water more durable and gooey, while producing beautiful droplets.

04 New Perspectives

Macro lenses come in all sorts of focal lengths. The most common are those around 100mm, but if you want to try an unusual perspective, you can research other lenses, such as the specialist Laowa 15mm f/4 1:1 wide angle macro (opens in a new tab) used here. It’s a super wide-angle optic, and to get close to the subject it needs to be almost pressed against the front element.

This can be difficult with shy subjects but, for more placid creatures and plants, the lens provides a unique field of view showing both the subject and its surroundings. This sets it apart from other macros, where a background is mostly blurred.

Read more:

5 things to know before buying a macro lens (opens in a new tab)
The best macro lenses (opens in a new tab): get closer than ever to your subjects!
Best ring flash for macro photography (opens in a new tab)

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