Close-up photography is one of the most accessible forms of photography because we are literally surrounded by potential subjects. While it includes macro photography, you don’t have to use a macro lens or capture subjects at life-size or bigger for an image to qualify as a close-up image. It simply means going closer than normal to capture interesting images.
Here are 6 key points to keep in mind when shooting close-up photography.
We often think that we need to go to exotic places to shoot award-winning images, but there are potential close-up subjects all around us and it’s a great form of photography.
So the first step is to think about the type of subject that interests you. If you’re a keen cyclist, it may be that you are drawn to photographing the derailleur of your prized ride. Or perhaps the colored threads and bobbins in a sewing box are your muse?
Food and kitchen objects can also make great subjects, but the most popular tend to be flora and fauna.
All of these can be found in your own home or garden.
It’s nice to do a little research before going to shoot whatever it is that you’re shooting. For example, if you’re shooting spiders do some research about what time of the day they’re out the most.
Some animals like butterflies may also be easier to photograph when they are just waking up, before they really get going. So you need to know where they spend the night to catch them first thing in the morning.
Similarly, if you’re photographing plants, you need to research where they grow and at what time of the year they look their best.
3. Don’t forget and use the traditional rules of photography
Composition is another element of photography that is easy to forget when we’re concentrating on capturing the finer details of an unusual subject. However, it’s just as important to remember the traditional rules of composition when you’re shooting close-up images as it is for landscape photography.
4. Take control of focus and depth of field
One of the trickiest aspects of close-up photography is getting the most important part of the subject sharp. That’s because the closer you get to your subject, the shallower the depth of field becomes.
This means it’s vital to focus on the right point in the scene. Autofocus systems are good, but I recommend to focus manually when shooting a non-moving subject close-up.
If you’re using a DSLR, it’s usually a good idea to switch to live view mode to see the subject on the screen on the back of the camera.
Also, magnify the on-screen image so you can see the very small details and ensure that the focus is exactly where you want it.
If you find that you can’t get enough of your subject in focus, use focus stacking. Focus stacking is a technique in which you shoot a series of images with different focus points before merging them into one composite image.
5. Steady your camera and your subject
When you get very close to a subject any movements become magnified so it’s vital that both your camera and the subject are motionless. Ideally, your camera should be on a tripod, but other supports are also very useful.Keeping a fragile plant still in a breeze is a bit trickier. You may need to construct some form of windbreak
6. Balance Light and exposure
Small objects that are close to the ground often look quite dark compared to their surroundings and you may need to add a little light. This can be difficult if you’re shooting very close to your subject and there’s not much space between the lens and the subject, but there are lots of macro lights and ring lights available.
Small constant light sources that use LEDs can be really useful.