How to Take Digital Macro Photos

Kevin Casper
Learn how to take digital macro photos.

Have you just splurged on a new camera and discovered that you now need to learn how to take digital macro photos? You're in luck. Taking great macro photos is a lot easier than you might think, and you've come to the right place to learn how to do it. The following article will detail macro photography and provide several easy tips to assist you in getting the most out of your camera.

What Are Macro Photos?

If you have read your camera's manual, then you probably come across a section on macro setting. Or, for those of you who don't usually read manuals, then you might have stumbled across the setting when pushing buttons on the back of your camera. The macro setting is typically represented by a flower image. Even the most affordable digital cameras have a macro setting, but what is it for?

Macro photography simply means close-up photography. When you want to take a picture of the tip of a flower, a butterfly or an insect, and really want to capture as much detail as possible, you will want to use your camera's macro setting. By setting your digital camera to macro mode, you greatly reduce the camera's depth of field. Meaning that a very narrow part of the subject will be in focus. Higher end digital SLR cameras can be fitted with special macro lenses, which accomplish this task with even more detail and accuracy.

The shallow depth of field can be a great creative tool for the photographer. For example, if you are taking a picture of a flower, you could take one shot that focuses on the tips of the petals and leaves the other parts of the shot in a soft focus. You could then take another shot that focuses on the flower's center. Macro photography provides the photographer with tremendous control over what aspect of the subject the viewer's attention will be drawn to.

How to Take Digital Macro Photos

Consult your owner's manual to set your camera in macro mode. Once you have figured out how to do this, consider these excellent tips to take great photos:

  • Tripod - Because the macro setting has such a shallow depth of field, focusing can be an issue. Using a tripod can help with this, and it also allows you to play with other settings on your camera without losing the shot you have composed.
  • Focus - If your camera has a manual focus setting, this is the time to use it. Extreme close-ups will drive the auto focus mechanism on your camera crazy. You need to have complete control of your camera's focus to get the best results.
  • Aperture - Even though macro settings set the depth of field very narrowly, you can still adjust your camera's aperture and retain control of the shot. Think of it like focusing a microscope. First you use the big knob to get the subject in approximate focus. This would be akin to setting your camera in macro mode. Then you use the smaller knob to sharpen the image, which is what you can do with manual aperture settings. A larger number will create a smaller aperture on your camera by enlarging the depth of field and bringing more of the shot in focus. The bigger the aperture number the more objects will be in focus. Conversely, a smaller number will narrow your depth of field and allow you to focus in on very specific aspects of the shot.
  • Composition - Don't forget the basics. Even though you're taking close-up shots, don't forget about fundamentals, such as the rule of thirds, focal points, and so on.
  • Flash - Flash can be a real problem for macro photography, especially with inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras. Because the camera is so close to the subject, the flash can really overpower a macro photo. If you don't need artificial light, turn it off. If you do, see if your camera allows you to dial down the intensity that your flash fires at. You could also put a piece of cloth or some other type of material in front of the flash to diffuse it.

Other Resources

There are many books, which provide tips on how to take digital macro photos, including:

How to Take Digital Macro Photos