Making progress with macro photography

My recent efforts were, well poor. That is a self-assessment. You may have rated my macros a lot worse. I tried to look at what I could change and I took some good advice. The result was changing my tripod and head set up, switching from timer to cable release and dropping the ISO right down and trusting in the stability of my kit.

Essentially what I am now doing is framing and focusing through the viewfinder and allowing auto focus to get me to a starting point.

I then connect the cable release, switch to manual focus and engage Live View (on my Canon 1D mk IV).

I then make sure the Info panel is showing the histogram to check that I have an appropriate exposure level.

I turn off the histogram then and play with the aperture options whilst pressing the depth of field preview button.

When I have what I think is the right aperture I zoom first to 5x then to 10x in Live View to check my focus again, normally just a little critical fine tuning is required.

Then, abracadabra, I press the cable release button and the image is taken.

I may take a number of images at different apertures. Occasionally I cannot find one that leaves me with the effect I want. Here is an example:


I wanted the berries to be razor-sharp but the background blurred. I ended up having to sacrifice some sharpness on the berries to keep the background sufficiently blurred not to distract from the bracket fungus on which the berries were sitting. The result is  not exactly what I wanted but it is still, to me anyway, a reasonable image.

Here is one where I felt the elements surrounding the main subject, an acorn, would be positive rather than negative so I decreased the aperture to F18 and the DoF preview showed me this was sufficient.

The acorn

This was a six second exposure requiring the tripod set-up to be rock solid throughout and I had the legs locked as low as I could.

Another bracket fungus shot. On this occasion the fungus is the main indeed only subject.

Bracket fungus

This is full frame and required little processing. I added a ‘soft light’ overlay in CS4 and that was about it.

Next, what I call my Obama shot – the green shots…….

Green shoots

This is a good example of where I tried virtually every aperture to get the effect I wanted. Finally, I ended up with sharp shoots but the base of the shoot is blurred. Had I accepted the aperture I needed to keep the base sharp I would also have had the background coming into focus.

Here is an image I deliberately blurred. I simply liked the colours here and felt some blurring of the flower head allowed the viewer to focus on the overall colours rather than the head alone.

Flower blur

What I was doing this afternoon was looking for lichens to photograph. A small project and to be truthful it is a topic about which I know nothing. In some cases I am struggling to know whether the subject is indeed a lichen!

However here are a couple that I think qualify:

Lichen (or fungus?)

Parmotrema tinctorum

I have tentatively identified this but any experts please come to my aid if you can confirm or correct.


On this one I have tried to isolate more detail and as I enjoy monochrome I also processed it in black & white to see if I could bring the structure and texture out more.

Lichen monochrome

Does it work for you as it does for me?

Here endeth  my day’s adventure into macro-land. I am learning as quickly as I can but I suspect the best teacher is experience and time in the field.

I hope there will be better output in the future.

4 thoughts on “Making progress with macro photography

  1. There will be plenty of insects/caterpillars for you to practice on soon in LNEC.
    Thanks for visiting my blog and the encouragement is very much appreciated. Hopefully see you around soon.

  2. Good stuff Andrew. Macro really is another world. Wondering if it is possible for you to get even closer like in the case of the first 3 images? ANyway in spite of the blur my favourite is the ‘flower blur’.

  3. Thanks Bob. Steve Gingold is coaching me. The next phase is to learn ‘stacking’. Multiple exposures, wide open with different points of focus, front to back.

  4. Andrew, a great improvement, your new technique is working. Personally I don’t like the monochrome shot but others may. Macro photography is what we all should be doing, especially with this lousy weather.


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