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5 Mistakes to Avoid in Macro Photography

Do you find it difficult to advance in macro photography? Maybe one of these mistakes to avoid in macro photography is holding you back from becoming a better macro photographer.

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Don’t Stick With Capturing Insect or Flowers From Top Down

This is, of course, not a general rule. It is not wrong to capture images from above your subject. Some images work great when shooting directly from above. However, you will often experience coming home with better shots when you begin to experiment with other angles. Get down on your knee or even your belly to capture more exciting shots, where you are on eye level or even below with your subject.

One of the first macro photos that I got feedback on was shooting a flower and a ladybug directly from above. While the elemental composition worked and was sharp in the right areas, it was just not very interesting. Nowadays, family walks in the forest often have me trailing behind the rest because I’m lying flat on the ground trying to get a good composition of a flower or a dor beetle.

Don’t Use Too Slow a Shutter Speed

When starting in macro photography, and photography in general, I was a bit of a pixel peeper in terms of hating grains or other signs of low image quality that can come from using a high ISO. However, I missed plenty of shots because I used too slow a shutter speed to compensate for wanting to keep the ISO low for best image quality. This was, of course, a wrong decision. There is no need for you to make the same mistake.

The problem with using a slow shutter speed is that wind and subject movement suddenly becomes a thing that you need to worry about, forcing you to capture more shots than otherwise, hoping that one or two of them is sharp.
Instead, you should ensure that the shutter speed is high enough so most movement won’t show up in your photos.

For flower photography, a shutter speed of 1/400 or above should be enough. However, you can see the flower moving in the wind, increase the shutter speed to, i.e., 1/1000, and test the results. You often need to use a macro flash system to get enough light to freeze motion with fast-moving subjects.

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Don’t Shoot Wide Open Just To Get More Light

Another mistake when trying to get enough light for your macro photography is to stay at f/2.8 or f/4. You might worry about getting an underexposed image, so you sacrifice the depth-of-field, making the area in focus too narrow. In macro photography, an aperture opening at f/2.8 or f/4 is razor-thin, or at least only a few millimeters if you are shooting at the minimum focus distance.

You might not be able to raise your ISO or fiddle with the shutter speed without giving rise to other issues. So, the best option to get enough light is actually to introduce flash. It is more common in macro photography than you should think. The sooner you learn to use a flash for your macro photography, the faster your images will improve. As I was beginning with macro photography, I didn’t know how to use a flash properly without getting hard shadows. This meant that I was pretty reluctant in the beginning to use a flash.

The “solution” for me back then, many years ago, was to shoot with a more open aperture, meaning that the area in focus, would be very thinly sliced. And too-thin slices to my taste today, where my understanding of macro photographer is better. I also missed focus on many shots. The focus being anywhere but on the eyes of the insects that I tried to capture.

Don’t Use a Tripod All The Time


A tripod can work really well for some types of macro photography. However, it can also slow you down significantly. Enough for skittish bugs to run or fly away. However, a tripod offers excellent stability that is useful in many situations. For instance, if you want to create a compelling composition of a flower and wait for an insect to land on it, then a tripod is handy for making sure that your body movement doesn’t move the area in focus while waiting.

The tripod makes sure that you don’t miss the focus when the insect arrives. However, most times, I find a tripod to be too cumbersome and slow to work with.

Find a useful technique for hand holding, using a dedicated macro flash system, or a fast enough shutter speed, you can easily let go of the tripod. Remember to keep your elbows tucked in at your torso and stomach for that extra stability when handholding macro shots. Also, let the eyepiece or top of the camera touch the front of your eyesocket or forehead, wherever it is appropriate for you to see clearly. But that extra touchpoint gives additional stability when handholding a bulky camera body, macro lens, extension tubes, and perhaps a macro flash system.

Don’t Give Up Too Soon

No matter what you do, learn from your mistakes. That is progress. Even though you might not see masterpieces coming from your camera, slowly getting rid of one fault or issue after the other will eventually lead you to capture amazing macro images.

Avoid giving up on macro photography, even though it is one of the most challenging photography genres.

Giving up is the biggest mistake of them all. Actually, the first four mistakes that I have listed above, almost made me give up on macro photography. Luckily I only put it on the shelf for a while and returned with a better understanding.

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Concluding words
Macro photography is one of the most difficult genres of photography. So it is no wonder that many photographers feel overwhelmed or despaired when they try to take on macro photography for the first time. Hopefully, with these 5 tips on mistakes to avoid in macro photography, you are a bit better equipped to handle the challenges and move quickly past these obstacles, when you do meet them.

What obstacles have you meet when beginning macro photography? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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