There are times when we cannot go out to shoot. It might be dark and raining, you might may be expecting an Amazon delivery or we might be in the throes of a global pandemic. One thing is for certain however, despite being cooped up at home, the photographic itch still needs scratching.
So how can we relieve that itch even when we are unable to pound the pavements outside? One way is to shoot macro. Macro is a world within a world and your home is full of macro opportunities. Those opportunities do not have to be a bug that found its way in, or your slightly neglected cactus plant, there are plenty of other things to shoot as well.
Today we are going to explore what you need and what to shoot in macro at home.
What Equipment Do I Need?
Obviously a macro lens is the ideal solution. Typically these lenses are moderate telephotos that can focus down to a 1:1 ratio. This is known as life sized and is the true definition of macro. However, you don’t have to shoot true macro if you don’t have a suitable lens, just use one that has a short closest focussing distance.
Not everyone has a macro lens or the money to buy a macro lens. If you are at home waiting for an Amazon delivery you can add either close up lenses, reversing rings or extension tubes to that delivery. For those with a little more cash to splash you can also look at extension bellows.
The cheapest and simplest option will be close up lenses. These are simple filters that screw in over your front element and magnify the image.
Reversing rings allow you to turn a lens around and mount it “backwards” on the camera. For reasons due to physics this magnifies the scene to give you a macro image.
Extension tubes move the lens and camera further apart, again magnifying the image. For the latter two, you will lose auto exposure and autofocus.
Macro Shooting Techniques
As you are at home, and there will be little movement of your subject, it’s a good idea to use a tripod. Composing and focussing macro can be tricky and the use of a tripod will greatly help in this. As you are indoors your shutter speeds may also be a bit slower. The tripod will aid in preventing camera shake.
Make sure any image stabilisation system on your lens is switched off as they often do not work well when the camera is mounted to a tripod.
Depending on your subject you can use a number of different lighting techniques. If your subject is portable, you can move it close to a large window. If needed use white card as a reflector to fill in the shadow details.
In darker locations, you can use a flashgun. This is better-triggered off-camera to enable a more directional light. You can even use one or two table lamps to light a subject. Set a suitable white balance or shoot RAW to set white-balance in post-production.
If you have a coloured cloth you can use this as a potential background. Colourful subjects can look amazing on colourful backgrounds.
Shooting Ideas – The Living
Pets can make great subjects for close up shots. Full face portraits in natural light can look stunning. Get your pet near a large window, have something to distract them with such as a toy or food. A second person is often ideal to get their attention.
Try shooting full face portraits, with no background. With animals you might need to be a bit more flexible when shooting. Dump the tripod, bump the shutter speed and ISO and shoot handheld. Aim to focus on the eyes and avoid getting in any details in the background.
Children, spouses and friends can also make great subjects and can be somewhat easier to control than a pet. Close-ups of eyes, hair or even hands can make really interesting shots.
If you are a reasonable horticulturalist your indoor flowers and plants can also make for great macro. Look closer and you might just see some bugs on them. Hopefully good bugs and not ones that are slowly eating your prize plant away.
Shooting Ideas – Cooking and food
Whether you are a budding Gordon Ramsay or a Pot Noodle person, there is plenty of macro opportunities in the kitchen. If you are a coffee lover, your coffee machine, the coffee beans and the crema atop can makes for some great shots. Packaged foods can look great if well lit and creatively positioned, dried pasta of different colours or coloured sprinkles for example.
Fruits and vegetable textures can look amazing shot close with directional light
Closeups of the simplest of cooked food can be very photogenic, fresh parmesan cheese on top of a carbonara or a sprig of parsley on a freshly cooked fish.
The kitchen is an endless world of close up and macro possibilities.
Shooting Ideas – Technology
How many gadgets do you have? Take a good look at them. Some of them are incredibly beautiful, and photogenic pieces of design. From smart phones and tablets to notebooks and cameras, technology is a rich source of macro photographic possibilities.
Cameras can make fantastic and familiar subjects. If you have a spare camera, even a film camera take a look at the details in it. From dials and buttons to beautiful curves and angles. That’s before we even get to the lens and the rainbow of colours on its front element.
Smartphones have lovely small design features, perfect from shooting in macro, even a smartwatch can a good source of creativity.
Returning to the kitchen, your white appliances are often very photogenic once you get in close on them. Buttons, LED displays, logos and design cues all make potentially good shots.
Beyond technology, if you are a collector, why not shoot some macro of your collections. Model buses, dolls, even beer mats or bottles, whatever you collect, there is bound to be some interesting shots amongst them.
Being confined to home does not mean being restricted photographically. The macro world is all around us. We often ignore it as we naturally don’t tend to look close up at the things around us. However, pull out that macro lens or pop on some close-up filters and go on the hunt and you will soon see that the limited confines of your home contain an infinite number of photographic locations.