Welcome back! Now that we have covered most of the basics to Macro Photography, I suppose now is the time to write a bit on something more in-depth, information that will help you take much better macro shots once acquired.
As mentioned in earlier articles, there are actually five things to look out for to really make your macro photographs more attractive (in random order):
All of these must be fulfilled if you are to really consider a shot as great. Since there is a lot to elaborate for each point, I will only be focusing on one per article, I hope you won’t mind 🙂 And like all other genres of photography, the points you learn here can be applied elsewhere too.
I’ve specifically chosen this as the first point since it is the most simple- A great macro shot will require a good subject. Take portrait photography as an example, in general an obese model will definitely not be as attractive as a slim model (assuming no extreme post-processing done to help “slim” the model down). I apologize if I offended anyone, but I’m just telling the truth. Appearances are important in life, and also photography.
Of course, many macro enthusiasts might have already learnt this over time: There are just some subjects that no one wants to photograph, and conversely, there are some that always make the headlines in articles or magazines. So, how do you determine whether a subject is “good enough” for a proper macro photograph?
The following are three aspects that govern the quality of a subject for Macro Photography:
Common subjects lack the “WOW” factor; after all, you see them all the time lol
If you are photographing a subject that is very common even to laymen (those who don’t shoot macro), chances are your shots are going to be poor. Yes, you might be able to pull it off with some awesome composition, lighting, background and sharpness (to be covered later), but a common subject is still common, and will not be able to compete with an uncommon, or rare subject of equal photographic quality.
One of the most common subjects in the world are….. you guessed right! Ants! Worker Ants to be precise! No points for guessing right though haha 😀
Unfortunately beginners love to photograph them since they are abundant and wouldn’t mind posing for the camera (or biting you too!). Of course, I am not condemning anyone shooting ants: at first I didn’t know which subjects are common and which are not either. The trick is to shoot often, then you will eventually be able to identify rarer subjects, just try not to keep on shooting ants, it gets very dull.
Yeah, another thing I would like to point out; the great thing about Macro Photography is that your biological subjects are often extremely diverse: Subjects you photograph in Malaysia are mostly not available in the United States, so to them, your shots have the “WOW” factor since they have not seen them before vice versa (maybe not ants, they all look the same everywhere LOL! XD). It is just like how Malaysian street photographs are never attractive to the locals, but put up any photos from, say Australia, and everybody loses their minds.
Is your subject entirely black with little or no details worth emphasizing? Is your subject dull coloured? If it is, then it is probably not a good subject. Suddenly Ants come into mind- they are mostly black and don’t really differ much from one to another (unless if you are talking about a Queen ant!). Of course, it is not just the ants we are talking about here.
Viewers tend to be attracted by subjects that are colourful or fancy-looking, so those are the types you should try and find. Beautiful subjects, even if common (e.g. butterflies, bees etc.), will still give you more marks than dull organisms.
Lastly, what your subject is doing will determine the quality of your resulting photo. Most of the time, the subjects we find are in resting positions and not doing much of anything. Yes, if composed and photographed properly, your subject (especially if colourful or beautiful) will still give you a decent shot, but that’s pretty much it, since others are capable of taking shots like yours as well.
Ants, though they are always moving, are not really considered as “in action”. Unless if you can find them fighting off other intruding ants, working together to carry big chunks of food etc., your shots are still going to be poor. No offence ya ants :p
So the trick to get macro shots that really stand out is to hunt for action shots, this include shots of subjects eating, mating, hunting, flying etc. That said, action shots are hard to find, and even harder to photograph, which makes them so valuable in the macro world. Action shots often happen in the blink of an eye, which is why all your practice with macro comes down to handling moments like these.
As aforementioned, action shots are hard to come by. However, by knowing a little bit about your subjects, you will be able to increase your chances of encountering subjects “in-action”. For instance, butterflies and bees tend to collect nectar around flower fields during the morning before afternoon (too hot); whereas nocturnal spiders, centipedes and even snakes hunt during the night.
So in short, a great subject is one that is uncommon (or rare), attractive and one that is preferably doing something. Well I guess that pretty much sums up the article for today. I hope you now understand how important a subject is in Macro Photography. Of course, the outcome of your shot still relies heavily on composition, lighting, background and sharpness (to be covered later); having a good subject signifies a good start!
Anyways, which subjects do you think are attractive and beautiful to you? 🙂
The next article is on Composition, please feel free to check it out: Taking Better Macro Shots Part 2- Composition.
Thank you for reading and have a nice day!
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