It made me think about a flickr friend of mine that is an awesome macro and lego photographer, so I have asked her to tell us all abit more about shooting macro. Meet Kristina Alexanderson who is a project manager at .SE, the Swedish TLD. But she is also a photographer at heart that works with a Nikon 800 and loves working with motives like Star Wars toys.
According to Wikipedia, macro photography is defined as extreme close-up photography, usually of very small subjects, in which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than life size. [Though macro photography technically refers to the art of making very large photographs.]
When I hear macro photography I usually think of pictures of flowers or insects, and those are regular motives for macro-photography. And all my tips for the macro-photographer probably works for motives like flowers and insects as well, but the pictures I will share tips for making macro-photos with toys. Most of my macro-photography is about toys, and their secret life. I use Lego or plastic-toys as motives, often in backlight. I have done many photos connected to Star Wars characters. In my post I shall give some tips and examples of how I work and how I think when I compose and make a macro shot.
A tripod helps you with focus
There are several things that are challenging and fun to work with extreme close-ups. The depth of field and focus, especially if the item you are photographing is moving, like insects or outdoor flowers that moves in the wind. Even though I make still life if toys, I have a great help of a tripod. The tripod is an easy way to succeed with your extreme close-ups. There is a great risk that your pictures won’t be as focused as you like them to be without using a tripod. If you work with hand-held camera a tripod can be an easy way to get the shutter speed you need to get enough light on the motive. Another way is to work with flashes or work with a high ISO. When I work in natural light, I work both with and without tripod, but indoors in my “macro-studio” I always work with flashes, and a tripod.
Decide what you want to tell
My experience is that the best pics I make are the ones where I know what I want to tell. I believe that the success behind most great photos is that the photographer tells his/her audience a story. The key to macro-photo is to know what you want to tell. When you shoot, you have decided what you want to portray, which story do you want to tell. If you know what story you want to tell that insight will help you to make the right shot. To show what I mean I have taken series of pictures below as an example, to show how I can change my story by changing perspective and focus.
The first picture is a story of Darth walking toward a couple of Stormtrooper, with a teddy in his hand. But that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell. I want to tell a story about hiding, not Darth Vader, and his Teddy, so I change the focus and the perspective and the final picture became this one.
But to get the selective focus on the lego-trooper I used a tripod. The light wasn’t enough to make the shot with a handheld camera, I couldn’t hold the camera still long enough. It got blurry. Another example on how I use the tripod and the perspective to tell my story is this series of shots.
The first picture is taken from the front, it shows the whole scene. It tells my story about the small macro-photographer and the work he does. I try it in a “wide-angle” first and then go a bit closer.
To get that I slowly moved my tripod so that I stand behind the Lego man, and here I'll try my way, move at times. But I’m not sure about the perspective, it tells no ones history or both characters story, and I want to tell a selective story, the one of the photographer. The story of the devotee macro photographer must have for its object, and for his cause.
To get that I slowly moved my tripod so that I stand behind the Lego man, and here I'll try my way, move at times getting more behind the lego-toy. Trying to find the right angle, the way to tell the story I want to tell. In this case the story about the love for the motive that a macro-photographer needs to have. In this picture it’s the flowers.
I move and try until I come to a position that I think depicts what I want to portray. Then I'll try different focal points, different ways to tell the story. For example it could be a story about “adult” trooper and how proud he is. I consider both stories, by adding selectively focus on one or the other mini-figs. And finally I decide this is the way I want to tell my story.
Depth of field is an other important part of being able to portray different perspective to my stories. With short depth of field the background often becomes blurred and flow together. This helps me to emphasize details in the story I want to tell.
So in short my tips are
- use a tripod to be able to get selective focus, where you want it
- focus on getting the picture to tell the story you want to tell
- try different perspectives, different focus points as part of your story
- have fun
Thank you, Kristina! Wow! How cool was that! I like to use my macro lens from time to time and I have a lot of fun doing so. Even though I lean towards the more usual suspects to photograph such as flowers and insects.
photo by Francine
Once we get that great macro shot, how can we work it into a scrapbook page? Teka used her macro shot as a focal photo, making a big impact.
Deb used two macro shots to help her tell a story.
I have paired my two macro shots with one bigger photo, another way to tell a story. In this case it is the story about how rain can be beautiful if you see the details.
Write. click. scrapbook. friend, Allison Waken used her very own cool lego shot on her awesome layout!
Fun, no? So here are my 3 challenges:
1. Practise and play with macro photography.
2. Use your photos to tell a story.
3. Put your macro shot as focal point on a layout.
And don't forget to have fun!