Fun with Macro Photography

Fun with Macro Photography

Macro photography has been on my bucket list of photography genres to experiment with for a long time. Unfortunately, a good macro lens is not cheap and, since I have no use for it for my commercial work, it is not an expense that I can easily justify. However, I am a firm believer that when you make a living with your photography, it is essential to work on personal projects to keep your passion alive and fresh.  Just like the fish eye lens, the macro lens is the perfect toy for any photographer.  I received one for my birthday last spring and my adventure into the world of macro discoveries and challenges began.

It took a few shots to get the timing right but I learned a lot in the process!

Like many photographers, I concentrated first on capturing macro images of flowers and insects. I enjoyed it and learned a lot, but quickly realized I wanted to try other things. Besides, there is snow cover for four to five months a year where I live, so opportunities for outdoor macro photography are limited.  I decided to step up my macro photography efforts and experiment with other shots.

There are many great macro tutorials available online, but I enjoy creating my own experiments and learning that way.  Part of the fun for me is figuring out the setting that will get the right shot.  I also prefer looking at pictures over tutorials for inspiration.  Most online tutorials give away the exact settings you need to get a particular shot. What’s the point of that? They may be a good place to start, but you will have more fun and learn more “off line.”  Photography is a craft that is best learned by trial and error. To achieve real skill and experience, figure out all the settings by yourself by photographing those things that interest you.  I’m confident you will quickly learn how to get that perfect macro shot on your own.

Although I occasionally shoot macro handheld, I use a tripod and a remote trigger most of the time.  (You can also use the timer on your camera.)  Keep in mind that macro photography requires you to shoot at a really small aperture (big numbers) in order to get the most depth of field possible.  And the slightest camera shake will ruin your shot, so be sure to use a good, steady tripod.

What do I shoot with my macro lens?  I still enjoy getting close to beautiful flowers, but I have found many other interesting subjects around my house.  Once you start seeing things up close, you can’t stop looking for new things to shoot. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your macro lens. There are hundreds of fascinating subjects around you right now!  Macro photography is much more than photographing flowers and insects – it’s a unique way to see, and experience, everyday objects. Put a macro lens on your wish list and maybe your own amazing adventure will begin in 2012!

I had never paid much attention to those old French coins until I decided to experiment with macro photography!

Water and oil don't mix! Here the glass dish was set up over colored pencils to add interest.

This broken pocket watch was just too beautiful not to take a closer look!

Open your refrigerator, I'm sure you'll find a few interesting subjects in there!

Of course, I will always love photographing flowers with my macro lens but there is so much more out there, just look around and dare to experiment!



 Note: The photos above were shot with the Canon macro 100mm f/2.8 on 5D Mrk II

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Valerie Jardin I live and breathe in pixels! Photography is more than a passion, it's an obsession, almost an addiction. When I'm not shooting or writing, I spend my time teaching this beautiful craft during photo workshops all over the world! I am also thrilled to be an official X Photographer for Fujifilm USA. Visit my Website Follow me on Facebook , Twitter , Instagram. And listen to my Podcast!

Some Older Comments

  • Sc Puri October 2, 2012 03:18 pm

    Certainly an amazing article. I am sure to get benifited. I have a point and shoot Canon Powershot S5 SI with macro and super macro facility. I am trying to do macro but am not very happy. your article may help.

  • Rolf January 26, 2012 08:41 pm

    Just another way taking Macro-Shots. "Enlarging Lenses" is the key. This lenses are widely available for low money. If you add a reverse ring and perhaps a bellow ore extension tubes you can assemble a powerful Macro equipment giving stunning results for a few $. A good starting point for Macro beginners and enthusiasts as well.

    I'm using currently the Nikon EL 50/2.8 in this configuration. More details about the NIKON Enlarging lenses can be found here:

    You will also find a PDF File with a full description of the NIKON EL 50/2.8

    Some pictures taken with the NIKON EL 50/2.8 in reverse can be found here:

    Have fun and good light

  • Wai Li January 26, 2012 09:00 am

    This article had a positive effect on me. YAY. Off to experiment.

  • ArianaMurphy January 18, 2012 01:02 am

    What a great article! Very clear and down to earth. Thanks for writing!

    I'm surprised more people haven't mentioned the extension tubes. They are an affordable and versatile alternative to an expensive macro lens. They can be used on virtually all your lenses, including the long zooms, which helps get right in on insects without scaring them away. Here's one of the first shots I took with my new set a few months ago. The lighting was just the fluorescents at my office.

    Looking forward to more experimenting over the winter!

  • marius2die4 January 17, 2012 11:53 pm

    Somme of my picture with Sigma 150mmf2.8

  • Dave Dornberg January 16, 2012 12:09 pm


    I enjoyed your article and your creative images. I've read some of your other articles in the past and enjoyed them too.

    Someone above said that when winter comes, there's not much to shoot. I disagree because with winter comes snowflakes, ice crystal, ice and other beautiful things to shoot in the great outdoors. I started shooting snowflakes with a point and shoot in 2003 using an old 50mm 1.4 FD from my old Canon film camera attached to my Powershot G3 in reverse using a step down ring.

    After that I purchased a Canon 100mm F2.8 USM with Kenko extension tubes and then onto the Canon 65mm MPE which is a dedicated macro lens. With this lens I now shoot snowflakes at 5 times life size. I converted an old Bessler enlarger that I can mount my camera to using a ball head, a focusing rail and a stage allowing me to move the snowflake up and down to focus the camera.

    The Canon 65mm doesn't focus in the usual way. You must move the camera or the subject closer or farther away from the camera to focus because there is no focusing ring. As you change to lens length you also change the magnification of this lens.

    I love to shoot insects, spiders, water and flowers too. There is no end to the subject matter that you can find for macro images.

    Here are examples of my work:

    Good luck and happy shooting!

  • Rolf January 15, 2012 07:19 pm

    To understand Macro-lenses, Macro extension tubes and close-up lenses Cons and Pros there is a very complete site with all you need to know. Just visit Cambridgecolour

    Good light


  • Jim Cowardin January 15, 2012 01:21 pm

    I am having some fun with magnifying lenses, I guess is what you call them. They are X1, X2, X4, and putting the 2 and 4 together gives me a X8, I guess. I have some orchids that are great to shoot. Will try to branch out a bit too. What is the major difference between a macro lens and these magnifiers that I am using?

  • Karthik January 15, 2012 09:42 am

    Really valuable info..and the white rose is the best of these..:)

  • Hassan Alsaffar January 14, 2012 06:22 am

    Thanks for sharing your knowladge with us. I like your photos.
    Keep it up.
    All the best.

  • PaulB January 14, 2012 06:08 am

    Lovely photos, you've re-awakened my interest in this subject. I used to have a 105 macro, then got rid of it; wished I hadn't

  • valerie Jardin January 13, 2012 07:52 pm

    Thank you all for the comments and for sharing your work with the community! @Lori and Rebecca I highly recommend the Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro but there are other great choices. I would suggest visiting B&H photo video website for added information and customer ratings. I hope this helps! Valerie

  • Gerry January 13, 2012 11:51 am

    I bought a Macro lens AF-S Micro Nikkor 60mm 1:2.8 G ED for my Nikon D3000 in September 2011 and love it, I have got some fantastic shots with it. I was inspired by the blog today and initially took the pic without the cracked pepper and coarse salt, but the pic looks bland to me, so I spiced it up so to speak and love the result. Hope you do too.

  • Ed Drew January 13, 2012 09:30 am


    This I an excellent article, brief, to the point, with a great message. I recently got back into photography and have a great interest in macro photography. Your article reinforced my interest. I enjoyed all you photo's in particular, the coins and the pocket watch. I also appreciate your mentioning the lens used to capture these photos. Thanks again.


  • Lorie January 13, 2012 08:10 am

    What is a good canon macro lens? I own a Canon 7d. Thanks!

  • Rolf January 13, 2012 05:39 am

    Macro Photography is not only fun but challenging all the time. I'm using some Microscope Objectives on bellows. Still learning to get the most out of the equipment. Some Macro pictures, including stacks, can be found here:

    The web is in German, sry for that, but pictures talk themselves. I'm happy to answer questions about useful lenses or microscope objectives. Some setups can equally be found on the website.

  • Rebecca January 13, 2012 05:13 am

    Can someone recommend a macro lens for a beginner with a budget? I've been wanting one for my T3i!

  • Rich January 13, 2012 04:28 am

    Anyone interested in using a macro lens might like to get a set of extension tubes. Putting one on, or combining two together, allows you to get really close to an object. With this high degree of magnification, you really need some rock solid camera support like a tripod with a sturdy leg set and heavy duty head. I use a Bogen 3035 leg set and 3047 head. That combo easily supports my 4 x 5 camera, so a DSLR and macro lens are easily supported. This setup works great in a studio. In the field, I use a Calumet leg set that allows me to get on the ground and also equip it with a 3047 head.

    In addition, depth of field is really critical, so using the sweet spot on your lens is important. On my 30 year old Micro Nikkor 105mm f4 lens, that spot is f16-f22. Needless to say, using it on my D300s requires full manual operation for shutter speed and aperture. I also use an electronic cable release and lock up the mirror as well. The self timer can be used without the cable release. Shooting closeups is really a lot of fun and you see things from a new perspective.

  • Jill January 11, 2012 10:13 am

    Learning to use my camera and take better pictures is on my bucket list this year.
    A macro lens is way out of my budget, but just yesterday I bought a set of macro filters for $10. Totally worth it! I'm even happier with them than I would be with a lens considering they're so affordable. Thanks for the tips on where to find inspiration!

  • Sherry January 10, 2012 11:56 pm

    I've had a macro lens for a while - actually was my first lens to purchase outside of the kit lens. I don't always use them as often but I always go back to them - love shooting macro outside & my region's mild climate allows me to get out almost everyday. Here's one I took yesterday.

  • sandeep Menon Photography January 10, 2012 06:48 pm


    very nice article on macro photography. As everyone knows a decent macro lens will cost atleast some 500$ hence many hobbyst like me cannot afford the same.

    I bought one raynox DCR 250 from ebay and combines it with my 50mm prime lens and Youngnou 468 flash gun for my macro photography (on budget).

    I always shoot at high F stops ( f18,F22 etc) and my external flash gun helps me to light up the scenes. So far pretty happy with my cheap macro set up.

    you can visit my face book / flickr photstreams for some samples.

  • hugh January 9, 2012 10:55 pm

    Time On My Hand
    Canon EFS 60 mm f/2.8
    Shot from a tripod.

  • NCS January 9, 2012 08:51 pm

    Great article. I've just bought a canon 100mm f/2.8 IS USM macro lens and it is just great. It gives a lot of opportunities to take some pictures even without leaving the house. Here is a little example:

  • raghavendra January 9, 2012 07:11 pm

    wow i tried a similar one

  • Cynmarie January 8, 2012 02:25 pm

    This is simply amazing and has given me courage to become one with my camera. I'm really enjoying this blog, found it only after reading the profile on ProBlogger. I am learning so much here.

  • Jeff E Jensen January 8, 2012 10:41 am

    The oil and water can be a lot of fun. It's a good way to kill a cold, winter afternoon. I hadn't thought about the colored pencils, good idea. Here's some I shot last winter, time to try it again.

  • J S January 8, 2012 10:13 am

    Don't forget you can do macro on the cheap with a handeld digital camera.

    Fun subjects are to photograph matchbox/hotwheels cars. I have one that I played with (its the header on an autoparts web site I'm working on), the wood desktop looks like rain-slicked pavement, colorized lights and paint on the cars along with adding burning rubber smoke around the squeeling tires.

    As for the months of snow .. there are some great subjects outside just poking through the snow, or the flakes themselves.

  • Peter Krahulik January 8, 2012 07:41 am

    Thanks for the nice tutorial and great photos. I took this free hand this summer shortly after I bought my Tamron 60mm f/2 1:1 macro. I think it is a nice combination of macor and portrait lens.

  • Valerie Jardin January 8, 2012 06:18 am

    @Kentser: I am quite a minimalist when it comes to lighting. For those two shots I used window light and a reflector.
    @Biggs: The coins were shot using a daylight balanced light and reflector and processed in Lightroom with a custom B&W setting.
    I hope I did not miss any questions, let me know if I did.
    I hope this helps. Have fun!

  • Biggs January 8, 2012 06:09 am

    I really liked the shot you did of the coins. Mind sharing a bit about your lighting set up for that shot and some about any post processing you did? I thought the color was great and thought the texture stood out really well.


  • Mairi January 8, 2012 04:57 am

    I too couldn't resist and purchased a 105mm macro lens for my Nikon D7000...still learning how to use it, but here are a few of my shots.

    [eimg url='' title='1']

  • Kentser January 8, 2012 04:36 am

    thanks for opening up new possibiliies!.
    one question: how were you lighting the pencils and water and also the kiwi fruit?

  • Valerie Jardin January 8, 2012 12:17 am

    Thanks for the link to the Bryan Peterson video, he is cool, I like his style! I experimented with the lemon shot a few weeks ago also but with a black backdrop, here is my version:

  • Stefano January 7, 2012 11:20 pm

    Plant details (that I usually did not notice)

    I am going to experiment more this weekend.

  • Simon January 7, 2012 09:48 pm

    I mostly use macro for photographing flowers and insects - well, those insects that will tolerate me holding a camera right up close, anyway. Butterflies tend to be pretty relaxed about it, but bumblebees seem to find me a bit more annoying...

  • Freakleaks January 7, 2012 08:53 pm

    Beautiful shots! The canon 100mm f2.8 also does great portrait shoots, u should try it!

  • raghavendra January 7, 2012 02:00 pm

    This is a good piece of article.
    one of my friends bought macro lens and it was costly
    i cannot afford them.

    I am continuing my mobile photography.

  • Average Joe January 7, 2012 01:46 pm

    Also! When looking for a macro lens, don't forget to check eBay! I got my USM 2.8 for a pretty great price.

  • Average Joe January 7, 2012 01:40 pm

    Gotta love macro! But I usually shoot at really large apertures... Guess it's time to try something new!

  • Mei Teng January 7, 2012 11:22 am

    Beautiful macro shots. Indeed, there are endless possibilities to explore when it comes to photography.

  • Zoli January 7, 2012 10:57 am

    I have just bought a Canon macro lens. Yes, it was not cheap...but I love it. :) And it is also good for portrait photos.

  • Scottc January 7, 2012 09:40 am

    A macro lens truly opens up a new world of photography, one very close to us that we never knew was there. Great article, and photos to match.

  • valerie Jardin January 7, 2012 08:45 am

    Thank you for the feedback so far everyone! Some nice images!
    @Erik, true, you can do some macro with out a tripod. I do it often outdoors. The depth of field will be shallow but it can have some nice effects too. Actually I did a blog post about that last Spring when I was just experimenting with my new lens and did not want to bother with a tripod:

    @Pat: Nice that you found a more economical alternative. It's better to shoot manual for macro anyways, even with the new lenses!

    Overall, I'm glad the article helped open new opportunities... Especially during the cold winter months when studio macro work can be a lot of fun!

  • Lane Pelovsky January 7, 2012 07:25 am


    Thanks for the ideas. I recently acquired a Macro Lens myself! So I'm interesting in trying these subjects out!

  • Pat January 7, 2012 06:53 am

    Yes the lens can run into money but there are plenty of bellows out there on Ebay. I just picked up a Nikon PB-4 for $200 USD. Of course you must shoot in manual...

  • Alanna St. Laurent January 7, 2012 06:11 am

    Thanks Valerie for more beautiful photos! I own the same lens you used, but I haven't used it much. With winter ushering in, I plan to set up a home studio in my basement and experiment with the macro lens. I also recommend using the mirror lockup along with the remote trigger (I use a 2-second timer) that will keep things nice and sharp!

  • Kapil January 7, 2012 06:08 am

    As always, a great article from Valerie. She's so precise and very clear, learning quite a few things.

  • hugh January 7, 2012 05:30 am

    An update: When I saw the macro of the pocket watch earlier, I thought, I have one of those (which also wasn't running) and dug it out. After discovering that it was made in 1903 and had been in the family from around that time, I thought to see if it could be made to run again.
    All it took was a cleaning!!
    Now, to take a macro of it. ;-)

  • Joshua January 7, 2012 04:30 am

    I agree that the colored pencils shot is amazing! That is such a creative use of macro photography. I, too, received a macro lens as a gift recently and this post has helped me think of more creative subjects. I was starting to run out of ideas for my Lego figs. Thanks.

  • Prateek January 7, 2012 04:08 am

    I have been doing some macro photography here and there. Initially started small with reverse lens technique and then graduated up to a true macro lens. Tokina 100mm f2.8 Macro.

    Here's an attempt from my flat balcony itself...

    You can see more attempts here as well

  • Kevin Brannan January 7, 2012 04:05 am

    Not sure my post worked, here's my attempt at the Bryan Peterson macro tutorial:

  • Katie January 7, 2012 04:00 am

    Thank you for this little nudge to put my macro lens on and play with it. The only time I have needed to use it was to photograph rins at weddings and I just haven't dialed it in very well. So I am going to pull it out and practice it until I have perfected it!

  • Kevin Brannan January 7, 2012 03:52 am

    Looking to get the Canon EF 100mm f2.8L too as I just started getting into macro too. Here's my attempt at the macro shot Bryan Peterson showcased in Guillermo's post above (except I used two Speedlites instead of the sun!)

  • Jonny January 7, 2012 03:35 am

    I've found that a macro lens isn't essential, I got good results with my f/1.4 50mm and a set of cheap extension tubes. Wide open, DoF was miniscule, less than 1mm.

    Bubbles in a glass of water:

    Crumpled up rizla:

  • Dave Anderson January 7, 2012 02:39 am

    Nice article!

    A couple points:

    1. A true macro lens isn't an absolute requirement. For those with DSLRs it can be nice to have, but virtually all P&S cameras have a macro setting which enables some nice close up shots that *look* like macro shots.

    2. A small aperture (large number) definitely has it's place, but so does a large aperture. It's all about how much focus depth one wants.

    The shot in the link (below) was taken with a 16MP $120 point and shoot. I don't regard it as a very good camera, even for a point and shoot, but still shows what is possible even on the very low end of today's cameras.

  • Mridula January 7, 2012 02:21 am

    The color pencils and water are mind blowing! Here is a small attempt of mine with flowers.

  • Erik Kerstenbeck January 7, 2012 02:20 am


    Great article - using a tripod with a radio trigger is a great idea to get ultra sharp images...good tip! For this macro, it was handheld, on the deck and a deep breath. I think I caught this butterfly quite nicely as it was landing!

  • Guillermo January 7, 2012 02:19 am

    A macro lens is definitely one of the first things I'll get as soon as I make the jump to a DSLR or micro four-thirds. The opportunities to discover beauty in the colors and textures of everyday objects you take for granted are endless. Bryan Peterson has a great video on YouTube on creative macro photography that really made me wish I had a macro lens:

  • sam levy January 7, 2012 02:19 am


    another great post with stunning pictures! lovely

  • THE aSTIG @ January 7, 2012 02:17 am

    Nice macro photos! Yes I agree macro is fun. I wonder what field of commercial photography you'rein that you don't use Macro? Just curious. In my field, macro is useful in capturing close detail shots of some of the intricate designs in an automobile, or aftermarket parts.

    I do Car Photography for

    Macro is very useful in my field in capturing stuff like logos, especially when sprinkled with droplets of water. Also tail or headlights and other intricate details.