Are you struggling to come up with amazing macro photography ideas? Do you need a bit of a creativity jumpstart? You’ve come to the right place. As a seasoned macro photographer, I’ve captured hundreds – maybe even thousands – of macro subjects, and I’ve come across plenty of great ideas along the way.
Below, I share my 14 favorite ideas for stunning macro shots, including ideas for photographing both outside and at home. And I’ve made sure to include options featuring a variety of subjects: flowers, insects, water droplets, household objects, and more.
Are you ready to start capturing some breathtaking macro images? Then let’s dive right in with my first idea:
1. Try water-droplet refraction photography
Water-droplet refraction photography is a macro classic that you can experiment with both indoors and outdoors. The concept is simple yet produces stunning results. Start by finding a slender object, like a blade of grass or a flower stem. Then, using a spray bottle, gently add water droplets until they hang precariously at the edge.
The magic happens when you place a colorful object a few inches behind the droplets, such as a vibrant flower or rainbow-colored paper. This background subject will be beautifully refracted through the water droplets, creating a miniature, upside-down image within each drop. When you get close – I recommend using a macro lens! – and focus on the droplets, the background will blur, drawing the viewer’s attention to the tiny, encapsulated scenes.
Achieving sharpness in the droplet while maintaining a blurred background requires a steady hand and a bit of patience. A tripod can be invaluable in these situations, helping to stabilize your camera for the perfect shot. But the result is always worth it: a mesmerizing, almost surreal photograph that shows a subject within a subject!
2. Photograph eyes
Photographing eyes up close is an enthralling experience, and it’s a great macro photography idea to try if you’re stuck inside. To start, find a willing subject (this could be anyone from a family member to a pet!). Make sure they’re comfortable with the process, as the technique requires them to be still for a bit.
With your macro lens, get close to the subject’s eye, then pay careful attention to what you see. Each eye is a world of its own, with distinct textures and hues. Experiment with different angles and lighting. Side lighting can accentuate the eye’s texture, while frontal lighting can highlight tiny details. Remember, the key is patience and experimentation.
Take plenty of shots. Macro eye photography is a game of precision and luck. Just be mindful of your subject’s comfort, and don’t overdo it. If all goes well, you’ll end up with a stunning close-up of an eye that reveals the amazing universe within!
3. Photograph feathers
When I first got started with macro photography, I had a blast photographing feathers – and I think you will, too! With their intricate patterns and vibrant colors, feathers make for fascinating macro subjects, and they’re very accessible; I recommend buying a few peacock feathers from your local grocery store, though you can always photograph the feathers you find while out walking! (Just make sure to clean them well and wash your hands – as with all things, you’re better safe than sorry!)
Anyway, whether you gather them during a walk or buy them, the key is to select more colorful feathers that catch your eye. I’d also recommend choosing larger feathers, especially if you don’t own a dedicated macro lens.
Shooting feathers from different angles offers diverse perspectives. A top-down view allows you to capture the entire feather in sharp focus, highlighting its symmetrical beauty and detailed structure. Alternatively, photographing a feather from a lower angle with a shallow depth of field will create an artistic blur with only a sliver of the feather sharply in focus. This technique plays with the viewer’s perception, turning a simple feather into an abstract macro shot that emphasizes form and texture.
Remember, lighting plays a crucial role in macro feather photography. Soft, diffused light can reveal delicate details, while more dramatic, directional lighting can enhance textures and create intriguing shadows. So make sure you try all sorts of different approaches until you get a result that you like.
4. Come up with a theme
Here’s an idea: Rather than limit yourself to a single subject, take a theme approach. What if you picked texture as a theme to develop? Take a second right now to jot down anything you can think of that has texture. Take a deep breath, relax, close your eyes, and let your mind go.
Use a mind map like the one pictured below. This is just a brainstorming method to generate creative possibilities. Here are just four random examples. These can lead to other tangent ideas, so write down all of your thoughts and edit your lists later!
5. Find lights in the background for amazing bokeh
And here’s how you do it:
First, find a subject that you really like. A flower, an insect, or some plant life will all work well. Choose a wide aperture (one in the f/2.8 to f/5.6 range). Then zoom in until you’ve isolated just your subject.
Here comes the important part:
Slowly move around your subject, while looking through your camera’s viewfinder. The key is to find a “bokeh-generating” background.
Now, bokeh-generating backgrounds involve light. The best bokeh often comes from bright lights and colors in the background. More specifically, look for pinpricks of light and colorful reflections.
For instance, sun coming through trees creates amazing bokeh – because the trees break up the light.
Leaves in golden-hour light also create gorgeous bokeh. The golden light on the leaves reflects and makes a creamy, colorful backdrop.
Most scenes have at least a few bokeh options – so don’t settle for a subpar choice.
Instead, use the bokeh to create a masterpiece!
6. Shoot into the sun for gorgeous backlit macro photography
Nature photographers often shoot using frontlight – where the light comes from over the photographer’s shoulder, and lands on the subject.
This often works well. But it can get boring after a while.
If you want to get creative, try using backlight.
Backlight comes from behind your subject. It’s great for creating silhouettes – and it’s also great for producing creative lighting effects.
The light can pass through part of your subject, making it turn translucent.
And backlight can also create bright flares of light. When done right, this creates some stunning effects.
However, you should position the sun carefully.
If you get the naked sun in your frame, the whole shot will be ruined because the sun is simply too bright to be rendered by your camera.
Instead, put your macro photography subject in front of the sun. That way, the sun is blocked from view. But you still get some gorgeous effects.
In fact, I recommend experimenting with this. Try changing your angle slightly, so that the sun is placed behind different parts of your subject.
You’ll manage to capture some stunning shots – shots that you probably wouldn’t have initially imagined!
7. Photograph utensils
Have you ever considered the artistic potential of your utensil drawer? Surprisingly, the silverware you find there can become star macro photo subjects!
You can use a few different approaches. For instance, by focusing on these everyday objects and shooting from above, you can craft stunning close-up flat-lay shots. A simple white or black background will accentuate their shapes and lines, transforming ordinary forks and spoons into intriguing subjects.
However, I’m more partial to a different approach, where you zoom in on a single part of the utensil and have fun capturing different abstract-style shots. Find a compelling point of focus – such as the tip of a fork prong – and let the rest of the utensil blur, creating a captivating play of focus and abstraction.
The beauty of this macro idea lies in its simplicity and the readily available nature of the subjects!
8. Shoot against a white sky for a gorgeous high-key look
Here’s a favorite macro photography idea of mine.
I use it all the time when I’m in a pinch!
Fortunately, it’s really simple:
Shoot against a white sky.
Let me explain:
One of the most important parts of a macro photo is the background. And without a beautiful background, your macro photos will often fall flat.
Now, the best backgrounds are simple and uniform.
And one of the great ways to create a uniform background?
Rely on the sky!
This works especially well on cloudy days. All you have to do is find a subject – then get down low. In fact, you often have to get lower than your subject.
Make sure that the background is completely covered by clouds.
Then photograph your subject and watch as it stands out against a gorgeous white backdrop!
(If the shot is slightly too dark, don’t worry. You can always lift the whites in post-processing.)
9. Capture dandelion seed heads
Dandelion seed heads are a treasure trove for macro photographers. These common garden plants transform into fascinating subjects under a macro lens. Start by choosing a large seed head (the bigger, the better; a larger subject allows for a closer, more detailed view of each delicate seed).
Zoom in as far as your macro lens allows. The goal here is to utilize the natural design of the seed head. Its flowing lines and repetitive patterns can create a visually pleasing composition. Try to arrange the seeds in a way that guides the viewer’s eye through the image.
Also, a complementary background is crucial, and for a bit of extra flair, lightly spray the seed head with water. This simple trick will add delicate droplets that enhance the overall effect!
10. Freelens for stunning selective focus
Here’s another great macro photography idea for when you’re in a rut:
I’m a huge fan of this technique – because it gets striking, unique images.
Here’s how it works:
Turn on your camera, and make sure that your lens is focused to infinity.
Then turn your camera off, and detach the lens.
(I suggest you use a backup camera and backup lens for this because there is a risk of damaging your equipment.)
Once you’ve detached the lens, turn your camera back on.
Note: With freelensing, you don’t focus by turning a focus ring. Instead, you focus by changing the position of the lens relative to the camera.
So keep the lens detached, and move it around at different angles.
Look for macro subjects, and see what happens when you shoot them with a freelensing setup. Also, notice how pulling the lens away from the camera increases the magnification of the lens. It also allows in more light – creating artistic light leaks!
Freelensing is a bit addictive. Once you’ve started, you’ll struggle to stop – because there are so many opportunities for gorgeous macro photos!
11. Shoot through a second subject for an incredible foreground
If you want an idea for especially creative macro photography…
…why not try ‘shooting through,’ or ‘cramming’?
First, find a macro subject. Flowers work especially well for this because they’re so colorful.
Get in close, and focus your lens on that subject. Choose a wide aperture, in the f/2.8 to f/5.6 range.
Then find a second subject. Place it in front of your lens. The second subject should be colorful – and ideally, similar to the first subject.
The second subject (which remains out of focus) will create a beautiful foreground wash. One that looks great in macro photography.
Now, you don’t want to completely cover your lens with the foreground subject. Instead, place it partially into the scene. That way, it will create a nice wash, without dominating the shot.
This may take a bit of experimentation. But if you’re patient, you’ll capture some gorgeous macro photos.
And your creative muscles will feel so energized!
12. Photograph stringed instruments
Do you have a stringed instrument at home? It might just be your next great macro subject. Instruments like guitars, violins, or banjos offer unique geometric patterns, which become strikingly apparent when viewed through a macro lens.
One captivating approach is to photograph the strings from a lower angle. That way, you can highlight a small section of the strings while allowing the rest to blur into the background. The result? A mesmerizing play of focus and blur.
To enhance your shots, pay attention to lighting. Natural light works wonders, especially when it accentuates the instrument’s contours. I’d recommend starting with window light, but you can always play around with speedlights or strobes if you have them. And remember: each lighting setup can dramatically change the mood and feel of your photographs!
13. Try photographing ants
Ants, though often overlooked, make for fascinating macro photography subjects. These tiny creatures are full of character and are surprisingly photogenic.
Your backyard or a local park are ideal locations for this; start by getting down on the ground and looking for ants crawling on leaves or grass blades. The larger the ant, the better for your macro shots.
Once you find a subject or two, get out your camera and focus in close. Switch to manual focus, then rock your camera back and forth to maintain focus as you follow your subject.
Keep in mind that photographing ants requires patience. Ants can move surprisingly fast at high magnifications, so be prepared to take many shots. It’s partially just a game of numbers: the more photos you take, the higher your chances of capturing a few exceptional ones.
And try to isolate the ant in your frame. A single ant against a simple background can create strong visual impact!
14. Capture paint
Macro photography can transform everyday items into abstract art, and painting is a perfect example. For this macro idea, any paint will get the job done, but I’d recommend starting with vibrant, thick paint for more texture and color contrast.
Start by swirling your paint on paper. The goal is to create an interesting mix of colors without overblending. Thick, bold strokes are ideal when trying this idea for the first time. You want to maintain distinct areas of color that have interesting swirls and overlaps.
Then, once you’re happy with your creation, set it up in good light (ideally near a window for natural illumination). Finally, with your macro lens, explore the colorful landscape you’ve created. Focus on areas where colors flow together or where the paint forms interesting patterns.
Remember that each shot can become a unique abstract composition, full of color and texture. The macro lens will capture details you can’t see with the naked eye, transforming your paint swirls into a mesmerizing macro world!
Macro photography ideas: next steps
Hopefully, you’re now feeling excited to capture some macro photos of your own. After all, you have lots of ideas for original, creative shots!
The key is to start putting them into practice. So grab that close-focusing lens, pick a subject or technique idea from this list, and have fun!
Now over to you:
Have any more macro photography ideas? Share them in the comments below!
Table of contents
- 5 Surprising Macro Photography Ideas to Jumpstart Your Creativity
- ADVANCED GUIDES
- CREATIVE TECHNIQUES