How Macro Photos are Captured

Macro photo of ice
f/11, 1/1250 sec, ISO 3200, no flash.

I love macro photography, I struggle to let go of my Sigma 105mm lens, or at least until it starts to weigh me down. Macro can either be a very niche genre or a popular genre; wildlife. As you can see I tend to go for a creative niche. I enjoy experimenting with macro because it can do some amazing things, sometimes I just go outside and try and find that little bug or insect to photograph or watch through my macro lens.

Macro photography involves photographing little objects up close, such as bugs and flowers. Macro photography may be done in a studio or outdoors as long as the subject is adequately magnified.

If you have never used a macro lens before, I highly recommend saving up for the Sigma 105mm and practice what you would like to shoot with your current digital, film or phone camera. Because of the genre I do, I don't use a tripod, however, it is highly recommended to use one for wildlife, although you need to have attention to detail, excellent time management and patience.

I have tried to use the extension tubes but I did not get along with them, nor do I use filters but experiment, find what works for you, extension tubes are not that pricy and are sometimes used instead of a macro lens, so it is a good choice if you cannot afford a good quality macro lens. You can use extension tubes on top of a macro lens, however, it is very hard to control your focal length and depth of field and you will notice the weight quicker.

Some of these, such as achieving appropriate depth of field and focusing on the most critical aspect of your subject, is more difficult than you may imagine. This took me a little while to get used to.

You should shoot at 1:1 magnification with good macro lenses, and some specialist alternatives go even further. Other macro photography lenses on the market may only go to 1:2 magnification or even less. Canon offers a macro photography lens that goes all the way to 5:1, or 5x magnification. I recommend purchasing a lens that can magnify at least 1:2 and preferable 1:1 magnification.

When I first got my macro lens, I immediately went out into my garden, I must have been out there for a good few hours capturing insects and bugs, that year I had a caterpillar infestation and bees were collecting pollen. You have to respect what you are photographing, if you respect wildlife, it will respect you, 90% of the time.

As you can see the subject in this photo is completely in focus, her wings are sharp and you can see the pollen attached to her body. If you are interested, the working bumblebees are female and the males aka drones do not collect pollen, bumblebees rarely sting, unless you provoke or anger them. If you get too close to them, they will investigate you. When photographing insects and bugs, wear dull clothes, otherwise, they may think you are a flower.

At 1:1 magnification, a lens's working distance is shortest since you have to get as near to your subject as possible to take such close-up photographs. Additionally, longer focal length lenses have a greater working distance than lenses with a shorter focal length. Macro photography lenses with great working distances include the Nikon 200mm f/4 and the Canon 180mm f/3.5, for example. A working distance of six inches (15 cm) is ideal, with double that or more being the best-case scenario. You may wind up frightening your subject or obstructing the light if your working distance is too short.

Both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras may be used for macro photography. The trick is to choose a camera that allows you to utilise a decent macro lens and, preferably, one that has as little lag as possible between seeing your subject, pushing the shutter button, and the image being captured. Due to lagging electronic viewfinders and fewer native macro lenses on mirrorless cameras, DSLRs have always had an edge in these two categories. Today, the differences are usually minimal, and mirrorless is occasionally preferred.

Full-frame cameras are typically overkill for macro photography if you want to take photographs with the maximum magnification possible. The Nikon D7500 has a slightly greater pixel density, even the Nikon D850 with 46 megapixels cannot match the possible macro detail of the Nikon D7500 with 20 megapixels.

I find Canon settings a tad complicated, which is why I use Nikon. Canon cameras do not compute aperture in the same way as other manufacturers. When shooting at extreme magnifications, such as 1:1, Canon cameras will falsely interpret your aperture value. It could indicate f/11, but the shot appears to be taken at f/22.

Black and white macro photo of skin
f/9, 1/500 sec, ISO-125. No flash. Led light.

What this is is macro combined with chiaroscuro, this is a very niche photographic macro style, I say that because it is like marmite, you either love it or hate it. This is my thumb, I tried to use a tripod but because of the angle, I was unable to, it was photographed with my right hand, with me abstracting and distorting my left hand, with my LED lamp up-close on a low setting but still very bright, in a dark room.


Getting used to what lighting needs to be used in different photography genres will become second nature to you. Eventually, you will look at the lighting and immediately think that will make for a great photo.

Twin Macro Flash

When the dual macro flash was initially introduced to the market for shooting close-ups, it was a huge hit. With twin flashes, you'll get light on both sides of your close-up subject by cleverly attaching the power/control unit to your camera's hot shoe.

Using a single Speedlite or flashgun attached to your hot shoe alone will result in obnoxious shadows. Twin flashes will fire at the same time, each splashing light on your subject and filling in the shadows cast by the other.

Ring flash

Ring macro flashes are the second-best option for macro illumination. Ring lights are increasingly popular, and I prefer them to twin light systems. Ring flashes provide a light that is flat and practically shadowless. It's a personal preference since some photographers prefer the effect while others don't.

The majority of us feel that ring lighting is superior to twin flash macro lighting.

Two crisp highlights, one on each side of your subject, are common with twin light systems. I find the appearance of two primary lights to be intrusive and unnatural. Ring lights, on the other hand, provide a softer, more pleasant appearance.


You have numerous design options for a single shoe-mounted Speedlight, whether it's a little lightbox like the one depicted here or a panel against which you'll bounce your flash.

The majority of soft box lights are made to fit around the head of your hot-shoe flash. There are additional versions where a reflection panel may be strapped to your flash unit to broaden the light source and soften the shadows.

Is flash necessary for Marco?

No. If you want dramatic lighting, use a flash otherwise I recommend leaving it behind.

Most of the time, I rarely pick up my flash, especially when capturing wildlife because more often than not, you will either scare the animal or overexpose your photo. Instead of using a flashgun, I used my smartphone torch and it actually benefited the theme of the image. So before resorting to your flashgun, try something out of the box.

Picture of transparent prawn in rock pool at night
f/1.8, 1/200 sec, ISO-1600. No flash. Smartphone light.

Photo in rainforest of a tree frog.
f/3.8, 1/160 sec, ISO-1250. No flash.

Image of rough coral at nighttime
f/4, 1/250 sec, IS0-1250. No flash. Mounted camera torch.