Macro photography brings its own kind of magic to the table. Macro photography ideas can be a great way to show ordinary objects in a new light, providing a challenge for new and seasoned photographers alike. If you're considering adding new photography projects to your online portfolio, macro photography might be a great place to start.
What Is Macro Photography
Macro photography is one that takes close-up shots of small objects, such as seeds, bath bubbles, and flowers. Strictly speaking, for photos to be considered macro images, the subject has to be magnified to larger than its life-sized equivalent. Macro photos can be captured in an indoor studio or in an outdoor environment.
How To Take Macro Pictures
True macro is accomplished with the help of a dedicated macro lens (if using a Canon camera) or a micro lens (if using a Nikon), which can be used to accomplish a minimum of 1:1 object magnification. However, even without a specialized macro lens, close up photography accomplishes its outcome of capturing a high degree of detail and texture in its subject matter with widely available digital cameras. The resulting macro images show a granular amount of detail that cannot be captured by the naked eye.
Using Everyday Objects as Macro Subject Matter
One of the best things about macro photography is that it can make even the most ordinary subjects look fascinating. When looking to capture macro subjects, consider camera settings that leverage:
Depth of field
Texture and color
To help you get you started, here is a list of 38 everyday objects you can use to experiment with macro photography.
Fruits and Vegetables
To capture macro shots of fruits and vegetables, raid your fridge and get started. Fruits and vegetables provide a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes that can help bring an element of play into your macro photography. In addition, you can play with texture even further by cutting your subject matter into slices and unique shapes, such as cubes. Photographing fruit may seem like one of the more basic macro photography ideas, but capturing it through art is a human practice that dates back hundreds of years. In fact, humans have captured fruit through still life paintings as far as the 1700s, in the Baroque period.
Like fruits and vegetables, flowers can bring a variety of colors and textures to macro photography. When you think of taking pictures of flowers, you probably think of a bouquet. However, with macro photography, you will need to select the perfect flower blossom or stem to focus on. For macro purposes, white dandelion flowers are often used to help beginner macro photographers practice their craft.
At close inspection, leaves are not uniform. The texture of a leaf can vary from leathery to soft velvet. This is why using leaves to showcase texture is used as a popular exercise in photography classes when experimenting with macro photography ideas. The resulting macro images are sure to be rich in color.
Keep in mind that fresh leaves photograph differently from dried ones. If you're looking to showcase the delicate composition of a leaf, you are better off starting with dried ones as more of the details of a leaf's structure are apparent when the leaf is dry. One great thing about leaves is that all you need to practice your craft is to head outside and find your subject matter.
Introducing a flower vase into your composition brings a nearly endless list of possibilities to its contents. Considering its translucent nature, bringing a glass object into a macro photography composition can help bring focus to more vibrant subject matter in the shot, like flowers, feathers, or pebbles.
Like flowers and leaves, plants present a variety of textures to play with. If you don’t have any houseplants you can capture, you can head to the closest park for a range of macro subject matter. What makes plant macro photography especially appealing is that plant stock photography is on the rise in popularity. To get started with selling your photography, read this article about making money with your photography.
Water droplets are another great object to capture, but you don’t have to wait for a rainy day to do your photoshoot. Try dripping some water droplets indoors and capturing the way the light travels through the water. You can even add color or a thickener to the liquid, like xanthan gum, to achieve a variety of looks.
Foam and Bubbles
Bubbles are fascinating, and capturing them in macro shows them in a whole new light. Simply adding a few drops of dish soap to water gives you a base of soap bubbles to play with. When it comes to photo ideas, adding color and lighting can help your photography have more impact. You can use simple Lightroom tricks when editing your photos to help the color really pop. If you're not sure whether Lightroom or Luminar is the right editing software for you, see this helpful guide.
Carbonated drinks are another way to play around with bubbles and foam. Carbonated water can provide unique photo opportunities in the movement of bubbles through the drink, in addition to having unique colors of liquid to choose from.
Oil and Water
Oil and water are two substances that do not mix. When paired, oil stays in circular shapes that can be shaken into smaller drops, creating a unique macro image opportunity. Like with foam and bubbles, you can add color and lighting effects to add your personal touch to the shot.
Ice cubes present a unique photo opportunity because water, once frozen, takes on a texture that is unique from other formats of water. Try taking pictures of ice by itself or placing some in a colored liquid for an abstract look.
While capturing smoke on camera takes some practice, doing it well can result in striking photography. To play with smoke as part of your photoshoot, try striking a match and capturing the smoke after the light is extinguished. You can also try the same approach by lighting and extinguishing a candle in your home. Because smoke is a wispy subject to capture, try a contrasting background to help it show up in your photography with impact.
The concept behind capturing furniture legs in a macro shot is simple: it draws attention to the detail of an object that is not often the center of attention. This principle is at the core of a lot of macro photography. To do this shot well, try capturing ornate wooden detailing and even stitches on a close up of a piece of cloth.
Beauty can be found in small places, and cutlery handles are no exception. Cutlery symbolizes togetherness and generosity, and by giving cutlery handles a time to shine with their own shot, the result can be a quaintly captured expression of domestic bliss. Like with furniture legs, what makes this macro subject matter captivating is that it is an ordinary everyday object that gets to take the spotlight. Ornate, heirloom and vintage cutlery works best for this task.
Rocks and Stones
Rocks and stones make for great macro photos because of the variety of naturally occurring textures that develop over tens of hundreds of years. For instance, the look of a smooth beach pebble is very different from a cross-section of a red wall of brick. Because no two stones are alike, you have endless opportunities to play with composition and texture.
Like stones, tiles also present an opportunity to show off the texture. When it comes to tile, there is a captivating contrast between the repetitive pattern of tiles and the variance of texture in the spaces in between. Most people have tiles in their home that can be captured for a macro photo opportunity. Outdoors, cobblestone sidewalks are a popular subject matter.
Lego blocks have an iconic appearance and a shiny surface that can be fun to play with in setting up your photography shot. Placing lego pieces and characters in surprising environments can provide opportunities to play with scale and tell a story in just a single shot.
When it comes to photographing jewelry, macro photography is often used to help show off all the small touches that make up the final product. Because jewelry is a sentimental item, placing them in different environments can help add meaning and depth to the photo. When photographing jewelry, ensure that the detailing of any focal points like gems are captured by adjusting your aperture settings.
Sequins and Buttons
If you have some Halloween costumes lying around in your closet, now is the time to pull them out and get inspired with some colorful macro photography ideas. Capturing vibrant elements like sequins can give pause to an object that’s often seen in motion, and using a macro lens is the perfect tool for the job. When photographing sequins, adding light can help bring the object to life. In addition, capturing a button in a macro shot can make an ordinary and functional subject matter seem captivating.
With macro photography, many aim for static subject matter. To add a degree of difficulty, you can try photographing your pets. Getting them to sit still is only half the challenge, and capturing variances in depth of field that happen with movement can take a lot of setting adjustments. While difficult, pet macro photography can be one of the most rewarding. Try focusing on showing off all the texture of a snout, whiskers, or toes of your pet. Using treats can be a great motivator for your subject matter to stay still while you set up the perfect shot.
Anytime images feature a human or animal eye, the viewer is guaranteed to pause on it a little longer. This is because human brains are wired to look for non-verbal cues in the expressions of others. When it comes to photographing eyes, a macro photograph can help zero in on the expression of a person to communicate a certain mood in the photo. Humans can detect six basic emotions through facial expressions, including emotions, anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise, and layering them means the possibilities for photography ideas are almost endless.
No two fingerprints are the same, and that is what makes this macro subject matter interesting to capture. You can try taking a photo of a finger and show off the detailed grooves that make up a fingerprint, or try dipping fingers in different colorful substances like paint or glitter and leaving a fingerprint on paper.
Stationery carries with it a reflective frame of mind, making it a perfect subject matter for photography, macro not excluded. Try arranging pens, pencils, quills, stamps and notepads for a composition that puts the viewer in a pen-to-paper frame of mind with your images.
Handwriting evokes thoughts of nostalgia and adds a personal touch. This is why capturing calligraphy in a close up shot can transport a person to a different time when they were either the writer or the recipient of a handwritten note, sparking nostalgic photography ideas. These images leave a lot of room for play and expression of mood in the photo.
If you’ve ever looked at a bird’s feather up close, you know it was made to be captured through a macro lens. Feathers are made up of highly textured barbs that make the feathers lightweight and give them water-wicking properties. Feathers can inspire photography ideas because coloring is a large part of how birds attract mates, so feathers provide a wide range of hues, shapes and sizes to choose from. This makes them perfect for macro photography ideas.
Paint is hardly ever the focal point, but this material delivers a wide range of possibilities for macro photography. For example, you can try pooling different colors of acrylic paint on a canvas for a vibrant-looking shot. If you tip your canvas to the side to allow the different paints to mix and run across one another, the end result is called drip painting. Drip painting is known for its unique color, saturation, and texture combinations that make it perfect for macro photography. You could also splatter paint on a canvas at random to create a more abstract piece.
Tinfoil is a kitchen object used to line cooking pans, but in a macro photography context, it becomes a tool for reflecting color and light. Try crumpling up tinfoil in varying degrees and putting different color filters on your light sources for endless photo possibilities.
Coffee grinds, almonds, and rice. What do these three things have in common? They are all part of most peoples’ kitchens, and they are all granular in nature, meaning their details can be captured exceptionally well in macro. Seeds, beans, and other grains provide endless color and texture possibilities that show off nature’s bounty in your macro photography ideas. For such natural subject matter, consider how the images you produce communicate ideas like growth and home.
Insect photography is one of the most popular genres of macro photography. And rightfully so - finding insects in nature presents its own challenge in turning the ideas you envision into images. However, the different varieties of butterflies, moths, grasshoppers and beetles that nature has to offer means a variety of colorful subject matter for your macro photography ideas. If you happen to be in the right place at the right time, it can result in a series of once-in-a-lifetime images.
Insects are especially well suited for macro photography because their body parts include a lot of detailed elements, which can inspire ideas for your composition. For example, many insects have ‘compound’ eye, which is made of thousands of minuscule lenses that take in color and movement. This design makes them perfect for capturing in macro, with or without a professional camera lens.
Have you ever considered how tightly wound guitar strings are? What about the mechanism inside a harmonica that gives the sound its vibrato? Photographing musical instruments in macro mode puts a fresh perspective on familiar objects. This strategy can be applied to other man-made tools by giving viewers a glimpse ‘under the hood’ to show off features that make the object unique.
Mementos such as travel souvenirs or board game tokens can create macro photo opportunities that instantly transport people to a particular moment in their lives. When photographing this subject matter, try to place it contextually or remove the object from familiar settings entirely.
Another popular subject matter in macro photography ideas is to capture close ups of car emblems, which can be found in great range at your local outdoor car show.
Trees and Moss
Trees are always in a state of change. Whether it’s their leaves, blossoms, fruit, or simply the aging of bark over time, they provide a lot of range when shooting in macro. In addition, photographing moss around tree stumps can lead to surprise models as a lot of insects like to call mossy areas their home. Using a different camera lens setting to show texture is one way to photograph flora macro subjects.
Mushrooms make striking macro photography subjects. They prefer moist, shaded areas, and go through growth spurts after rainy periods. If you keep an eye close to the ground on your next nature walk, you may be lucky enough to come upon colorful fungus for your macro photography ideas. Mushrooms present a unique photo opportunity because they come in many shapes, sizes and textures, and often stand out from the background with bright colors, making way for a range of macro photography ideas to come to life. Be careful not to touch the fungus as some varieties can cause skin irritation or even chemical burns.
Another one of macro photography ideas is snow. Capturing a snowflake on macro is an experience in itself. At close inspection, images of snow are made up of intricate geometric snowflakes that seem too perfect to be true. Because snowflakes are heat sensitive, they provide a challenge in photographing them on an object such as a mitten or a glove. Since snow has a white hue, it makes it more difficult to make the snowflakes stand out in its natural environment. It's challenging to capture snowflakes without an adequate macro lens, but with the right lighting conditions, it can be done.
Shells are another natural subject matter that is well suited for macro photography. Whether you find them at the beach or have one as part of the decor in your home, the variety of shapes and colors is sure to translate to a striking macro photo. In addition, sand is one of those often forgotten macro photography ideas that makes for a rich close up.
Matches, Needles and Q Tips
Small, elongated objects like matches, needles and q tips make for great macro photo subject matter because they help guide the eye. In addition, making small adjustments in aperture can give you dramatically different results when photographing the same object. Capturing a string of thread going through the head of a needle is just one of the composition ideas that call for a macro lens to properly capture the grain of the thread and the polish of the needle.
Crayons and Pencils
Crayons and pencils are two macro photography ideas that leave room for a lot of creative shots because they are colorful by design. In addition, you can capture the objects in-use to add range to your photos. Lastly, both these objects have sentimental value as they transport viewers to a time when they were younger, which leaves opportunities for some meaningful photography.
Coins, which are small and ornate upon inspection, provide great subject matter for macro photography ideas. Try stacking different kinds of coins for your composition, or rifling through old change purses to capture some vintage coins, paying attention to how the metal ages over time to create your photos.
Make Macro Photography Your Own
Now that you have a better idea of the types of objects that can be used for macro photography, it's time to make the genre your own with your personal touch. Macro photos make a great addition to a photographer's online portfolio because they show off one's skill knowing which aperture, shutter speed, and camera lens to use. Once you have mastered macro photography, consider getting a few other specialties under your belt.
Looking for more photo shoot ideas? Check these out: