“You don’t take a photograph, you make it,” the famous photographer Ansel Adams once said. While this applies to all photography, it rings particularly true when it comes to capturing the micro-world.
So, how do you learn to take – or make – a great macro shot? Judging by this inspiring video put together by Jonas Oliveira of the Mobile Photography Blog, the Nokia photo artists at his online photo community seem to have nailed it. Having seen their dazzling photos in the video, we decided to ask them their secrets in order to create a definitive guide to mobile macro photography. This is what they told us.
On using flash
“Use flash to freeze the moment and avoid any blur. While shooting water drops, it will also give you an awesome sparkling effect. But use it wisely!”
“Flash can be very useful with insects, it will freeze them when they’re moving fast. To avoid a too obvious flash effect, take your shots in as bright light as possible, such as on a sunny day in the summer.
“Manually pre-focus when shooting. Taking a macro shot is all about the moment. By setting the focus to manual and adjusting it to a short distance, you can take the photo immediately when the right time comes.”
“I would avoid using the physical capture button on the phone for macro shots, because that could produce shakes upon pressing and make the shot blurry. Sometimes, if I need a specific focus for a moving subject, I focus on anything that’s perfectly still at the same distance before approaching my real subject, just in case it gets scared and tries to escape.
“The photo’s edges can easily become really blurred when you use a macro lense. To reduce that effect, aim for a single-colour background.”
“Keep a steady hand or use a tripod. Because the focus distance in macro is so minimal, just a slight shake can result in blurry images – even if Optical Image Stabilization on our PureView devices does help a bit.”
“Try shooting when the sun is low in the horizon (early morning or sunset), and try finding a shaded area if the sun is high and bright. Shoot subjects that are backlit for vivid colors.”
“Experiment with different angles, especially when shooting outdoors, and your picture will get a beautiful effect for free. Maybe, if you move a little bit to your left or right, you won’t cast a shadow on your subject, or you will catch a ray of light shining through the foliage or on a drop of water.”
On cropping and zooming
“If you own a Nokia Lumia 1020 (41Mp) or even the Lumia 1520 (20Mp), use those extra megapixels to your advantage. You can zoom in or use the full resolution mode and crop later to get in all those details and still have a good resolution in your final photo.”
“Try going for only 5MP on the Lumia 1020/1520 or 8MP on the Lumia 920/925: you can get really close while the image quality is still great without zooming. I used the Lumia 920 and the Nokia 808 PureView with 8MP and a lense. To me, that’s the best resolution without cropping after the shot.”
“With a Lumia 1020/1520, the lossless zoom allows you to get closer to anything.
The Lumia 1020 has a minimum distance of about 15cm to focus, which isn’t always close enough, so the lossless zoom is an awesome way to be as close as possible. I would advice to use the zoom at 5 MP and crop a 34/38MP full resolution picture. I’ve had my best results with the focus when zooming and then focusing precisely on the subject.”
“If you are using a Nokia Lumia 1020 or another Lumia that supports RAW format, shoot in dual mode (JPEG + RAW) and use a photo editing software like Adobe Lightroom to edit your photo afterwards. For me, RAW and macro photography go hand in hand.”
“Use depth of field to give additional drama to your photo. By creating some distance between your subject and the background, you can create an amazing out-of-focus effect.”
“The bokeh effect or shallow depth of field is what makes a macro picture really perfect and artistic. If you want to capture an insect on a plant, for instance, walk around it and find the place where the distance between the insect and the background is at its maximum, as well as including as few other objects as possible.”
“Macro photography is the hardest kind of photography,” says olivierbxl from the Mobile Photography Blog, and this is exactly why these tips come so handy. Talking to the photographers featured in the video, the one thing that cropped up time and time again was that you have to be patient. You will probably need several shots to get it right, so just keep trying. Then, keep the failed ones to yourself and showcase the pics that hit the jackpot, such as the awesome shots within Jonas’s video. That’s how you’ll get the wow-effect, and that’s what will inspire you to carry on shooting. And finally, as magushi72 and Ashish04 pointed out, always clean your lens!
Did you learn something new? Anything we should’ve included but we didn’t? Please join the chat in the comments below, and give some love to your favourite photographer in the video, too. I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.
Cover image by detkodave