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Today I thought that we would discuss the photography rule that is, for some people, way too personal: close-ups. The idea behind the photographic close-up is a simple one. Basically the photographer zooms in on the intended subject so that that subject fills the photographic frame and becomes the largest object within the photo.

Let’s Get Started

Think about the close-up like this: you are standing in the middle of a field of wildflowers and you want to look at just one daisy. So how do you accomplish that? You survey the field for the one flower you really want to study and you walk over, crouch down, and inspect that one daisy up close. The whole act is simple, obvious even. But for some reason, people did not always follow this instinct when they have a camera in their hands. Instead they tend to zoom out and placed their subject in the middle of a very large scene. That is fine if your subject is a mountain, but not so useful if it is a daisy or an insect or even a human.

My suggestion for every budding photographer is, when in doubt, zoom in. So what will zooming in accomplish? Well, first, if the subject is the largest thing in the photo, then it will be easily noticed by the viewer. Having the subject fill the frame in this way works especially well to help minimize distraction from a busy and cluttered background. Second, when dealing with multiple subjects in a single photograph, you can make viewers understand which subject is the most important by making it the largest in the picture.

Some photographers take this technique to extremes and focus almost solely on getting close-ups of small subjects. These artists are known as macro photographers. Macro photographers essentially do the exact opposite of landscape photographers. Whereas landscape photographers tend to zoom out with their cameras so that they can capture as much of the scene around them as possible, macro photographers tend to zoom in on a single, small subject to examine every minute detail of that subject with their camera lens. Macro photography often requires the use of special macro lenses to capture all of the details of a subject, which is why I do not have many personal examples of it (since I currently do not own a macro lens). Primary subjects of macro photography include small insects, plants, flowers, and objects. You can also shoot macro photography of parts and pieces from larger subjects, such as the eye of a horse or the bark of a tree.

Let’s Break It Down

Close-ups:

“Thistle Fractures”

“Nectar Cup”

“Two Tone Susan”

“Aqua Dust”

“Vibrant”

“Virgin Beauty”

Macro photography:

“The Pollinator”

“Coiled In Wait”

“Pine Flakes”

“Lacy Anticipation”

Photographer’s Note

Because of its emphasis on detail, pattern, and texture, macro photography can create uniquely beautiful results. However, something to note, whether shooting simple close-ups or the extreme version of close-ups with macro photography, a narrow depth of field (i.e. having only one small area in hard focus) is unavoidable. This actually causes a nice result because the photo’s background will appear totally out of focus while your main subject is in focus. This means you will not have to worry too much about what’s going on behind your subject as long as nothing in the background is too distracting or jarring (i.e. more colorful, heavily textured, etc. than your main subject). If needed, please see my post on “Flashes of Perspective: Selective Focus Meets Depth of Field” to review how to use the rules of selective focus and depth of field in your photos before attempting this assignment.

For more information on macro photography, I suggest reading National Geographic’s
macro photo tips or Macro Photography Tips with Example Photographs and Images by Tanya Puntti

Homework

Shoot 15 images or more with at least five photos being macro shots. You can stage a few shots with found objects if you wish, but please go out and shoot natural elements like the insects, flowers, tree bark, animal eyes, and other things that I have previously mentioned to round out your photography experience. Remember that the way you light your subjects will be even more important than usual because these subjects are so small. You will need more light when working with smaller objects then you will with larger objects. The camera’s ISO will help with increased light sensitivity as will the shutter speed and aperture settings. Also, when trying to shoot subjects like insects, it is best to do so early in the morning when cool temperatures make them a little slower and, therefore, easier to photograph.

I’ll discuss the finer points of how to crop your close-ups in the next post. Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia