Macro Photography Ideas & Inspiration
Starting out with macro and close-up photography can be a steep learning curve, but one question is shared between beginners and pros alike – what macro subject should I try next? We are going to run through our top macro photography ideas, macro subjects and techniques to try.
Leaves & Grass
Let’s start at the basics – leaves are found everywhere in many different species, colours and sizes. After flowers. it’s probably the first thing on everyone’s list when they get a new macro lens. The detail found in plants and leaves lends itself to be the perfect beginner macro subject. They are mostly flat, so focusing on a single plain is easy, and unlike some of the subjects we will look at later, they don’t move!
With some creativity and unique lighting, even the most basic leaf or blade of grass can become a wondrous landscape, or colourful abstract image. It still astounds us, the images that people create with something as common as a leaf. Of course, common does not mean boring when the complexity of life can be captured in such detail.
Oil on Water
If you want something more “abstract” then try one of our favourite macro photography subjects. Oil and water is a simple and easy macro idea you can try at home. All it takes is some olive or cooking oil on top of a shallow glass dish of water. Place coloured objects (or better yet, coloured lights) under the dish and the oil will create endless abstract macro photos as you stir and mix the solution.
We have spent many hours mixing water and oil, taking hundreds of unique shots. Change the lighting to get dramatic highlights and shadows and the angle for some depth of field. Change the colours and shapes under the dish to create entirely new looks to the scene.
It also works amazingly for macro videography, try some moving shots too!
Foam & Soap Bubbles
New macro photography ideas and subjects are easy to find around the home this is another simple one you can try without leaving the house. Similar to oil, bubbles are one of our favourite macro photography ideas for a rainy day indoors. Interesting lighting is important for capturing nice effects with bubbles. We use our coloured macro lights on bath bubbles to make vibrant abstract images with a satisfying texture.
Other types of bubbles work great too, and you don’t necessarily need a special coloured light. Try shaking a bottle of coloured dish soap and placing a light source behind it to shine through. Focusing on the bubbles can be tricky at first, but it can create some amazing ‘spacey’ images like the one below!
A subject commonly associated with macro photography is creepy crawlies. Most are so small that almost every image an insect you have ever seen will be a macro by definition.
If you don’t like insects, then looking at them up close isn’t going to help any phobias you may have. If you can handle it though, insects can be one of the most rewarding macro photography subjects out there.
Miniatures & Dioramas
If you are the kind that likes to create and curate everything that goes in front of the camera, then maybe try your hand at shooting some miniature scenes. Setting up a scene of models, figurines and scenery is time consuming, but the pay off can be amazing! We had good fun shooting some scenes using war gaming miniatures, find out how we created the shot below on our coffee table!
It could be LEGO figures in a constructed house, a battle raging between magical creatures, or a toy car sat on a tablet computer… taking the world around us and re-creating it in macro scale provides opportunities to create images that are not possible in true scale – including certain well known space movies!
Ultraviolet Macro Photography
When looking for macro photography ideas, not many people would think of closing themselves in a pitch dark room, but that’s exactly how these images are created. If you want to try this technique, all you need is a pure UV light source like our new UV lighting arms. Long exposures in dark environments allow the natural florescence of the world around us to be captured by a camera, and the results can be spectacular.
Most plants and animals will have some degree of UV florescence, and many household objects too. The results you can get from subjects under a pure UV light source are mind blowing. We wrote a guide on getting started with UV photography if you wanted to learn more about this amazing technique and give it a try yourself.
Most of us will be familiar with Instagram pages full of food photographs, but getting close up shots is not something you can always do on your iphone. Next time you are looking for macro photography inspiration, look no further than your fridge!
Experiment with the food you eat every day, or more exotic foods if you have them! Most things you have around your home can be very interesting to see up close. Showing people things they see every day and having them guess the subject can be fun. You and your fruit bowl will be the life and soul of the party… probably.
Fire & Smoke Photography
Smoke can be tricky to light, but the amazing patterns and effects as the air blows make for amazing images. Try adding coloured light like Bob has done int this image to turn white smoke into an ethereal rainbow!
Fire produces it’s own light, so can be fun to photograph. Interesting shadows and unpredictable flickers can be a good challenge for those not used to light producing objects.
Experiment with Lasers!
We saw some lasers earlier, but capturing the beam is only one way to use them in your photography. Due to their precision, they can have some creative uses with long exposures. In the image below, Derek Dewey-Leader has used his Laser Lighting arm to create a pinpoint light source inside the shell. With the red laser light emanating from inside, a blast of UV from outside shows the external shape of the shell.
Do you feel inspired? We hope so! Remember, this list is not exhaustive and we always encourage people to keep experimenting. If you have any more macro photography ideas and subjects, leave us a reply below (not flowers, everyone knows flowers!).
Want to take your macro photography and creativity to the next level? Have a look at our introduction to continuous macro lighting, or download the guide below.
All of the images in this article were shot using Adaptalux Lighting Studio, by our team and our customers. If you already have a studio, share your images with us on social media using #adaptalux, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.