Still Life Macro Photography Tips

Last Updated on April 26, 2021

What is still life macro photography?

close up of wine and grapes

Still life macro photography is a subset of macro photography where you place an object, or an arrangement of objects on a surface and photograph it from every possible angle. The goal is to get as close to the subject as possible, filling the frame with detail, while also being able to capture light and shadows.

To do this well requires patience and practice but can produce truly stunning results.
Depending on your preferences, you can take still life macro photographs on a white background, or on a black one. This is a matter of taste and you will find that professional photographers have their preferences.

Like all specialized photography types, it requires specific gear and techniques. You need a macro lens that is capable of getting extremely close to the subject, extension tubes, or bellows in order to allow the lens to focus on the tiny subject from close quarters, and then there’s lighting choices which include reflectors and flash systems.

Still Life Macro Photography Gear

In order to do still life macro photography you need a lens that can focus on objects at a distance of 2-10cm/centimeter or less.

There are special macro lenses for this and they come in all flavors: fisheyes, extreme close up, portrait, etc.

The money you’re spending on lenses can be saved by using extension tubes or bellows. The former allows you to put relatively long focal lengths on your camera, while the latter is an absolute necessity for anyone taking close-ups. The extension tubes are expensive to purchase, but if you invest in a system that works well together, it will become an indispensable piece of gear. Extension tubes are usually made from glass and are much more resistant than the ones made from plastic.

A macro camera provides photographers with a number of advantages.

A macro lens is capable of producing brilliant photos, but it’s pretty hard to get anything meaningful when shooting very close up without the right lighting setup. Still life macro photography will certainly require you to use a flash or hope that the natural lighting is sufficient and you can go with a lower ISO and slower speed.

A tripod will also be needed. Shooting by hand allows camera shake and even the best image stabilization technology benefits from using a tripod when shooting still life macro photography.

If you are using a black background, have some kind of a light diffuser at the back to soften the light. If you’re shooting with too much light, your shadows will be too harsh which may spoil the image. A white background is more forgiving and lighting can be controlled better.

There are collapsible screens available in the market that suit all kinds of cameras. They are super easy to set up and collapse for storage or travel purposes. They come in different sizes to meet different needs.

Still Life Macro Photography Tips

1) In macro photography we are mostly after texture, shape and color. We want to produce images that have life in them and which show the emotion that the photographer feels when looking at the subject.

2) The way to do this is by getting as close as possible to the subject. Do not be afraid to fill the frame with light and shadow, textures or details. To achieve this you need to use manual focus, and zoom in on the subject when taking a picture.

3) Use a tripod so that camera shake can be easily controlled. Also take care to use a remote release cable or remote if your camera has one.. Select aperture priority mode on your camera so that you can keep the shutter speed low.

4) Pay attention to the background and not to overwhelm it with color, texture or patterns if you want a clean image.

5) Learn how to use the close up lens at its full potential.

6) Try out different types of backgrounds and lighting setups till you create something that pleases you.

7) Take pictures of everything!

8 ) Get into the habit of looking for opportunities to take pictures every day. It will help improve your eye and your creative thinking skills.

Bottom Line

Still Life Macro Photography can be a fun and rewarding hobby, but it’s certainly not for everyone. It takes time to learn, practice and perfect your skills. Once you’ve got a system going, however, it can be a stimulating way to improve your photography skills as well as provide you with endless hours of enjoyment.

The key thing we need to remember when shooting macro still life photography is that all the tools we use are there for our creative expression of the moment.