Fantastic subject matter may exist just outside your back door, so this spring, turn your backyard into a macro shooting environment. With macro subjects, sunrise wake-up calls aren’t necessary, nor do you have to schedule dinner around sunset light. Warmer weather is approaching, and the flowers and bugs await the sound of clicking shutters. Use all or some of my 10 quick tips and you’ll be on your way to capturing backyard macros.
Head To The Nursery
Subject matter will be dictated by where you live since every environment houses its own species. Based on your location, specific plants and insects will be found as their relationship is symbiotic. Throughout the spring and summer, certain plants and flowers will flourish. Plant your garden with ones that attract butterflies, moths, caterpillars and other insects that inhabit your area. Plant flowers you want to photograph, and monitor them daily so you capture each bloom at its peak.
Go online to see if a local college provides extension services. Contact the folks in the plant and insect departments to find out what’s native to the area. Ask the experts at the nursery what blooms at given times and what grows best to attract bugs. Visit a local botanical garden and talk with the old-timers for some inside info.
Monitor the Light
Monitor the path of light the sun provides throughout the day. Different times bring in different insects. If you use natural light, different angles will provide different looks to your photos.
Monitor the Bugs
Periodically examine the plants to see what comes in. Many bugs are creatures of habit and will return to the same location at the same time provided the plants are in bloom.
Put in a Water Feature and Feeders
If you want to attract native birds, set up a water feature and put out seed. Purchase the type of seed that lures them in. All birds need water, so set up a bird bath if you want a slam dunk way to attract them.
A true macro lens provides the best method to get close. Longer focal lengths work better as they provide a greater working distance between you and the subjects. This works great so you don’t scare them. Alternatives to get close are extension tubes, teleconverters and close-up filters. Dual element achromatic ones are the best.
Midday light is harsh. With macro subjects, flash can be used to overpower the sun. It can also be a source of fill. On overcast days when the shutter may be too slow to capture a sharp image, the flash can be used as a main light. The short duration of the flash helps counter camera movement.
Use a Diffuser
Direct overhead sun is harsh and cool in color. Use a diffuser to soften it. It works great with flowers. It can also be used to soften the light when you photograph insects, but be cognizant of the shutter speed. Make sure it’s fast enough to capture a sharp photo.
Use a Reflector
Reflectors are used to bounce light into shadow areas. If light is added to the shadows, it softens the contrast. White reflectors provide a soft light. Silver ones provide pinpoint specular light and gold ones add warmth.
Tripod vs. Handheld
Use a tripod for subjects that don’t move fast. If you need to create depth of field for flower photos, it steadies the camera when slow shutter speeds are required. For fast-moving bugs, it’s better to handhold the camera. If you use flash, go handheld. The fast duration of the strobe offsets camera movement.
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