Maybe you’re a beginner, just got your first camera, and you’re trying to learn to navigate the world of photography. Or you’ve been photographing for a while, but you’re looking for something different, something new. How do you decide the best direction for your photography? How do you find that photographic genre that really clicks with you, that makes you want to keep venturing out of the house, keep improving?
This can be a tough problem. Newcomers to a photographic genre aren’t necessarily aware of the benefits and drawbacks of that genre. But as you gain experience, you start to understand what that type of photography is all about, and maybe you wish you had known some of those things at the beginning…
Why shoot macro?
I’m primarily a macro photographer. And, after a few years of practice, I’ve noticed certain characteristics of macro photography that make it distinct from other photographic genres. Aside from the whole, “We shoot small things” bit, I mean. These might not be obvious to the newcomer but can become significant in the long run. So I’ve compiled a list: six reasons why you should be a macro photographer.
Before I begin, a quick note: if you find all (or some) of these reasons appealing, then maybe macro photography is the thing for you. And if that’s the case, I encourage you to subscribe to this blog, where I will be offering a number of things over the coming months (totally free!).
For instance, I’ll be offering instructional content, both for the beginning and the more advanced student of macro photography, in which I take you through techniques that will help you grow as a photographer. I’ll also be offering photographic exercises, assignments, and challenges, designed in response to some of my struggles–so that you can improve faster than I ever did. And I also intend to take a very hands-on approach to this blog. At various points, I will encourage readers to submit photos to me, for comments and critiques–again, totally free, no caveats! Helping others to grow as photographers is simply something that I enjoy.
So, without further ado: six reasons why you should become a macro photographer!
1.) The locations are accessible
Unlike many genres of photography, macro photography subjects can be found within minutes of your home. Flowers, trees, shrubs, insects: these are the ideal subjects for a macro photographer, and they exist all around us. It might be as easy as stepping out into your garden or walking up the street to the neighborhood park.
Even if you can’t think of a good location off the top of your head, try a Google search for local parks and nature areas. If you’re lucky, maybe you even have nearby botanical gardens. Wherever you are, I can almost guarantee that you can find some excellent places to shoot.
2.) Macro photography requires minimal planning
Just want to find some subjects and start shooting? Then macro photography may be the thing for you. Not only are good locations easy to find, but there’s not much advance scouting or detailed planning required for a shoot; you can do macro photography in several different types of weather, and the flowers will stick around, regardless of the time of day, regardless of the crowds. With macro photography, it can really just be about getting up and out! Of course, certain subjects may require more careful preparation–but in general, this isn’t something that has to be on the macro photographer’s mind.
3.) Macro photography doesn’t require strenuous activity
Certain forms of photography can be quite physically demanding. For instance, it’s not unusual for the bird photographer to spend several hours crouched in the mud, crawling towards that elusive sandpiper on their elbows and knees.
Macro photography? Not so much.
Once you’ve found your subject, you’re free to explore it from various angles. Standing, sitting, kneeling, lying down; all of these are potential points of view for the macro photographer, and you can choose as many or as few as you like.
Are there advantages to spending time on the ground like a contortionist, attempting to make that subject go in front of that background? Certainly. But is it necessary? Absolutely not.
4.) You can do macro photography as part of a social outing
If you’re a busy person (as most of us are) you may have trouble carving out time to actually do photography. You’re working, have kids, trying to keep up a decent social life…Maybe you wonder if you really have time for a hobby.
Well, the thing is: macro photography doesn’t have to be intense, involved, solitary. Macro photography doesn’t require hours of waiting or long journeys off the grid. Nope! As follows from Reason 1 and Reason 2, macro photography can be done while having a walk in the woods, or at the park. Which also happen to be ideal locations for social outings. Try bringing a friend along!
Don’t get too caught up, though! Otherwise, your friend might decide that you’re an unresponsive conversation partner, and choose to pursue other relationships…
5.) Macro photography can be done in the middle of the day
Many types of photography–especially nature photography–are best done during the “golden hours”: early morning and late afternoon. But for some of us, these aren’t the ideal times to be out and about. During the week, we’re too busy, and during the weekend, maybe we want to sleep in, maybe we’ve got things going on.
Which is no problem for the macro photographer.
See, you can get fantastic macro images with a rather common type of midday weather: cloudy skies. When those clouds roll in, the light becomes diffused and soft–which is ideal for capturing evenly lit images of flowers and small nature scenes.
And you don’t have to ruin that nice long weekend sleep-in to get it.
6.) Macro photography gets you out and in nature
Over the course of our lives, we can get caught up in our social calendars, our jobs, the fast pace of technology. We find ourselves spending more time in the work cubicle, or in front of the computer. We find ourselves getting outside less and less…
But macro photography will give you that push. It’ll force you outside, make you start taking walks, breathing in that fresh air. Carefully observing the trees and flowers. Appreciating nature.
Even if you feel that this isn’t something that you want at the moment, I encourage you to try. Sometimes, it takes actually doing an activity before you realize how much you need it.
When I do macro photography, it can be almost meditative. Because it forces me to take a second, to stop, to think about the natural world that exists around us. To figure out how to communicate it through a single image.
It’s powerful stuff and makes me feel more at peace.
To sum up…
Macro photography is an excellent path to follow. The subjects are easy to find, the conditions needed are flexible, and it’ll be good for your overall well-being.
Of course, even if you find none of these reasons appealing, you may still like macro photography. Maybe you want to spend time searching for locations off the grid, or you want to stretch your body to its limits. The thing is, macro is a flexible genre. There are opportunities to take it in many different directions. Just because something isn’t required doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
So I encourage everyone to give it a try. It may be just the thing you need…as you start your photographic journey.
About the author: Jaymes Dempsey is a nature, macro, and bird photographer based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his work on his website, Flickr, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.