I recently took a group of students out to a local garden to learn a bit about macro photography. So many people buy a macro lens, but then get frustrated trying to shoot without learning a little bit first. I know, because I DID IT TOO!
With a little bit of guidance and some pro tips and tricks, they were shooting in no time. As I was not in my studio, I had to carry and take everything with me, so I had to pack (relatively) light. It really got me thinking about what I really needed to shoot macro while out and about.
This is a no brainer, right? The funny thing is I spent most of the time with my camera off the tripod. I actually used the tripod for other things, but we’ll get to that. I’ve covered tripods before, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Just know that I rarely travel without one.
This ingenious little device is a lifesaver in and out of the studio. I can connect it to a tripod leg (or branch or table) and then hold flowers (or other things) steady. It can hold light blockers or diffusers … and so much more. It is sturdy and the grabbing end has foam so it doesn’t damage flowers and such. I love it.
Oh my, can these give you a creative edge to your macro images! Not everyone will enjoy the abstract stylings, but I am sure for some of you they will make your heart sing.
I wrote a few posts on using them for portraits and out in nature previously, in case you missed those. Some people use a Lensbaby for a similar look, which I’ve only been able to play with once. It’s still slightly different, though.
Macro ring light
I adore my macro ring light and have written about it before; it is so useful when you are in shade or poor light. Sometimes just shooting macro creates shadow and blocks light, so this is a super handy tool. Read more about them here. Without additional light, it can be hard to focus and get well-lit images. The macro ring light is the perfect macro companion.
Lensball (or crystal ball)
Lensball is really just a brand, but the rise of the crystal ball for photography has had its ups and downs. Even though I might not take it on every shoot, it is loads of fun to play with. It’s great for macro or landscape, and terrific for cityscapes too.
While it might be a little tricky to start with, it’s super easy to work out. Have your background blurred or in focus — totally up to you. Have the scene upside down or right way up (fixed in post), also totally up to you. Just be wary around direct sunlight, as they can get super hot!
Extension tubes can make almost any lens a macro lens, or make a macro lens a super macro lens. They can be tricky, but if you allow yourself permission to fail. Doing so will let you learn the knack of them very quickly and learn to love them too. You can learn more about them here.
4-way macro rail
If you are looking at doing some stacked macro shots to achieve perfect focus throughout your bug or flower, then a macro rail is perfect for nudging your focus point along. See how I focus stack using a macro rail.
Water spray bottle
So simple, but still a must is a spray bottle with water. Some gardens are regularly watered and that’s great, or go just after the rain, but if there are no dew drops, you can make you own. I love fresh dew drops (real or otherwise) for reflections, refraction and to make flowers look really lovely.
There are loads of other things that are great to play with — black or white foam core, colored paper to give your flowers a background, as well as netting or fabric to shoot through. But these are my go-to favorites. Perhaps you have some you can add to the list?