“Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close up.” I don’t think Norma Desmond had quite as much of a close up in mind as we’ll be highlighting here. Close up photography, macrophotography, and even photo microscopy are ways we can make stunning images of the tiny things that surround us.
We can examine methods, techniques, and an equipment list for close up photography in another post. For this post, we want to inspire some creativity by looking at some subjects and ideas that will cause a viewer to sit up and take notice.
Some of these macro photography ideas may require using specialized gear and advanced techniques. But nonetheless, many of them can be easily done with a good tripod.
Top 27 Amazing Macro Photography Ideas That Will WOW People!
1. Flowers – Flowers are probably one of the first ideas that photo enthusiasts will come up with when considering close up photography. A flower is pretty, and they are captive subjects. The only movement likely is blowing in the breeze. No specialized equipment needed for basic flower close up pictures. We’ll come back to flowers…
2. Leaves – As in leaves on a tree or other plant. In fact, they don’t have to still be attached to any plant. A leaf in a puddle or on the ground can be recorded in various ways. We will come back to this one, too. No special equipment needed. I’ll be using (NSE) to stand for no special equipment, btw.
3. Technology – Ha, gotcha! You thought I was going to say bugs. Highlighting a small aspect of technology can make the ordinary appear extraordinary. That sports car engine might interest an automotive enthusiast, but cropping our view down to a small part of the engine might reveal a beauty otherwise not appreciated by others. (NSE)
4. Bugs – When I say bugs, I’m talking about all of those creepy crawlies that share our world. A bee landing on a flower, it’s legs full of pollen, is a fun subject to try out. It may require some patience and a whole lot of different exposures to get the timing right, but it is an image worth working for. Some people think spiders, centipedes, snails, and worms make great subjects, too. Whatever bug strikes your fancy, go for it. (NSE)
5. Humans – Well, parts of humans. Go closer than a head and shoulders or full face portrait. Zoom in on that favorite body part. Your favorite body part may be an eye, interesting looking hands or fingers, or a lock of hair. Wounds and scars, or piercings and tattoos might interest some when viewed as a subject all their own. The average human has a lot of photo worthy parts. (NSE)
6. Animals – If the animal is small enough, that might count as a close up subject. Otherwise, like with humans, select parts will draw our photographic attention. The paw pad of a puppy, kitten, or a wild animal can be isolated for interesting images. So can an eye, tooth, or markings on skin or fur. (NSE)
7. Birds – I’m listing birds as a separate idea from animals. Mostly because of the abundance of variety available for us to capture in images. A large bird’s beak, their talons, or a wing looks amazing when isolated. A smaller bird can count as a close up subject itself. Perhaps a small hummingbird hovering over a flower. (NSE)
8. Feathers – Feathers count as a separate subject idea in my book. Getting really close to a feather reveals a depth of patterns and colors that look more and more incredible the closer you get. A large feather, such as a peacock tail or an eagle tail feather, can be photographed close up with basic camera lenses. Getting close enough to reveal the intricacies of color and pattern will start to get you into specialized lenses. At the least, a macro zoom lens could be usable. A true macro lens will be extremely useful.
9. Jewelry – Gemstones, precious metal pendants, ring inscriptions. We all know what they look like when worn or behind a display case. The extreme close views can reveal a different aspect of the beauty of this art form. Macro lenses and specialized lights make imaging jewelry in super close up a fun project.
10. Buttons – Especially antique buttons look awesome when isolated from the rest of the article of clothing. A group of buttons can form patterns in a close view not readily apparent when seen from a distance. (NSE)
11. Clothing – Specifically the patterns imbedded inside ultra close views of different fabrics. An old, faded pair of blue jeans becomes an abstract art form when photographed with macro lenses. Besides denim, the subtle variations within dyed silk or manmade materials take on a life of their own. Back lighting is another option for this subject matter.
12. Food – Food photography is a specialty genre that is a little harder than it looks. Primarily because of the near perfect lighting needed. As far as lenses, though, the kit lens that many entry level come with is more than good enough. Of course, a macro lens will allow for extreme close views of small aspects of the dish.
13. Food 2 – Since I was focused on prepared food in number 12, we can look at fresh foods now. Sliced fruits and vegetables can be backlit or front lit, each style of lighting giving incredible views of textures and colors. (NSE)
14. Glass marbles – Whether delving deep into the glass for incredible reflections, or considering the marble itself as a close up subject, photographing colored round glass objects can be a challenge. The challenge is worth it, as the images resulting from your efforts will be amazing. For the ultra close views, a macro lens is a definite plus.
15. Water drops – Water drops have a size limit, and the size is small. So a macro lens will be needed. The place to find water droplets that are likely to give the most fantastic views are on plants. Even a blade of grass holding a dew drop will create an unusual field of view. The water drop showing the reflection can be the subject, or you can focus on a smaller aspect of the reflection.
16. Fish scales – A tropical fish in our fish tank is a pretty neat close up subject, but a scale from a larger fish can be truly interesting. A very close focusing macro lens will let you highlight textures, colors, and patterns for surreal images. Scales can be translucent or opaque, lighting can be from several different angles. You’ll look at your filet of sole the same way again.
17. Pens, pencils, crayons – Colors and shapes that can be grouped together and placed in interesting patterns for a unique view of standard office supplies. I especially like crayons and colored pencils for this. Take a close look at that old Number 2 for a fresh perspective of everyday objects. (NSE)
18. Flower parts – Using a macro lens, a photographer can narrow the angle of view in order to capitalize on the wonderful patterns intrinsic to plants and flowers. For example, a close up of the center of a sunflower shows the amazing spirals of Fibonacci numbers. Besides that, the pistol and stamen of a regular flower garden plant can make a viewer imagine themselves viewing an unearthly vista.
19. Candy – Some candy looks like little jewels made of sugar and food coloring, so the same ideas used when photographing jewelry will apply here. Either single pieces of candy or a variety of colors and shapes end up looking great when blown up larger than life. (NSE)
20. Matches – Similar to the idea using pencils, bundling a group of matches together yields interesting views. Play with fire and get incredible images. Please use caution if decide to light anything on fire in order to photograph it. We don’t want you or your lovely camera damaged. (NSE)
21. Flames – A single match, a twig, a pilot light, all can become wonderful images in extreme close up. Colors vary based on the material or fuel, so can the shape of the flames. Again, always use extreme caution when photographing live fire. (NSE)
22. Insect wings – Much like fish scales, some insects have amazing looking wings. Using a macro lens, a photographer can image the patterns of veins and membranes of translucent wings using different lighting techniques, or focus on larger color patterns on more opaque insect wings.
23. Animal eye pupils – Now that’s a pretty specific suggestion, isn’t it? Some animals have such beautiful eyes. Using a macro lens to fill the frame with the pupil only can reveal interesting shapes, colors, and textures. Some animals have pupils shaped like key holes or other odd shapes.
24. Toys – Classic, antique, or brand new, toys take on a whole new life when photographed close up. Even broken toys or pieces of toys can become a work of art when lit creatively. Often times, a feeling of nostalgia or even melancholy can be evoked by a creative close up photographer. (NSE)
25. Extreme macro – Beyond macro lenses with magnification rations of life size or double life size, but before getting into the realm of microscopes, there is a specialty category of specialty macro lenses with magnification ratios of 10:1 to 25:1 or 50:1. Adapters often are needed to mount them to your particular camera model. The views they give a macro photography are nothing short of absolutely spectacular. Capable of imaging small parts of very tiny things, they are a real treat to use. Images like a bug’s eye, or a tiny resistor on a computer mother board come to life and are capable of thrilling viewers of the image.
26. Photo microscopy – An inexpensive microscope adapter gives photographers a window into an otherwise unseen world of wonder and beauty. A photographer does not need to have access to a science lab or doctor’s office, some microscopes are available for very reasonable prices. A simple drop of water holds such interesting things in it. Using different light sources, light polarized light, may create stunning differences in the same subject.
27. Experiment – See what a difference it makes when you focus on one side of the subject or the other side. Play with light positions and exposure combinations. Rent or borrow lenses to see if one might find a place in your permanent gear bag. Look for any new views of the things that surround you. Those images will be the ones that make people say WOW!