Are you struggling to come up with fresh macro photography ideas? Do you want to take gorgeous macro photos, but you just can’t think of anything to shoot?
Don’t worry. Because this article is designed to give you enough macro ideas to last a long time.
Are you ready to be inspired?
Then let’s get started.
In the summer, you can capture ultra-close-up leaf photos:
In the spring, you can take some photos of plants just blooming:
In the fall, you can photograph colorful leaves on a tree:
In the winter, you can photograph somber leaves on the ground:
I recommend getting as close as possible to the leaf. And I also recommend that you get the entire leaf in focus (which will often require a deep depth of field).
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2. Water Droplets
Water droplets are a classic macro photography idea, and for good reason.
You can get some gorgeous abstract macro photos of colored water droplets. Photos like this:
To get such a shot, however, you have to do a little preparation.
First, you need something to create the drops; any medicine dropper will work.
Second, you need a small tray (ideally, one that’s black).
Finally, you’ll need some food coloring.
Here’s how it works:
Fill the dropper and tray with colored water. If you can color the dropper water differently than the tray water, that’ll make for some enhanced images.
Set your camera up on a tripod so that it’s pointing over the water tray. Focus on the place you plan to create the drops. You’ll want to choose a fast shutter speed, and you’ll want to activate the flash (even the on-camera flash will work). You’ll also need to turn on your camera’s self-timer.
Hold the dropper above the water tray. Press the shutter button. Then, just before the shutter is about to fire, release two or more drops into the water.
You’ll love the resulting shots!
Rocks are often overlooked as macro photography subjects–but they shouldn’t be.
Because rocks offer the macro photographer a lot to shoot.
First, if you can get a rock on its own, it can act as a fantastic focal point. And in macro photography compositions, a single anchor point is key.
You can also find groups of rocks. This can work, but you have to be more careful. Try to find one rock that stands out, and use it to anchor your composition.
Also: Colorful rocks work best. Reds, greens, and obsidian-black rocks are my favorite to shoot.
If you remember this macro photography idea, you’ll come away with some brilliant photos.
Snow is one of my favorite subjects for macro photography.
Because the closer you get, the more interesting it becomes!
Now, you can photograph individual snowflakes. This project, however, requires a macro lens plus some extension tubes.
But you can also capture more abstract photos of the snow itself:
If you go with this second option, experiment with different types of natural light. I’m a big fan of backlit snowflakes–because when the sun comes from behind the snow, it creates some beautiful, glistening background bokeh.
And a gorgeous background is absolutely key to getting an amazing macro photo.
Cacti offer interesting curves and lines–which is great for macro photography.
And if you don’t live near a desert, don’t panic! You can probably find a roomful of cacti at the nearest botanical garden. Or you can purchase a cactus from a garden center.
When it comes to cacti, the closer, the better. Try to create an abstract, soft-focus macro shot. One with shallow depth of field and a bright exposure.
So don’t forget about this macro photography idea!
6. Dead Plants
Live plants are a great macro photography subject. So why did I highlight dead plants in particular?
In the middle of winter, you might feel like there’s nothing to photograph. You might think about putting your macro gear away for the season.
Resist that urge!
Because there are some amazing photos you can get–in your own backyard. I’m talking, of course, about dead plants.
Plants like these:
Basically, dead plants provide a uniquely somber, mournful tone. And this makes for some wonderfully moody macro photography.
I recommend you shoot from above, so that the entire scene is in focus. Use a narrow aperture to ensure complete sharpness (something in the f/8 to f/22 range).
You’ll get some dark, dramatic photos.
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No macro photography ideas list would be complete without flowers. And for good reason: Macro flower photography is one of the most exciting types of macro photography.
You can use flowers to capture wonderfully colorful shots, like this:
Just be sure to shoot on cloudy days; the diffused light will amplify the colors.
You can also use flowers for more dramatic photos, like this:
Shots like the poppy above require late afternoon light (also known as golden hour lighting). And you should ideally backlight your flower, so that you’re nearly shooting into the sun.
You can use flowers for more abstract macro photos, like this:
To capture that type of shot, I recommend focusing at high magnifications and using golden-hour backlight.
Finally, if you really want to mix things up, why not do some black and white flower photography? It’s not a very popular genre, but it can look incredible:
Again, golden-hour backlighting is your friend. So get out, and get shooting!
Related Post: Garden Photography Tips
8. Dandelion Seedheads
The majority of macro photographers have a dandelion shot of some sort in their portfolio.
This means that, to stand out from the crowd, you have to be original.
I recommend getting in as close as possible. I also recommend you find an interesting lighting situation–in this case, clouds or standard golden-hour lighting won’t cut it.
Related Post: Macro Photography Lighting
Backlight is a good option, because it makes for some interesting drama. You can also try getting down low and shooting up toward an orange sky (as the sun sets). It’s a pretty great way to capture a stunning background.
And it’ll make your seedhead shots look outstanding!
9. Lizards, Rodents, and Other Pets
Do you have a hamster? A mouse? A lizard? A hedgehog? A frog?
If so, you have the perfect macro subject right in front of you.
Small pets are unbelievably cute–especially when you get close. So don’t hold back. Turn your pet into a model, and capture some stunning shots.
I recommend you shoot indoors (you don’t want to give an escape artist too much of an opportunity!). But work near a window, so that you have some nice diffused light streaming in.
Butterflies are the stand-outs of the insect world.
Everybody likes butterflies–and that’s why they’re amazing macro subjects.
Unfortunately, butterflies tend to be a bit skittish. This makes capturing butterfly photos difficult.
So use the longest lens that you have. Ideally, it’s one that focuses quickly.
I’d also recommend shooting butterflies under cloudy light. The diffused light will bring out the colors on their wings.
Oh, and one more thing:
Make sure you shoot from the butterfly’s level. Don’t stand and shoot down. Crouch until you’re eye to eye with your butterfly model, and then shoot. This will make for a much more intimate perspective!
Related Post: Best Nikon Tele Macro Lenses (9 Top Picks)
When it comes to insects, macro photographers aren’t limited to butterflies.
Dragonflies are an excellent subject, as well. Their iridescent colors make for some stunning images.
I recommend you shoot dragonflies in the early morning. The cool temperatures of the previous night makes dragonflies a lot more lethargic. Plus, you might be able to capture some dew-covered vegetation, which is always a plus!
You should experiment with different lighting options. Golden light is always great for dragonfly photography–but see if you can use it for something a little more exotic. For instance, shoot backlit for a beautiful dragonfly silhouette. Or shoot backlit, but keep the dragonfly bright.
You’ll get a gorgeous image.
When you say the words “Macro photography,” people don’t often think of food. But the truth is, there are lots of great macro opportunities–in your refrigerator!
For instance, you could prepare a food dish or a food bowl and photograph it from different angles.
Or you could focus on a single food. Cut fruit works really well, here: At high magnifications, fruit like kiwi or strawberries looks delightfully abstract.
I recommend shooting by a window, where you get some nice diffused lighting. This will bring out the fruit colors, and will give your shots a nice soft glow.
One of the great things about macro photography is that you can do it practically anywhere–including your own yard.
Just find some grass, and get really, really close.
As usual, try experimenting with different lighting scenarios. Backlighting is great for more abstract shots. But sidelighting can add a touch of drama and mood to your images.
I’d suggest using an ultra-shallow depth of field. Choose an aperture in the f/2.8 to f/4 range; you’ll need to focus manually to ensure perfect sharpness.
14. Oil and Water
Here’s another macro photography idea:
Do you want to create abstract images that look like they’re from another planet?
All it takes is a bit of oil…
…and some water.
(Plus a bit of colored paper, a tray, and some cups.)
Find a clear tray, fill it with water, and perch it between two tall cups (so that it’s raised up).
Place your colored paper under the cups. If you can find multicolored paper, even better. Wrapping paper can work well, as can magazine covers.
Next, pour some oil into the tray of water. Vegetable oil or olive oil will work just fine.
Finally, stir the water with a spoon–and take pictures as the oil flows by!
Here’s another macro photography idea:
If you go to a prairie/grassland, or even a clearing…
And you go during the early morning in summer…
You’ll find lots of spiderwebs, all covered in dew.
You know what I call that?
Just make sure to compose your photos carefully. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the subject, and create lackluster compositions as a result.
I’d recommend getting down low, on a level with the spiderwebs. And choose your background carefully. Simplicity is best–so go for a completely uniform backdrop, if you can.
Birds aren’t the most common macro photography subject. But don’t let that bother you; it means that there are all sorts of opportunities for original photos!
If you’re very dedicated, you can create a feeder setup in your backyard. Place a few branches near a feeder. Then position a tent nearby. You go in the tent, the birds go to the feeder, and you get some amazing shots.
Shells are another favorite macro photography subject of mine. They’re beautiful, simple, and a lot of fun to shoot.
I like to isolate shells so that I’m photographing a single shell on the beach. I also try to include a line that points toward the shell. And if you can incorporate a second shell, even better!
Make sure you shoot during great light. End-of-day golden light will work great–but cloudy light is fine, too, especially if your shells have some color!
I’ve already talked about shooting birds. But have you tried photographing just their feathers?
You can collect feathers off the ground. Or you can purchase them online.
Then you can have all sorts of fun with them! Try spraying your feathers with a water bottle. And then capture images of a glistening, stunning macro scene!
If you’re struggling to come up with macro photography ideas, then you’re going to love this one!
Because you can easily find toys at the store, or even in your own home. Lego pieces work really well.
Try to create a scene with the toys. Something that speaks to you.
And look for ways to simplify the composition. Let a single toy be your point of focus, and let the rest of the scene enhance it.
Here’s your final macro photography idea:
What’s great about these little plants?
For one, you can find them all over the place. Look for succulents at your local garden center, produce station, or supermarket.
Second, succulents tend to have leaves in a very repetitive, symmetric patterns. Which means they’re perfect for creating dynamic, in-your-face style compositions.
In general, I don’t recommend that you center your compositions. But when it comes to succulents, center all you like. The symmetry in your photo will enhance overall image. And you’ll get a stunning shot!
Macro Photography Ideas: Next Steps
Hopefully, you’re now feeling extremely inspired–because you have 20 macro photography ideas to work with.
So get out, start shooting, and experience the joy of macro photography!
Jaymes Dempsey is a professional macro and nature photographer from Ann Arbor, Michigan; his work is published across the web, from Digital Photography School to PetaPixel.