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With the release of the second edition of my ebook Up Close next week I thought it would be interesting to give you some ideas for close-up and macro photography projects that you can try out yourself. Don’t worry if you’re not sure how to tackle these ideas as it will all be covered in full detail in the ebook, including advice on which equipment to buy.
Note: Up Close is available now and you can buy it here.
One of the good things about close-up and macro photography is that you don’t need to travel far to find interesting subjects. You can do most of these ideas at home, making them a great rainy day activity or something that’s easy to do if you’re bored.
In fact, if you’re looking for something new to try this week I’d be amazed if you couldn’t find an idea in this list that inspires you!
1. Flowers and other botanical subjects
Flowers are one of the most obvious subjects for close-up photography, so we’ll get that out of the way first. If you don’t have any interesting flowers in your garden, you can buy some from a florist (a great solution in winter) or visit a nearby public garden.
Don’t forget other interesting botanical subjects like succulents and leaves.
2. Butterflies and insects
Butterflies and insects are another common subject for close-up photography, and the most challenging on this list.
Forget about extreme close-ups of insects if you’re new to this – that requires more specialized equipment and skills.
Instead, go for photos of insects that are relatively easy to photograph like butterflies and dragonflies. The easiest way to get started is visit a butterfly farm (but check the rules regarding photography before you go).
Otherwise, you’ll need to look for these insects outside (nature reserves are a good place to begin) and be prepared to spend some time looking for insects and waiting for photo opportunities.
It’s often possible to make interesting close-up photos at museums. Check that photography is allowed before you go, and be prepared to work in low light conditions. A prime lens is a useful tool. I made the photo below using an 85mm lens with a supplementary close-up lens.
4. Food ingredients
Food photography is a good subject for close-up photography, especially if you’re into baking or cooking. But an even easier way to experiment with food photography is to photograph the raw ingredients.
To make the photos below I used a 100mm macro lens and got as close as I could to peppercorns (left) and dried juniper berries (right). The light came from a nearby window.
5. Classic cars
Classic car shows are great fun to attend and you can get some great results when you photograph hood ornaments and other details up close.
6. Vintage cutlery
You can source vintage cutlery from second-hand stores and yard sales. Older items are often more interesting to look at and may have interesting textures and patinas that look great in close-up photos. Vintage cutlery looks great in black and white and you can get creative with the processing to make distinctive images like the ones below.
7. Oil and water
Most people are aware that oil and water don’t mix, but you might not know that you can use this property to create some interesting photos. All you need is a glass dish, some water, a few drops of oil and some colored card to put in the background. A willingness to play and experiment helps you make photos like these.
8. Lightbox photography
A lightbox is an inexpensive purchase and (amongst other things) you can use it to digitize negatives and slides (click the link to read my guide to this). But you can also use it for creative close-up photography. Any transparent subject is ideal. Below you can see a photo I made of a decayed petal I found in my garden.
9. Rusty tools
If you have a garage or toolshed it’s quite likely you’re also the owner of a collection of rusty tools. It’s time to bring the most interesting ones indoors and make some close-up photos of them. This is a fun idea that helps you see familiar objects in a new way. You can extend this idea to almost anything in your home, garage or garden.