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Close up photography – noticing the little things!

My 6 tips for making better close up photos

Following from my last blog I have tried to pay more attention to the little things around me that often go unnoticed and to try and discover what makes a better close up photograph.

Here are my 6 tips for achieving better close up photography:

1. Choosing where to focus

Too often I forget to decide where I want my focus to be and end up with a different image to the one I intended to get. When photographing close up I need to ask myself a few questions about focusing –

Do I focus on the closest part of the subject or place my focus somewhere else?

Should I focus on the background and leave the foreground blurry or have a blurry background with an in-focus subject in the foreground?

Do I want to have the whole subject or just part of the subject in focus?

Do I want to include other elements of the scene or just focus on my subject?

In making decisions such as these we are each forced to consider all aspects of the scene and to notice all the elements that might often go unseen.

In this image the purple flower closest to me is not in focus

In these three images the foreground is out of focus while the background is in focus

In this image the subject in the foreground is in focus while the background is blurred

2. Light

Paying attention to how light is falling on the subject helps us to become more observant. Sometimes it is a good idea to focus on light rather than on a subject. That will encourage us to look all around for the best light or come back another time if the light is not good. Good light can make the world of difference to a subject and when we are photographing close ups we become more aware of what light is doing and how we want to capture it.

In these images of a butterfly I am not sure whether I prefer the close up - which gives a good view of the beautiful butterfly - or the image that makes the most of the light and includes the butterfly's shadow

3. Background

What do we want to have as a background? Are we shooting part of a plant against the sky? Do we want a background of colour provided by surrounding plants or maybe a dark background to emphasize our subject?

At times we may want to fill the frame with our subject so background is not necessary. I like to make different background choices at different times.

4. Angle

Shooting from different angles is a good idea in all types of photography and it is a particularly good technique for close up photography. Shooting upwards will give us a different image from shooting downwards. Sometimes I try to get as low as possible and shoot plants from the ground up, which gives an unusual perspective that is not always seen.

Crouching down with my phone camera gives the impression that these flowers are very tall.

5. Look around the scene

When taking close up photographs it can be a good idea to include lots of the elements that surround our chosen subject. Sometimes the subject that we think will make the best image is actually not the best and if we have several images from a scene we can choose the best shot later. I often shoot flowers and when I don’t try to pick the best image at the scene but take lots of images to pick from later I often discover something that I don't even remember taking!

6. Look out for something unusual

Many plants grow in abundance and are hardly noticed, yet when singled out they provide an unusual and unique subject matter. I find that when I take my camera into an ordinary hedgerow I invariably discover something that I have never noticed before, and this, for me, is one of the joys of close up photography.

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. ~ Henry David Thoreau


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