I think we all have times when we are in a rut or feeling uninspired.
Sometimes we feel like we shoot the same thing in the same way, over and over.
We can not always feel excited by the things we are photographing, but sometimes we have to shoot anyway and push through it.
Winter is a wonderful time to practice macro photography since it can be easily done inside at any time of day. If you’re feeling bored with shooting macro, here are some of my favorite ways to add interest to my images, even for simple subjects that I’ve shot a million times before.
1. Try reverse freelensing
I have become obsessed with reverse freelensing. Freelensing is when you detach the lens from your camera and then ever so slightly tilt the lens to create blur similar to a tilt-shift and even let light leaks in the frame. Reversing the lens so that the front of it is facing your camera instead of your subject lets you achieve a closer focusing distance so you can shoot macro with a non-macro lens.
For me, reverse freelensing adds new interest to subjects I have shot before. I absolutely love the creative blur and gorgeous light leaks that can be achieved.
2. Try a Lensbaby lens
Lensbaby lenses are great for adding a little creativity to any type of photography and they work for macro, too! I love my Velvet 56 and, like with freelensing, the blur and bokeh is so unique that it creates interest in my images. With a magnification of 1:2, the Velvet 56 may not be a “true” macro lens to some but it lets you get pretty close – much closer than a non-macro lens.
If you have a Lensbaby Composer with optic(s) you can use the Lensbaby macro accessories or regular extension tubes to create creative macro images. You can also try freelensing with a Lensbaby!
Lensbabies are manual focus lenses so you will need to take a little extra time with focus. Since macro subjects are typically still subjects, a great cheat to ensure focus is to use the liveview screen, zoom in on your subject, and then fine tune your focus.
3. Shoot through something
This is another way to add visual interest to your image. You can try shooting through a copper pipe, bubble wrap, tulle, tissue paper, a prism… the possibilities are endless!
To achieve this I typically cover one side of my lens (e.g., the left side) with the object I’m “shooting through” and then put the focal point of my subject on the other side, so that it gives the appearance that I am peeking through to see my subject.
4. Add some droplets!
I LOVE spraying flowers, leaves, spiderwebs or pretty much anything with water to make it more interesting. Droplets can help you when you are struggling to find a focal point that looks intentional.
When I find myself in that predicament, I will spray with water and then look for a drop that is larger than the others, teetering on a petal edge, or unique in some other way. I then use that drop as my focal point for my image.
If water alone isn’t cutting it and you want even larger droplets, mix some organic dish soap or glycerin in with the water. Since glycerin makes the water particles stick together, the result is much larger drops. Next time you’re on Amazon, drop some glycerin in your shopping cart and give it a try!
5. Freeze it!
Freezing flowers is a lot of fun and you can get images that look like watercolor paintings.
I get a plastic container or bowl and put the flowers in the bottom and cover with water and place in my freezer. When the water is frozen like a giant ice cube and I’m ready to shoot, I take my bowl outside and carefully slide the frozen block of flowers out and shoot away. The layers of ice on top of the submerged flowers will give a beautiful and unique perspective on an ordinary flower.
6. Use dramatic light
Try lighting your macro image differently than how you normally do.
If you usually use window light, try out a continuous artificial light like the Ice Light. If you usually use flat light, try backlighting like you would in portraiture. Even direct, harsh light can be fun and create a unique look from the rest of your macro photography.
Lighting can change the appearance of your subject, so it can be really fun to experiment with various forms of lighting.
7. Intentionally shoot out of focus
Out of focus photography can be tricky to master but can be so beautiful once you do. I love the look of the blur and bokeh from an OOF image and with macro you can achieve a gorgeous, painterly image.
The key here is to focus on shape and color when shooting intentionally OOF. A big blob of red isn’t interesting to look at but when you start to see shapes and swirls of color in an out of focus image, the interest increases. Use the colors and shapes to provide a way for the viewer’s eye to find their way through your image.
8. Play around with creative editing
If you’re feeling bored, try experimenting with new editing techniques, like using textures or overlays in Photoshop. You can also be creative with your white balance choice. The possibilities for editing are endless and don’t be afraid to try something totally new!
I shoot macro frequently and I photograph a LOT of flowers, and some are harder to capture than others. These ideas are the ones I try out when I’m having a hard time making an interesting image of an uninspiring subject.
Are you interested in learning more about macro photography? My workshop, The Art of Macro Photography, starts soon and I’d love to have you join me!