Learn how to take the perfect close-up photo with Tracy Calder

Slowing down and focusing on small details can help you capture stunning close-up photographs, says Tracy Calder.

Close up photo of a toadstool by Tracey Calder

Close-up photography is an artform, but anyone can acquire the skills to take stunning macro pictures – even with a phone.

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Tracy Calder, co-founder of the Close-Up Photographer of the Year competition, shares her tips to help you take your own professional-looking images.

1

Slow down

Avoid ‘chimping’ – checking the LCD screen after every shot – as it can break your connection with the subject. Take your time and remain mindful of your surroundings. Imagine you are shooting film and limit yourself to 24 (or 36) exposures a week.

2

Explore every angle

One of the joys of shooting small subjects is that you can often look down on them, as well as up under them. Don’t settle for the easy option: lay down on the ground, hold your subject up to the light, adopt a playful approach.

Close up photo of some yellow and green leaves

3

Invest in accessories

Macro lenses are expensive, but there are various accessories that will allow you to shoot up close, these include extension tubes, close-up attachment lenses, bellows, and reversing rings. You can also buy macro lenses for your smartphone.

4

Experiment with black & white

The skeletal remains of leaves look particularly striking in black & white. If you have a camera that can capture Raw files shoot in colour and make the b&w conversion using image-editing software later.

5

Celebrate the ordinary

Even a cheese grater can look extraordinary if it’s seen with fresh eyes. Raid the kitchen cupboards and bathroom cabinets and spend an afternoon shooting what you find. Imagine you are a child discovering each object for the first time.

Close-up photo of some seeds by Tracy Calder

6

Seek perfection

When you’ve found a potential subject inspect it for any flaws or blemishes – it’s fine to make a feature of these, but remember that what looks like a tiny mark to the naked eye will appear magnified and hugely distracting in the final picture.

7

Follow the rules

The basic ‘rules’ of composition, such as directing the eye using lead-in lines, positioning key elements according to the rule-of-thirds, and KISS (keep it simple, silly), still apply to close-up photography, so compose your pictures with care.

8

Check the edges

When you’re concentrating on the main subject it’s easy to miss blades of grass, twigs or other distracting elements creeping into the frame. Before you release the shutter have a quick scan of the edges.

9

Hold steady

Generally speaking, the closer your camera (or the sensor inside your camera) is to the subject the shallower the depth of field, and the greater the chance of out of focus pictures. Where possible use a tripod.

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Tracy Calder is the co-founder of Close-up Photographer of the Year, visit www.cupoty.com.