Hand-held Hi Res Macro Tips

This article shares some Hand-held Hi Res Macro Tips and a selection of images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1X and an M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro lens. Many of the tips provided in this article can be used for hand-held macro photography that is not Hi Res. All of the images in this article were captured outdoors.

The first thing that needs to be decided when doing macro photography is subject matter. Since they are readily available, flower blossoms are often a favourite outdoor choice of many photographers.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Shooting distance and angle.

, Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/8, 1/500, ISO-6400, Hand-held Hi Res Mode, subject distance 285 mm

As we can see with the images above and below, the same type of subject matter can be photographed from different distances. The resulting images have a significantly different visual appearance.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/8, 1/500, ISO-6400, Hand-held Hi Res Mode, subject distance 245 mm

A difference of only 40 mm (~1.6 inches) in shooting distance can dramatically impact the magnification effect achieved. It is usually a good idea to take a number of different images from different distances and angles. This is especially true when shooting outdoors as calm weather conditions can be rare.

Focusing point.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/4, 1/320, ISO-2500, Hand-held Hi Res Mode, subject distance 260 mm

Choosing a focusing point is also an important consideration. With hand-held hi res macro photography I always look for tiny details that I can highlight with this technology. You can see in the image above that I focused on the leading curled petal edge. I chose this edge as it is in the foreground and has some small filaments that help to accentuate the macro feel of the photograph.

Depth-of-field.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/4, 1/320, ISO-3200, Hand-held Hi Res Mode, subject distance 230 mm

If you check the EXIF data on the two images above, you’ll notice that I changed the aperture setting to f/4. This reduces the depth-of-field in the image. When focusing on the front edge of a subject this can also help to bring additional emphasis to it.

Complimentary shapes and element alignment.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-6400, Hand-held Hi Res Mode, subject distance 235 mm

In situations where there are multiple blossoms and leaves, it can be helpful to look for complimentary shapes to bring some balance to an image. In the photograph above you can see three downward pointing shapes (two red blossoms and a green leaf) give the composition some balance. Choosing an odd number of elements is typically preferred to an even number. An odd number of elements helps to direct reader eye flow.

There is a subtle V-shape created by the positions of the three elements in the image. It is created by the tips of the two red blossoms and the green leaf. This also helps direct a viewer’s eye to the subject blossom. The tip of the red blossom is also aligned with the blurred white triangle shape in the background… another element that directs eye flow. Even though this is a busy composition, your eye knows where it is being directed. When dealing with complicated backgrounds it is always useful to look for lines and angles in the background that can compliment the main subject.

Using contrast with middle ground compositions.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/8, 1/500, ISO-2500, Hand-held Hi Res Mode, subject distance 225 mm

With macro photography we often choose a middle ground composition, i.e. both the foreground and background of the subject are out-of-focus. As we can see in the image above, composing a high contrast image can help direct the reader’s eye to the middle ground of a photograph.

Choice of metering.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/8, 1/500, ISO-6400, Hand-held Hi Res Mode, subject distance 250 mm

The image above also uses high contrast to help accentuate a middle ground subject. When shooting macro images I often use centre weighted average metering as it can help separate the main subject. On some occasions I also use spot metering.

Shutter speed is more important than ISO.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-6400, Hand-held Hi Res Mode, subject distance 255 mm

When creating Hand-held Hi Res Macro images I always choose shutter speed over ISO in terms of camera settings. When the OM-D E-M1X combines the 16 images it captures during a Hand-held Hi Res image it tends to hide high ISO noise very well. I never hesitate using ISO-6400 as needed when using the E-M1X Hand-held Hi Res Mode.

In the case of this simple leaf image, I had to deal with the occasional faint breeze in my backyard. I used a faster shutter speed so I could complete the Hand-held Hi Res capture quickly during a lull in the breeze.

There is a small composition point in the above noted image. You’ll notice the two out-of-focus red blossoms at the bottom of the frame. I placed them using equidistant composition technique so they would frame the main subject and provide balance.

Avoid using shutter release delay.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/4.5, 1/640, ISO-4000, Hand-held Hi Res Mode, subject distance 230 mm

The Olympus OM-D E-M1X allows a photographer to set a delay time from when the shutter release is fully depressed to when the Hand-held Hi Res mode begins to take its series of 16 images. I imagine this is to allow time for a photographer to ‘get ready’ and steady themselves. I find this to be counterproductive, especially when shooting outdoors when mild breeze conditions can change. My best results are achieved when setting the delay to ‘0’.

Compose using the rear screen when needed.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-6400, Hand-held Hi Res Mode, subject distance 190 mm

It is important to remember that the IBIS system in the OM-D E-M1X senses the specific movements of an individual photographer when using the Hand-held Hi Res Mode. I find that unless I have something against which I can brace myself, holding my camera up to my eye creates more frequent and larger body movements on my part. And, results in failed attempts at Hand-held Hi Res images.

I usually compose from the rear screen when shooting with my E-M1X in a ‘floating’ position… i.e. not braced. I find that the IBIS seems to recognize my body movements better. It also locks on to the first image better and I have far fewer missed attempts when using the Hand-held Hi Res Mode. Most of the images in this article were composed using the rear screen. Your experience may be different of course, as this is a photographer-specific decision.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/4, 1/320, ISO-4000, subject distance 260 mm

I hope these Hand-held Hi Res Macro Tips have been helpful. As noted earlier, many of the tips can be used for macro photography (tripod or hand-held) whether or not you are using the E-M1X Hand-held Hi Res Mode.

Technical Note:
All photographs in this article were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. All photographs are displayed as 100% captures without any cropping.

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