This article discusses macro plant composition techniques. All of the macro photographs in this posting were captured one-handed using an Olympus OM-D E-M1X with an M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro lens.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
Often when I’m searching for potential subjects for macro photography I let my eyes wander, looking for interesting light. Even the most common of subjects, like pistill and stamen of flowers, can make good macro images if highlighted nicely.
I positioned the flower’s stamen in centre frame so the petals would form a series of cascades. I darkened the shadows in post and added a touch of black to accent the lighting at centre frame.
Unusual textures and details intrigue me. You’ll notice in the plant composition above that I used a partial subject bleed on the right hand side and along the botoom to help create image flow as well as a corner exit.
My eye is often attracted to soft colours like greens, blues and purples. I find this type of colour palette can produce a restful feeling. I added some black to this image in post to give this composition a smooth, subdued feeling.
The image above is another variation of the same green, blue, purple colour combination. You’ll notice that I left some ‘free space’ in the top left and bottom right corners of this composition. It also helps to create some balance in the composition.
The lack of colour in these corners helps to focus a viewer’s eye towards centre frame. I purposely cropped off some of the smaller flowers running around the perimetre of the composition to help guide a viewer’s eye towards centre frame.
I darkened the shadows and added black to this image to mute the background. This created some additional contrast with the blue flowers, while still creating a soft, restful composition.
Darkening shadows and adding black in post can also work well with a colour palette that is skewed towards red and purple hues.
When composing macro images it is important to look at the background. In the photograph above I positioned two out-of-focus stems in the background to help create a bit of a 3D effect with the subject blossom.
Rather than position a macro subject in centre frame using ‘rule of thirds‘ guidelines can help create a more interesting eye flow with an image.
With the composition above I decided to fill the frame with a single blossom. I stopped my M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro lens down to f/11 to create more depth-of-field as I wanted a good number of petals to be in focus.
You’ve probably noticed that many of the images in this article were captured at ISO-6400. I shot these earlier in the morning under very breezy conditions so I needed to use faster shutter speeds to help avoid image blur. This, coupled with the apertures I used, pushed my ISO values up.
I love to find dramatic lighting. With the composition above I left some ‘free space’ in the top left corner. This helps create more contrast in the composition.
I positioned one of the leaves of the plant to act as a corner exit in the bottom right. This helps with eye flow in the composition.
To create additional contrast I darkened shadows and added black in post. I then added some white to help bring out some of the fine details along the edges of the leaves.
This leaf was in a hanging basket affixed to one of the corners of a pergola on my deck. It was being hit by some strong morning sun which created some dramatic contrast.
I had to use a fast shutter speed of 1/1600 to capture the leaf in the photograph above. The breeze was quite strong at the time and the leave was bouncing around vigorously. I needed to capture five attempts before I was able to get the leaf in the exact spot that I wanted in the composition.
If you examine the composition you’ll see a well defined corner exit which gives this simple composition good eye flow. You’ll also notice ‘rule of thirds’ composition technique with the stem attached to the leave about 1/3 in from the right hand edge.
I reduced the shadows significantly and added black to this file in post to make the background very dark. I also took the highlights down to make more of the details in the leaf visible. Adding a bit of contrast also helped bring out more of the leaf details.
You’d have no way of knowing that the background of this image contained a confusing array of red extension cord wires hanging down from my pergola. These were all hidden by darkening the shadows and adding black in post.
The photograph above is one of my failed attempts. I didn’t adjust this image in post so you could see what the original capture looked like in terms of the distracting red extension cord hanging down in the background.
Photographs were captured onehanded using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Image were produced from RAW files using my standard process.
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