Underwater photographer and small animal expert Mike Bartick gives three quick tips to improve your macro images.

Shooting macro is often the first step and introduction to underwater photography once a diver decides to shoot pictures underwater. With a decent macro lens, and a good critter spotter by your side, getting usable images isn’t too difficult.

But if you want to take your macro images to the next level, the mantra “Get Low, Get Close, Shoot Up” works really well, whether you’re a budding macro enthusiast or an experienced shooter. Use the following tips to help with your technique and to improve your mastery over your camera system:

Snake Blenny (Lumpenus lumpretaeformis) in the open are not the easiest subject to work with and tend to spook easily if approached from above. Getting low will decrease their perceived threat and create eye contact. Stay with your subject and try to get the best composition possible. These unusual blennys live in narrow tubes in the sandy shallows and will poke their heads out in a curious manner to investigate you. Once engaged they can do all sorts of things so stay with them.

A snake blenny (Lumpenus lumpretaeformis) in the open is not the easiest subject to work with and tends to spook easily if approached from above. Getting low will decrease their perceived threat and create eye contact. Stay with your subject and try to get the best composition possible. These unusual blennies live in narrow tubes in the sandy shallows and will poke their heads out in a curious manner to investigate you. Once engaged, they can do all sorts of things, so stay with them.

Get Low
Shooting from a low angle helps to create a better perspective of your subject and will reveal details that aren’t regularly noticed. Eye to eye contact creates a unique moment of connection between the shooter/viewer and the subject, revealing the subject’s little world. Capturing that moment is what compelling macro images are all about. Relax and observe for a moment before shooting and ask yourself, “What is the story here?”

Imperial shrimp (Pereclemenis emperador) are a commensal shrimp that are not considered unusual that occur on sea cucumbers and occasionally on nudibranchs. I never knew they ate fish until i saw this one grab the ghost goby and run off tearing it apart. Getting low, in its world opens up a new perspective and will help push your images to the next level.

Imperial shrimp (Pereclemenis emperador) are a commensal shrimp that are not considered unusual and occur on sea cucumbers and occasionally on nudibranchs. I never knew they ate fish until I saw this one grab a ghost goby and run off, tearing it apart. Getting low, and into its world opens up a new perspective and will help push your images to the next level.

Get Close
You’ll be able to achieve a better portrait of your subject if you get as close as possible. Unless there is second animal interaction or a need for extra frame space, try to fill the frame with your macro subject. Getting close also helps with better lighting from your strobe flash, creating a more colourful and detailed image.

Polychaete flatworms can pose all sorts of challenges when trying to create something special. Getting low and close helps to “Fill the frame” with its bold colourations and reveal the details. Its furled mantle mimics a nudibranchs rhinophores and is of special interest for this image.

Polychaete flatworms can pose all sorts of challenges when trying to create something special. Getting low and close helps to “fill the frame” with its bold colours and reveal the details. Its furled mantle mimics a nudibranch’s rhinophores and is of special interest for this image.

Shoot Up
Forcing the perspective of your subject to appear larger than it actually is, shooting upwards is an old school technique that works really well with macro and other forms of photography. This will also aid you in creating a black background (with nothing behind the subject). 

(Hypseledoris nudibranchs) Shooting at an upward angle can help to create a nice black background by avoiding any surrounding or low lying substrate. The angle doesn't have to be overly dramatic. And in the case of shooting a nudibranch photo, it helps with seeing through the finned rhinophiores.

Hypseledoris nudibranchs: Shooting at an upward angle can help to create a nice black background by avoiding any surrounding or low-lying substrate. The angle doesn’t have to be overly dramatic. And in the case of shooting a nudibranch photo, it helps with seeing through the finned rhinophores.

 

Macro image making doesn’t have to be overly complicated and filled with lofty ideas. The main goal is to challenge yourself. The principal ingredient should always be to have fun and remember to always be kind to the marine environment. After all, we don’t want to harm the subjects we’re trying to photograph.


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