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Macro photography is a really interesting field for Commons, being the best way to provide accurate photographs of small animals, plants, minerals or various other small objects. This page will introduce to you some helpful tips helping to provide better macro photographies. In macro photography, the quality of your images will be according to your material (camera + lens), your stability (camera + subject), the light, and the time of shoot. You can also choice some special setting (ISO, Time, ...), build a macro-studio for better background or light, and eventually make image editing.

Creation on commons


Materials: digital camerasEdit

Make macro photographies is highly depending of configuration you have:

  • the camera's sensor ;
  • the objective (lens).
  • a good stability (ex: tripod)
  • a good light

Notice that some compact give "correct" macro for 2cm subject, bridges too, this means camera about 200-400US$. To go further (sharp image with subject such bee of 1cm or less), semi-profesionnal cameras ranging between 600 and 2000US$ will be need.

Some macro pictures from Commons and the camera which provided it:

Result Camera  

Important points when shootingEdit

Moving or static subjects?
This image illustrate the trouble of focus in macro photography. You can see that the flat is sharp only in one thin layer. Closer or farther is blurred (click to enlarge). Related video

They are two kinds of macro photography:

  • when the subject is moving;
  • when the subject is stopped.

In most cases, people take macros of insects or small animals. These subjects move continuously, resulting in pictures with annoying blur. Some people thus prefer to shoot death models, or to cold them down so they move into sleeping mode.

The sun [light]

Lighting is a very important for macros.


The solution is use a shorter exposure. In most cases, macro shots of insects must be less than 1/200 sec. This means that macros need good light. The more light you have, the less time the shutter will be open, and better your picture will be.


In macro, the focus is limited to one layer at a particular distance from your lens. Parts of your subject closer or farther that this will be blurred.

Macro-studio photography / Light BoxEdit

Example of professional macro-studio used by a professional food photographer. For lower price: a cookies box filled with white paper can do a great job too[3]. See also: Macro studio.

Smart technical macro are especially good for wikipedia, easing recognitions, and providing by few images a [almost] perfect representation of the photographied subject. For such technical macro, some tools are helpful. You may need:

  1. a correct macro camera;
  2. a cleaned up background with an accurate scale (Image:Macro A4.svg to print on a white A4 page)
  3. catch your subject;
  4. a good sun (that's in fact a really important point!).
  5. Then, put your subject on the white page, take your picture.

  Info Insect tips: Live beetles are easy to shoot. Most other live insects are likely to flee, you need to come closer very slowly. Others are simply too much active to be shoot that easily. I personally put such insect in a box, and put the box in the refrigirator (~5°C !). One hour later, the insect [still alive] don't move or move really slowly. I have 2 mins to take my photographies before letting it fly away.

The background provides a scale by small light-blue dots (accordingly, I intentionally kept them). I then improved the light (Gimp), and added a more readable scale (in grey).

See also: Amazon's Photo Arrangement (cleaner Images)

Gallery of tools and examplesEdit

Tools use: Image:Macro A4.svg, Image:Macro scales.svg, Image:Canon PowerShot S5 IS-full.png, an Hogna radiata and a good sun.

Last graphic improvements: light, clean ups and scalesEdit

These tutorials will be using The Gimp and INKSCAPE, two free graphic software largely available. See Commons:Software for download.

Task In natural context On white background (image editing easier)
Crop and rotate Crop and rotate are 2 really basic things to do. Start your image editor program such Photoshop, Gimp, or other. Drag and drop your image into it. And look around to first rotate, and then crop your image as you want. That's really easy to do.
Color improvement In natural context, your light is highly depending of your situation. Accordingly, your image may need a last light improvement. But they are there harder to make. If your picture is abnormally yellow or blue, etc., it will be need to get a little light improvement, to restore the true white.
Tutorial (fr)
  1. Open your file in GIMP
  2. Pick up the color of a pixel which should be white ;
  3. In the main windows: File > Dialogs > Layers. Or simply (Ctrl+L).
  4. In the Layer windows: Create a new layer > Foreground > Ok. This new layer hides your image, That's fine.
  5. Choice which effect you want:
    • Divide : make the white pixels whiter ;
    • Soft light : enlight all ;
    • Burn : make the dark pixels darker ;
      You can also play with opacity of this layers. If you find it's too effective, take its opacity down (60%, 30%,...).
  6. Save
Extract the background
  Info being destructive, extraction of natural background should be avoided.

If you take a picture in natural context, wanting to extract the background will probably be a really bad idea which will [in most cases] greatly affect your subject. Extracting the background is always possible, but extracting it AND keep your subject intact will ask hours of pixel-after-pixel image editing.

In most cases, since the background is already white, this step is not need. If your picture is abnormally yellow or so on, make a "Color improvement" (see upper) will be enough.
With natural or white background With Image:Macro A4.svg as background (provide a scale)
Add the scale

With a natural background, without scales on your photography, you have to "remember", or to "know" and state the size of your subject. When you know:

With the white Image:Macro A4.svg when shooting, your picture itself provides the scale. Then :

  1. Open your image in Inkscape ;
  2. drag and drop Image:Macro scales.svg in your Inkscape window ;
  3. select which scale you want to keep, delete others ;
  4. If your photography's blues doted lines are not horizontals:
    • Select your scale, and make a duplicate (Ctrl+D).
    • Rotate the duplicate to follow the blue doted lines of your image ;
    • Ctrl+enlarge this duplicate to have the accurate length ;
    • rotate back the duplicate to the almost-horizontal position ;
    • enlarge the former scales to have the same length than the duplicate ;
    • delete the almost-horizontal duplicate.
  5. place the scale in the bottom right of your image.
  6. export in PNG or JPG (full quality)

Naming conventionsEdit


External linksEdit