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5 Reasons why you should do macro photography

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Macro photography - shoot in miniature

Macro Photography is a very popular area of photography and if you haven't tried it yet let me give you five reasons when you should give it a go.

Discover a whole new world 

Macro Photography allows us to discover a whole new miniature world with virtually endless possibilities. Broadly speaking Macro photography is about photographing small things, close up and blowing them up larger than life. The number of subjects available are endless but bugs and flowers are very popular but as many of you know I love water drop photography. Small things such as waterdrops often go unnoticed or are taken for granted but freezing that moment in time can create spectacular images.

When you start doing macro photography a whole new creative world is opened up providing a whole new range of subjects that were under your nose the whole time.

It's cheap

Macro Photography has never been more accessible. There is gear available that is suitable for all budgets that will allow you to start capturing macro. A standard kit lens on many different types of camera's will often be an option. Look out for the small green leaf icon on your camera's mode dial. Whilst not shooting true macro, they allow you to focus in close to blow small things up large.

Additional items can be bought very cheaply like this macro reverse ring. It allows you to attach your lens on backwards and achieve a true macro magnification. We also have these extender rings that add space between your lens and the sensor again giving a better magnification. They work well with prime lenses that you may already have lying around.

The next step would be to buy a true macro lens that provides 1:1 magnification. Although this one is relatively expensive there are much cheaper versions that will still produce excellent images.

I've created a video before about shooting macro photography on a budget that explains all this in more detail so check that out.

Develop studio skills

Macro Photography is no different to other areas of photography in that composition, light, colour and tone are hugely important. By carefully considering these things in your macro photography it will ensure your images stand out. Macro photography often requires additional light. Controlling the light through the use of a couple of flashes, getting it off your camera with wireless triggers will help you to start expanding and learning your studio skills. Because you are doing it on a small scale you don't need much space making it more accessible. The principles and concepts of working with flash and other studio items such as backgrounds and reflectors simply scale up once you are working in bigger studios and shooting portraits.

Because you have total control of your environment and lighting it also gives you the opportunity and time to totally understand exposure and start shooting in manual mode. You can also take your lighting to the next level with investment in things like barn doors, flags and honeycombs like this that control the direction and amount of light that hits your subject.

Weather

If you've been watching my landscape photography vlogs you'll have seen I've been caught out by the weather on a number of occasions. The beauty of macro photography is there is so much to shoot indoors meaning when you don't want to brave the weather you can stay warm and dry.

If you are feeling the call of the great outdoors though there is plenty of macro shots to be captured when you are out and about all year round.

Food and Product Photography

The skills you develop exploring the world of macro photography act as a gateway to other forms of photography. Especially if you zoom out by a small amount. The skills you learn around composition and lighting can directly be applied to food and product photography. An area of photography where there is still money to be made. If you have been shooting studio macro work for a while then you will already have all the equipment you need. And if not at least the Instagram shots of your tasty dinner will be at the next level.

If I have done to convince you to give it a try then you check out my series of macro tutorials that will take you from the basics up the more advanced method of photo stacking - Click here.

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Why You Should Invest in Your Photography

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Understand the ROI and you will never look back.

First and foremost I believe very strongly that photography is an art. Like all artistic ventures it is a skill that requires careful nurturing and encouragement to allow it to blossom into something magical that people will love and appreciate. Skills however are so often hungry beasts that require feeding over and over again and there is an associated cost to this.

This cost is not necessarily a monetary one though. Many would argue that your time is more valuable than money and indeed this is often the case. Photography has a reputation for being expensive though, so let us first take a look at that.

When making a purchase it is important to balance your needs and requirements with your budget. This is particularly the case when buying your first proper camera system. For example, it would be pointless buying a top-of-the-range professional DSLR when you will be only shooting off a few frames on a weekend. On the other hand you should buy a system that gives you room to improve and grow, you do not want to feel the need to upgrade too soon after the initial purchase. There is a third caveat however, that is the desire to buy the best item possible. My method of dealing with this, in all walks of life, has always been to buy the item that is just one notch up from what I can actually afford. Whilst this does not seem like sound financial advice it will ensure your happiness. Were you to buy the item that is slap bang within your budget it will likely result in a feeling of regret that you did not stretch a bit and plump for the better item. Most of the time there will be cut backs you can make elsewhere in your life. Eating is only semi-important compared to drinking water; we all have to suffer for our art right?

Time. Considering the small amount we actually exist in the world what more a precious commodity is there? It is important to understand yourself and decide where you want to invest your time. I realised sometime ago that I had did not really watch TV anymore (apart from when the mighty Middlesbrough Football Club are on). This was not a conscious decision but i had simply started investing my time elsewhere; in my family, my business, my writing and my personal photography projects. This extra commitment to personal projects has undoubtedly made me a better photographer over the years as I indulged in so many areas of photography, learning my craft and honing my skills. Challenging yourself in this way is a sound investment of your time and the return will be clear to see when you track the improvement in the images you are capturing.

Here are 5 reasons why you should start a photography project. https://www.firstmanphotography.com/blog/5-reasons-photography-project

The most rewarding feeling and biggest improvement in your photography will come when you combine the two and invest both time and money into your craft. This does not necessarily mean buying more new gear either. Every year my friend and I take a photography trip somewhere and spend a few days capturing beautiful landscapes, the local wildlife and generally indulging our passion for photography. We try to travel fairly cheaply and camping is an excellent way to stay connected to the landscapes we are staying in and ensure we are up with plenty of time to catch the sunrise. You can read about the most recent trip here, although our sunrise shot was thwarted by total cloud cover. We both captured some beautiful images throughout the trip though so a full return on our investment was realised. We are both now hooked on this type of investment and our 2016 trip to Western Scotland is already planned. Plans for 2017 are already underway and we are looking at our biggest investment yet with a trip to the remote Island of St Kildas.

Now to return to the title question; why you should invest in your photography? The easy answer is it will make you a better photographer. Going deeper though it will make you a more interesting person, it will expand your horizons, it will make you happy, it will give you a purpose and a positive direction and it will leave you with an ever expanding portfolio of images that you can share and people want to see. The next time someone asks you, "what did you do last night?"  the answer will not just be “I watched TV.”

Check out Lyle McCalmont at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mclyle/

5 Reasons to Take on a Photography Project

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Start a photography project today.

Whether you are starting out or a seasoned shooter, everyone should take on a photography project at some stage in their lives. Here are 5 reasons why:

1. Find some direction.

Photographers of any level know it is easy to get stuck in a rut where you feel uninspired with the photographs you are creating. There are a couple of sure fire ways to break free of this. Firstly, look at other peoples work. This is easy to do but may only have short term effects. The second more effective option, albeit more difficult, is to take on a photography project. The theme and content of your project is entirely up to you but starting with a clear and defined focus will give you the direction you need to break free of the rut. Your project could be a 365 project with a common theme running through it, a 50 in 50 project where you take 50 portraits of strangers using a 50mm lens, you could shoot a landscapes in every county in your country. The options are endless and you can go as big or as small as you see fit. Going small is particularly good if you are armed with a macro lens. Check out Eddie the Bugman. My current photography project is called Water Drop Wednesday. Check it out here - https://www.firstmanphotography.com/tutorials/water-drop-photography

2. Improve your photography.

Use the opportunity of shooting your project to improve your skills. If you are just starting out then aim to get out of auto mode and capture proper exposure. Check out my free eBook Understanding Exposure that will help you along with this - https://www.firstmanphotography.com/ebook Get used to visualising a shot before looking through the viewfinder and think about the composition. Before pressing the shutter button, take notice of the edge of your frame and the background behind your subject. As your project continues try to apply lessons you have learned from previous shots and apply them to your latest picture. Try to make every photograph better than the one before. Throughout the project, look back over your previous images; you are bound to see an improvement as the project has progressed, this serves as a very good motivator along the way.

3. Build a social media following.

When I embarked on my first 365 project it was purely a personal project but many photographers will use a photography project to help build a following on social media. In this age where everyone is shooting pictures, creating something special to stand out is a must and a focused photography project can very much fit the bill. My 365 was a family project so I originally only shared it with family and friends through Flickr. The project very quickly became a documentary of the year with a short description that accompanied each shot detailing a notable or amusing part of the day. Family and friends became avid followers and quickly began adding to the comments enhancing the overall documentary aspect of the project. Admittedly my family and friends were a biased audience but they came back day after day; the same principle applies to building a public following. If you have a clear idea that people can understand they will soon begin to engage. They will feed into the work, enhancing the project and your experience of it. High quality images, posted on a regular basis are key alongside some good quality engagement. For example, if someone leaves a comment like 'Awesome shot', do not just reply 'thanks'. This effectively ends the conversation so instead, share a little piece of info, show some insight or ask that person a question. You might be surprised just how many people respond to this positively. Follow me on Instagram.

4. To Challenge yourself.

This is an important one that should have veins running through everything  you do. When things get to the point of being easy it is likely that your learning will have ceased and real progress will have halted. It is not always immediately obvious when we get to this point as it often creeps up on us silently when we become more comfortable. If you have time to watch 10 episodes of Breaking Bad back to back, I would suggest you might be there. You can avoid this plateau though by continually pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and driving your own progress and growth. Get up out of your chair right now and go and capture an image. I guarantee there is a good shot within two minutes of where you are right now.

5. It is Fun.

Depending on the challenge you have set yourself a photography project can often be tough, but it will also be fun. I often think, when I am shooting, is there anything else I would rather be doing right now? The answer is always no. Especially when i am shooting with friends or collaborating with interesting people. Taking on a photo project is a lot like playing a video game (when I had time to play video games). You progress through many levels and pick up skills and knowledge along the way as you get better and better. Sometimes you might falter and have to re-do a level which will be frustrating and challenging. Eventually you fight through and get to end where you will feel a massive sense of achievement for what you have completed. Unlike a video game though you will be left with something to hold on to and you will have created some art that you will be proud of. The boost to your portfolio will be proof that you have not wasted your time and you will know the well constructed and thought out project was all worth it. Like a video game though, the sense of achievement will last for about two minutes; you will immediately starting thinking about the next one. Start a photography project today and you'll be hooked.