What we want in a macro shot – Detail

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In the first article of this series, ‘The What and Why of Macro’, I talked about what macro photography is and explained why I shoot macro in the wild. My next goal, which I will tackle in this article and the next one, is to introduce you to the elements I consider paramount in a macro image. I’m not necessarily referring here to the criteria for judging an image, but rather to the fundamental things a macro photographer should try to bear in mind when producing it.

So what is the number one, most important element in a macro photograph? The easy answer is that there aren’t any. There are several qualities a macro image should have, all of which are important. To make things more complicated, photographers don’t always agree on which ones those are. However, when I think about macro photography, the first aspect that comes to my mind is detail. Detail is almost what makes macro what it is, in the sense that shooting up close is the very means to obtain what the macro photographer wants to show the viewer: the unseen-yet-everywhere-present elements of the miniature world. What got me first interested in macro photography was my fascination with insects and my desire to unravel their mysteries and see them as they truly are.

Caption: An example of a detailed shot. Too small to really examine closely
with the naked eye, this robber fly is rendered in extraordinary detail with a
macro lens.

You might rightfully claim that I haven’t done much by simply asking for detail. The meaning of the word is quite clear, but how do we obtain it? More precisely, what determines the level of detail desirable in a macro shot? In this article I will list the top factors.

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