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Macro Photography

Taught by Heather Angel

Composition, critical focusing and lighting are key to the success of a macro shot

Course Description

This course will cover how to capture the world of macro – revealing images often overlooked with the naked eye – in a creative way. The great thing about working at close range is that subjects abound – outside and indoors; you just have to develop a seeing eye for beauty, texture and design. Learn how to choose the right equipment, how to use ambient light – and how to modify it if necessary. With macro, you have complete control of the lighting and this is key to success or failure. There can be no excuses about the lighting being too harsh or not bright enough, because there is always a solution for modifying it.

 Share Heather's secrets behind some of her memorable macro shots as well as glean tips and hints for shooting macro outdoors and inside. Images range from flowers, leaves, seeds, fruits and aquatic life to coins, glass, jewellery and food. Amongst these are examples of patterns and designs. You will appreciate just how effective a reflector, a diffuser or fill-flash can be at changing the light; how to use depth of field creatively and how to meter tricky low key and high key subjects. Learn how to work safely at night.

For inside work, macro subjects can be gathered to shoot on a cold, wet day. Lighting can vary from window light to artificial lighting – from a lightbox, a LED torch as a spotlight, to diffused flash and dark field illumination for dramatic bright field lighting. Learn how to set up a mini macro studio on a table for still life studies; also how to gain a white background for objects to display on websites or for selling on e-Bay. Learn how to take macro time lapse sequences and to gain extra depth of field with focus stacking.



For macro outside

Preferably a DSLR camera with a macro lens, but close-up filters or extension tubes with a standard lens will also work

A tripod will give consistently better results for static subjects

Useful accessories

A reflector (this can be made from cooking foil wrapped around cardboard)

A diffuser (this can be made from fine white cotton stretched over an opened up wire coat hanger)

A flash - not essential

Knee pads

Bin liner for resting gear on wet/muddy ground

Plamp for holding stems steady

String for tying back branches

For macro inside

Preferably a DSLR camera with a macro lens, but close-up filters or extension tubes with a standard lens will also work

A tripod (see above)

Useful accessories

A reflector (as above)

A diffuser (as above)

A flash - either on-camera or a separate flash

Props for still life – miniature containers, stone slabs, sand

LED torch or reading light

Coloured card for backgrounds

A lightbox – not essential


Anywhere – both outside and inside. Could all be in own garden and home or anywhere within easy reach of where you live.

Course outline

  • A Seeing Eye

    The first lesson introduces the world of macro by showing images taken both outside and indoors and emphasises the need to look is all important. Learn what equipment is needed for getting in close and discover the importance of depth of field in macro work, so you know when to use it creatively or to maximise it. The structure of the subject will tell you how best to light it whether it be translucent leaves, textured bark, hairy stems or a reflective surface. Remember where the sensor plane lies and look beyond the subject to check the background is harmonious.
  • Outside Macro

    This lesson is devoted to working outdoors and covers how to modify natural light for the best results. Comparative pairs of pictures clearly show the effect before and after using a reflector or a diffuser and learn how to use flash with confidence – especially fill-flash. Learn how to use different ways to isolate the subject from the background and when to 'garden'. Understand high key and low key macro subjects and how to meter them. When to use a versatile tripod and when to handhold and switch on VR or IS are basic decisions for all macro work. Explore the macro world at night using either flash or LED lights.
  • Inside Macro

    This lesson is devoted to working indoors and covers many ways to light macro subjects – from natural window light, to flash and continuous artificial lighting. Learn how to set up a mini macro studio on a table for still life studies. Use a LED torch or headlight as a macro spotlight and find a lightbox for backlighting translucent subjects. Get to know the best lighting set-ups to take flowers / glass / jewellery / ornaments / seeds / feathers and iridescent subjects. Learn how to work with a light tent and how to shoot objects that stand out from a white background for web use, including selling items on e-Bay.
  • Special Macro Techniques

    Finally, learn exciting techniques such as using raindrops as miniature fish-eye lenses and how to shoot iridescent subjects including soap bubbles, beetles and feathers. Marvel at how some subjects glow brightly against a black backdrop and learn how to set up dark field illumination. Learn how to set up and shoot thematic series and how to take macro time lapse sequences. Consider how best to frame different shaped macro subjects and how more impact can sometimes be gained by varying the composition or adjusting the crop – in or out of the camera. Learn how to gain extra depth of field with focus stacking.

Choose how you want to learn

  • The Expert option


    Develop your learning further with marked assignments and personal tuition from Heather Angel

    • Start course whenever you like
    • 4 weeks tutor access for personalised assignment feedback & coaching
    • 4 assignments marked by Heather Angel
    • Certificate of completion from Heather Angel
    • Online classroom with up to 20 classmates
    • 4 lessons with expert videos & notes
    • Group chat & direct message with tutor & classmates
    • Lifetime access to videos, notes & classroom
    Learn more
  • The Peer option

    Discover the benefits of group learning in an online interactive classroom of no more than 20 people. Get the most from shared knowledge and community study

    • Start course whenever you like
    • Practise what you learn with your peers
    • Online classroom with up to 20 classmates
    • 4 lessons with expert videos & notes
    • 4 course assignments
    • Group chat & direct message classmates
    • Lifetime access to videos, notes & classroom
    Learn more

How it works

About Heather Angel

Heather Angel abandoned a career as a marine biologist to become a peripatetic wildlife photographer - with 32 visits to China alone. As well as being a prodigious writer (her 60th title appeared in 2015), she also lectures and runs workshops. Heather is at the forefront of nature photography and her work is recognised by worldwide awards. In 1975 Heather was awarded the Royal Photographic Society's Hood Medal for her contribution to the advancement of nature photography through her books, her teaching, her exhibition work and her encouragement of other nature photographers.

From 1984-86 Heather was President of the Royal Photographic Society and she is a Visiting Professor at Nottingham University. Major exhibitions of her work have been shown worldwide. Most recently, Heather has experimented with lighting techniques for macro subjects as well as taking many hundreds of focus stacks for Pollination Power – a 5 year project that combines art and science for the RBG Kew.

I'm a roaming wildlife photographer with four great passions - mammals, lighting for macros, making plants look exciting and offbeat China (it really does exist!).

Press quotes
A phenomenon in both natural science and professional photography, Heather Angel is an example of all that is best in both disciplines.
The Master Photographer

Heather manages to spot and bring to life insignificant parts of the natural world.
David Attenborough

Heather Angel has over the course of a long career written her story in hundreds of thousands of images that have served to inform us, enlighten us and elevate our spirits.
Gray Levett, Editor, Nikon Owner Magazine

For Heather's blog, galleries and workshops
Twitter @angelantics
Instagram heatherangelphotography

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