This series on flow and photography has taken on a life of its own; but don’t worry, it’s almost over! If you haven’t been following along, flow is that state of intense focus where we lose track of time. Check out Part I and Part II for tips on how to apply it to photography in general. The rest of this series has applied flow to various genres (landscape, travel, etc.). This week it’s macro and close-up photography.
Macro is probably the easiest kind of photography in which to experience flow. There is something about focusing on the small that helps to capture and hold our attention, often for hours. Macro can also require a lot of trial and error, at least for me it can! If you don’t become frustrated too easily this can bring about intense engagement with the process.
Awhile back I did a series on macro photography, so check those posts out for a much more comprehensive tutorial. The tips below are specific to achieving a state of flow during your macro shoots:
- Look and Think Small. It’s hard while on a walk to concentrate exclusively on finding macro subjects. It would take hours to cover a mile! But you will find macro opportunities if when you’re hiking along you look out for the odd bit of color, a contrasting shape or texture, or a little movement in the corner of your eye. Both thinking about and looking for small subjects brings you into the present, and that facilitates flow, even before you take a single shot.
- Work it. When you do find something interesting, stick with it for awhile. That is, work the subject. Change settings and camera position to vary depth of field. Vary angle and distance to get different backgrounds and compositions. And don’t stop there. Once you’re in “macro mode”, it’s easier to find other subjects, or as with flowers, other examples of the same subject. Stay on your hands and knees, keep the macro lens on, and don’t worry about time. Enjoy the flow.
- See the (small-scale) Light. As photographers we are constant observers of the light. But when you’re shooting close-up the patterns we are used to change. All of a sudden you’re able to take advantage of the fact that your field of view is greatly reduced. This makes it easier to get effective shots in light that would be difficult when shooting larger scenes. So be a student of light on a small scale too. Watch how it plays across confined spaces, and how larger elements like trees can help shade or spotlight your subject. As with the first point above, this will help keep you in the present and accentuate flow.
- Be Patient. To one degree or another, patience is a requirement of all photography. But when you’re waiting out the wind in a field of flowers or approaching an insect or other small creature inch by inch, you learn the real meaning of patience in photography. Mastering patience is a key part of making flow a more frequent experience.
Macro photography is such a natural when it comes to flow that, even if you don’t normally do macro you’d do well to try it. That’s because the practices that lead to successful macro photos will help you with the kinds of photography you do enjoy. And because flow is relatively easy to experience with macro, you can more readily get into it next time you’re out, whatever kind of shooting you do. Thanks for reading and have a happy weekend!